Announcing Lincoln-Douglas II: the Sanders-Scott Debates

I’m happy to announce the start of a regular series, in collaboration with my good friend Ellwood “Sandy” Sanders, a blogger at Virginia Right. Each week Sandy and I will post articles on a specific topic, and then hold a virtual “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate on the issue. This Friday, April 17th, we’ll open the series with a back-and-forth on abortion.

Sandy is a Hanover County attorney who earned his J.D. at the University of Alabama in 1983 and now works as an Appellate Procedure Consultant for a downtown legal firm. He has written or co-authored ten scholarly legal articles, including one on the “Effect of the USA Patriot Act on Money Laundering and Currency Transaction Laws.” His resume includes work as an Appellate Defender, adjunct professor of law at the T. C. Williams School of Law (University of Richmond), and service on the Appellate Practice Subcommittee of the Litigation Section of the Virginia State Bar.  Sandy is very active in his church and supports its missionary work. He also helped bring curling to Virginia!

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Comment at Virginia Right

A few weeks ago Bob Shannon, former President of the Mechanicsville Tea Party, wrote an essay at Virginia Right criticizing Congressman Rob Wittman for continuing to “duck and dodge the King William T. E. A. Party.” Mr. Shannon notes in his post that Wittman met with three different King William County groups, calling them “‘soft audiences,’ friendly groups inclined to give the Congressman a warm welcome with softball questions.”  This implies that the King William Tea Party might not greet the Congressman so warmly.

I attend Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings because I’m curious about the movement generally and how my more conservative neighbors think about politics.  I’ve learned from these interactions that conservatives in my region have two chief complaints about Republican politicians: they vote too often for government spending and they meet too rarely with constituents.  Your mileage may vary with respect to the validity of these criticisms.  But I wanted to engage with the Virginia Right readership in the hope of learning more about the way they think.  So I posted a comment to Shannon’s post.  Though no readers responded, I thought I would post it here, if only to get it into the Foggy Bottom Line archive.

I’m a Democrat considering a run for the Virginia Senate in the 4th District next year. I’d be very happy to engage with the King William or any other Tea Party group. I have in fact attended several Mechanicsville Tea Party meetings, though not as a candidate.

Generally speaking, I understand you think liberty cannot survive a powerful government. But I wonder just what role you think it should have. National defense, of course, and presumably regulation of immigration. Some hierarchical authority must legislate at least minimal regulations to govern capitalism, protect core values such as “thou shall not steal,” and provide courts to adjudicate disputes. Some collective action is necessary to create the infrastructure required for a modern economy to function.

I also wonder whether you think government action can sometimes protect liberty. Lack of access to health care, for example, or connectivity with others in an economy that depends on integration of businesses with consumers and each other, can have the effect of limiting my choices. The corporations that provide these services, after all, care more about profit than anyone’s personal freedom.

Government needs revenue to pay for all this of course. What is the appropriate level? And should those who benefit most from our system pay a bit more? If you don’t think so, then why not?

In any event, government should of course not spend more than it takes in, but It’s obvious that under some circumstances government must borrow money. No budget can allow for every emergency, and every organization sometimes borrows to invest where managers believe that investment will bring returns that exceed interest costs. Government should not go into debt without good reason – and I’m wondering how you would define “good reason.” Does “give wealthy people more money in hopes that they’ll pay if forward” qualify?

Forgive me if I sound like I’m brainstorming – but I’m sort of doing just that. I’m genuinely interested in how I, as a Democrat, might secure your vote. I do have core principles that I won’t compromise to get your support. But I wonder where, if at all, we might find common ground.