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.

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