In Hampton Roads, Partiers Neither Enraged Nor Engaged

Monday, August 24, 2009

Far from the gaggles of the fearful and uninformed, the easily influenced and manipulated minions of the emotional right, the grassroots constitutionalists that are the "mainstream" Libertarians in Hampton Roads are your neighbors rather than the caricatures often depicted. What we have here, are some sincere citizens that have been a mainstay of Hampton Roads politics for a long time. A lot of us of different political bents know each other and respectfully disagree on much but hold the same fundamental hopes, dreams, and aspirations for ourselves and our families. These just weren't paying attention when it mattered most.

I have never been booted from a meeting of the groups of activists who frequent the Virginia Beach Taxpayer Alliance (VBTA) and Libertarian gatherings. In fact, they welcome discourse and are academic; much more than I can say for the Virginia Beach Republicans who regularly demonstrate cloistered paranoia. The hyperbole employed by emotionalists is too often over the top and that discourages constructive debate. Robert Dean, communications director for the VBTA, provides a steady guiding hand at the meetings. Guests always experience courteous hospitality if few softball questions. Shouting and disorderly conduct are unwelcome and never observed though a few tongue in cheek barbs are judiciously hurled. Local politicians have no reasonable trepidation to justifiably dismiss an invitation out of hand. In fact, some, like Virginia Beach Commissioner of the Revenue Phil Kellam, a Democrat, are happy for the opportunity to let the group "review his books."

So it was not surprising that when the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee (VBDC) cancelled Congressman Nye's appearance this past Saturday, in the confusion over "Town Hall or Not Town Hall," Kellam was on the spot. Kellam's record of innovation and management in office have yielded the very kinds of results the VBTA calls for in every area of government. When the Tea Party decided to attend the VBDC breakfast despite the change of speaker, Kellam looked forward to making sure they had the fiscal record straight. He lashed out at Jim Gilmore and the succession of Republican obstructionists in the General Assembly who have blocked progress in Virginia. Unfortunately, of the two dozen or so who did come to the location, none chose to actually come to listen. They remained outside along Holland Road, unengaged.
We've got a lot of energy around here. We've got energy where we are trying to solve problems, on the inside here. And we have energy where we're trying to just call attention to problems, on the outside. Now what's the difference? Real simple difference…We're going to do something about it. – Phil Kellam
The sign toting group Saturday did not include familiar faces from the VBTA and a number of them were not residents of Virginia Beach. In fact, in a group post, Reid Greenmun had debated between attending the VBTA and the VBDC simultaneous events. They were a pleasant enough bunch even though they were remiss to not at least send someone in to hear what was being discussed and make a point if there were one. It is unfortunate that they have taken this long to come to the defense of the constitution, missing the golden opportunities to demand we stay out of two unconstitutional wars and vigorously object to the economic house of cards built by the Bush administration. In a way, they are Johnny come lately to the crisis and the principles they want to apply now amount to noisy regrets rather than solutions. Don't dismiss these as fringe lunatics; recognize their remorse for their failure to stand up when it was eminently important.

Cross posted at VBDems