Virginia: A Trump Referendum?

There’s no way to sugarcoat for Republicans the results of Tuesday’s elections, especially in Virginia, where prognosticators thought the governor’s race would be close. It wasn’t. Republican candidate Ed Gillespie lost by 9 points to Democrat Ralph Northam.

It’s difficult to argue that the fault lies wholly with Gillespie when the results were the same down ballot also. The lieutenant governor and attorney general races were also Democrat victories. The most stunning outcome is that a House of Delegates, which Republicans controlled with a super-majority, is now likely to reverse course and be controlled by Democrats—a few races are still too close to call, but even if Republicans retain a majority, the margin will be slim.

New Jersey’s elections were also Democrat gains, as Gov. Chris Christie has become increasingly unpopular in the past few years.

Back to Virginia. Polling shows that of those who voted, 17% were voting because they ardently supported Donald Trump, but nearly double the number, 33%, voted for exactly the opposite reason: they ardently opposed Trump.

You can’t have that kind of disparity and expect a good outcome for Republicans. Most commentators I’ve read see what happened in Virginia not only as a referendum on President Trump but a harbinger of what might await Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.

It’s conceivable that they could lose control of both houses of Congress in 2018. The more vulnerable house is the Senate, and if that goes Democrat, all who were hoping for a reworking of the Supreme Court will see their hopes dashed. No Democrat Senate is going to confirm a solid conservative constitutionalist to the Court.

Trump will continue to nominate should vacancies occur, but I predict that, because he will want to be perceived as a winner, he will abandon the quest to find good conservatives and will instead promote nominees acceptable to Democrats. That’s what happens when someone without principles is awarded the authority of the presidency.

I do believe this last election was a referendum on Trump, and it is a warning. Personally, I wish Republicans had heeded all the warnings many of us gave during the Republican primaries in 2016, but nothing can be done about that now.

Trump’s character, more than his policies, is what turns many people off. Consider his response to Gillespie’s defeat. Immediately he jumped on Twitter to make it clear that it wasn’t his [Trump’s] fault. Gillespie lost, proclaimed Trump, because he didn’t tie himself closely enough to the president.

Massive ego can never admit fault.

All indicators are that Gillespie would have come much closer, perhaps might have won, without the albatross of the Trump presidency around his political neck.

Some angry Trump supporters are saying that Republicans who are not enamored of Trump are happy with the Virginia results. Well, I know that’s not true for me. I can never be happy with a turn of events that allows the Democrat agenda to advance.

My sincere hope is that Republicans can regroup and offer real solutions so that the electorate sees the folly of following the Democrat vision. The next two years will determine whether they are up to the task.

Historic Virginia

I just finished eight days of showing students around some of the most important historical sites in Virginia, specifically those related to the founding of the nation. Where did we go and what did we see? Here’s an overview.

We began in Jamestown, where all things British America began. An excellent guide explained not only the history of the founding of the colony, but also took us to where the archaeological digs continue, while discussing the significance of the ongoing finds. Most know about John Smith and Pocahontas—whether the true story or the fantasized one—but not many know the name of the early leader of the expedition, the one who really made it happen: Bartholomew Gosnold. Why has he disappeared from our memories? He died in the first few months of settlement. They have since found his remains and his skeleton is on display.

Gosnold Skeleton

CapitolGovernor's PalaceNaturally, we spent a couple of days in Colonial Williamsburg, where we visited as many of the key buildings as time permitted. Two that we couldn’t omit, of course, were the Capitol and the Governor’s Palace. For me, though, just the ambiance of this restored colonial town was the real attraction. A couple of times over the past week, I just took the time to stroll from one end to the other, enjoying the peace and the time for reflection and meditation.

Along with Yorktown, the site of the final battle of the American Revolution, we also took some day trips to Monticello and Mt. Vernon, the homes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, respectively. The guide at Monticello was superb, as we got the behind-the-scenes tour that took us into the upper levels of the house where most tourists don’t go.

As always, we’re told about how much of a genius Jefferson was, and while I acknowledge his talents, I am saddened by his ultimate rejection of the divinity of Christ. Human reason alone never leads to truth.

Although I’ve been to Mt. Vernon numerous times, this was my first time back in about a decade. I was amazed at the transformation: new buildings, new and fascinating exhibits, a more welcoming atmosphere for visitors. Someday, I need to see the new Washington presidential library they now have on the grounds. Most impressive, to me, is that private funding has accomplished all this. I found one cartoon along the way to be too good to pass up. I had to take a photo of it to use in class:

Washington Cartoon

What a wonderfully sarcastic jab at the lack of respect often shown today.

St. John's ChurchYesterday was Richmond day. We had a great tour of the state’s historic Capitol building, a very informative visit to John Marshall’s home (wish I’d taken a picture), and then on to St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry delivered his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. In all my study of the era, I hadn’t picked up on how small Richmond was at the time of that speech—no more than 600 population. Yet within five years, it was the new capital of the commonwealth.

We capped off our day and our week and a half of intense sightseeing with a ramble through the Hollywood Cemetery, which includes the graves of presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. It’s a beautiful place, nestled just above the James River. 

StudentsI want to commend the students for the interest they showed in seeing all these places, despite the fact that they are not history majors. Perhaps, though, they have come away with a deeper appreciation for what has come before. The current generation has so little understanding of the sacrifices and the principles that formed this nation.

One final photo: this is us at the cemetery with the James River in the background: a fitting conclusion to a fine trip back to my almost-home-state of Virginia.

This was my second annual excursion for this purpose. I hope it can continue for many more years.

The Productive Year Ahead

Colonial Williamsburg--CapitolLater this week, I’ll begin showing students around some of Virginia’s best historic sites. I’ll be staying in Williamsburg, one of my favorite places on the planet. The historic colonial area always attracts me.

We’ll also tour Jamestown’s original site, the re-created Jamestown settlement, Yorktown, Monticello (Jefferson’s home), Mt. Vernon (Washington’s home), and sites in Richmond (Virginia capitol, John Marshall’s house, St. John’s church, where Patrick Henry delivered his “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” oration).

That’s just the beginning of a year of travel for my sabbatical. I’ll be at Wheaton College in August to examine the Billy Graham papers. If I can, I also hope to squeeze in some time to at least begin looking at the papers of C. S. Lewis, also housed at Wheaton. Then I hope my collaborative colleague and I can make a trip to North Carolina in September to interview some of Graham’s family and associates.

October is the target date for the Reagan and Nixon libraries in California. On that trip, I may also have the opportunity to interview Michael Reagan and visit Reagan’s ranch. I’ve been to the Reagan library three times before, but all prior to the erection of the massive building that houses Air Force One, and also before the renovation of the museum. It will be like seeing all things new.

Air Force One

November provides a change of pace, as I’ve been invited to return to Puerto Rico to teach at a Youth with a Mission base. That’s always a highlight for me. Then I’m aiming for a Texas excursion in December. I have three presidential libraries to visit there: both Bushes’ and Lyndon Johnson’s. That will leave the Eisenhower library and any others I might be able to add (if the funding holds out) for 2015. Everywhere I go, I’m hoping to reconnect with friends and former students.

The goal for all these trips is to provide enough research to write a series of books on spiritual advisers to presidents. In addition to that, I’m collaborating with another faculty colleague on a book that showcases prominent individuals who switched from being political liberals to political conservatives.

This will be a full year, and a very productive one. I simply thank the Lord for this great opportunity.

Election Analysis

Another election day has passed. What do the result signify?

Chris Christie 2In New Jersey, Chris Christie won reelection as governor. He won by a large margin, leading all the talking heads to chat up his presidential possibilities. While Christie won impressively, he had no coattails; the Republicans failed to pick up key legislative seats. This was a victory based on the personality of one individual, not on philosophy of government or principles. Christie ran as a middle-of-the-road guy, appealing to Democrats, who are more numerous in the state. That’s an understandable tactic, but what does the man really believe? Social conservatives are not enamored with him; he recently signed a law banning counseling to help children turn from homosexuality. He’s bought the line that homosexuality is not a choice, but simply a matter of one’s genes.

Chris Christie as the Republican nominee for president in 2016 would give me no pleasure. His presumed conservatism is purely pragmatic, and he can’t be trusted to govern on anything approaching Biblical principles. By the way, he also declined to help his fellow Republican in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, when asked to make the short trip from New Jersey to campaign on his behalf.

KenCuccinelliCuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, lost last night by a slim 48-45% tally. This was after polls showed Democrat Terry McAuliffe ahead by 12-15 points just two weeks ago. Cuccinelli closed that gap rapidly due to rising disgust over Obamacare. As Virginia’s attorney general, Cuccinelli was the first to challenge Obama’s healthcare law in court. Pundits are saying if the campaign had gone just one more week, Cuccinelli could have pulled it out.

Terry McAuliffeSo now the state where I spent most of my adult life has a Clinton crony in its governor’s mansion. McAuliffe has to be one of the most unsavory creatures in politics, yet Virginians chose him regardless. His strategy of painting Cuccinelli as an extremist who hates women [translation: he’s strongly pro-life] won over enough low-information voters to make the difference.

Two other factors: an Obama financial backer set up an organization to fund the campaign of the libertarian candidate, who probably took enough votes away from Cuccinelli to affect the outcome; the Republican establishment turned its back on its own nominee, highlighting the growing rift between those who operate on principle and those who make political expediency their god. Ken Cuccinelli, a decent Christian man who puts principle first, deserved better. But Virginia voters got what they deserved.

Incidentally, the overlooked result in Virginia is that Republicans maintained a 2/3 majority in the state’s House of Delegates. McAuliffe doesn’t have a rubber-stamp legislature that will do his bidding. Don’t expect that inconvenient fact to come to light; the media will instead crow about the defeat of a Tea Party-backed candidate.

Despite the Virginia outcome, Democrats have reason to worry as the 2014 congressional elections approach. Obamacare is going to remain a key issue, no matter how they try to spin it. The Tea Party sentiment in the country is not dead, and the overreach of the Obama administration continues to energize that sector of the electorate. We could see a repeat of 2010.

Making Life Difficult: It’s Disgusting

“It’s disgusting.” Who said that? A National Parks ranger when asked to comment on the directives the National Park Service has received from the Obama administration with respect to shutting down national monuments and parks and closing off access to the public. Here’s his full quote:

It’s a cheap way to deal with the situation. We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.

I commented last week on the shutdown of the WWII Memorial, a move so blatantly political that it astounds even the most cynical amongst us. That memorial is an open-air monument to those who served in WWII. There’s really nothing to “close.” People walk through it if they are on the National Mall. The only explanation is the one provided by that Park Ranger, who, I hope, has not lost his job for speaking the truth.

Mt. RushmoreBut the outrage at the WWII Memorial was only just the beginning. Mt. Rushmore is the chief tourist attraction in South Dakota. Not only are the trails closed, but cones were placed along the highway viewing areas, keeping tourists from pulling over and taking pictures of the mountain.  The Secretary of the South Dakota Department of Tourism stated, “They won’t even let you pull off on the side of the road. I just don’t know what they’re trying to accomplish.”

I can tell you, Mr. Secretary. They want the annoyance to be so great that the public will blame those the Obama administration wants them to blame—Republicans in Congress. Of course, those are the same Republicans who have passed out of the House seven separate bills funding key agencies; those bills, however, are not even being allowed a vote in the Senate, and President Obama has vowed to veto them even if they should pass through Congress.

So who’s to blame?

Let’s don’t stop itemizing those “disgusting” actions. I have a few more.

Mt. VernonMt. Vernon, George Washington’s home, is a privately owned and operated historic site. The only connection to the federal government are some jointly owned parking lots. That, apparently, was enough to order rangers to close off those parking lots, keeping visitors from going to Mt. Vernon. Meanwhile, a lesser-known historic site, the Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McClean, Virginia, was closed, even though it receives no federal funding at all. To our federal government, there seems to be no distinction between public and private.

In my state of Florida, charter guides received a message from the National Park Service that they can’t take clients fishing in Florida Bay, which is more than 1,100 square miles from the tip of the Florida mainland to the Florida Keys. So that means even the ocean is off limits? Can anything be more absurd?

Well, they’re making an attempt at greater absurdity. In Nevada, people who have lived in their privately owned homes for nearly forty years have been turned out and not allowed access to them because they sit on federal land by Lake Mead. One couple, aged 80 and 77, have had to live in a family-owned ice cream parlor for days now, and won’t be allowed to return until the shutdown is over. I’m glad they had an ice cream parlor to go to, but that’s hardly a home, certainly not the one they’ve lived in since the 1970s. Funny how no other government shutdown—and there have been about 17 of those over the years—ever required that citizens lose access to their homes. This has happened only under the Obama administration.

REIDMaybe one of the senators from Nevada could help this couple. Let’s see, who represents that state in the Senate? Oh, yes, that would be Harry Reid, erstwhile Majority Leader. You know, the one who won’t allow a vote on funding. This is strange. We all know it’s Republicans who hate children and old people, always starving them and throwing them out on the streets. At least that’s the rhetoric we always hear.

I’m also a little tired of the moral equivalence game being played, where both sides are held equally to blame for this situation. It’s the president who says he won’t negotiate, not the Republicans. It’s the Democrat Senate that won’t fund separate bills, not the Republican House. This is the height of political manipulation aided amply by the Obama media.

The mainstream media will do all in its power to promote the Obama propaganda. Alternative voices must be raised to counter the propaganda. I will do my part, however small my audience. If we all do our part, perhaps enough people will hear the truth and confront the real culprits. I will do what I can; I will not remain silent in the face of such massive manipulation and dishonesty.

The Obama minions are doing all they can to make life difficult for Americans. I agree with the aforementioned park ranger: “It’s disgusting.”

Virginia’s Historic State House

VA CapitolOver the past week, I’ve been chronicling my visit back to Virginia, where I’ve spent most of my adult life, and the tour I led for students. One more post about that, then I’ll get back to some commentary on the latest developments causing agitation in the nation’s capital. For today, I’d like to focus on Virginia’s capital, Richmond, and the Capitol at its center.

I didn’t take this photo, obviously, and was kept from taking any on the outside by the torrential rain we endured while walking in Richmond last Friday, thanks to the tropical storm that blanketed the east coast. But the rain couldn’t dampen the historical significance of this place.

Capitol RotundaThis capitol building opened for business in 1788, only seven years after Virginia’s capital moved from Williamsburg to Richmond. In its rotunda is a one-of-a-kind sculpture of George Washington. In 1785, renowned French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon arrived in the new United States for the express purpose of fashioning a lifelike statue of Washington. Houdon spent two weeks at Mt. Vernon where he measured Washington meticulously and made a life mask of his face. He then searched for the best white marble he could find, without any streaks of gray, and completed the statue, which was installed in the rotunda in 1796. This is the only life-sized statue of Washington in existence made directly from those measurements and life mask. When you look at this masterpiece, you are seeing the genuine George Washington in a way that no portrait can convey.

Capitol-Jefferson RoomWe toured all the historic rooms on the main floor. One had a full wall painting of the storming of Redoubt #10 at Yorktown, the decisive assault that led to the victory there and the end of the American War for Continued Self-Government [a.k.a., the American Revolution for those who are unaware of my renaming fetish]. Then we entered the Jefferson room—pictured here—which is fitting, since Thomas Jefferson was the brains behind the Capitol’s architecture. What I didn’t realize until this tour is that the Virginia Capitol served as the site for the recent Steven Spielberg film Lincoln. I’ve seen the film but wasn’t aware this building was used for it. The guide said it took three months of filming; it also took a lot of work to cover up all modern additions—electric lights, newer portraits, etc., to give it the 1865 look and feel.

Capitol-Old House 1The old House of Delegates chamber is now used primarily for tours, but it has seen its lion’s share of historic moments. Nearly every Virginian associated with the first century of the state’s history has passed through this room. There are busts of Patrick Henry, John Marshall, George Wythe, and many others. At the center of the room, seen here on the left, is a large statue of Robert E. Lee, who refused Lincoln’s offer to command the Union armies and instead took control of Virginia’s state militia. The statue stands on the spot where he accepted that command. While I’m not a fan of the Confederate cause, one can still have respect for a man such as Lee, who was no advocate of slavery and acted as his conscience led him. I disagree with his decision, but cannot condemn the man himself.

Capitol-New House 2Our final stop was in the current House chamber, which was used in the Lincoln movie as the stand-in for the U.S. House chamber. It’s kind of amazing how they were able to hide all the modern aspects such as microphones and buttons on the desks, as well as the electronic voting screens on the front wall. This is a beautiful room also. I really need to see Lincoln again to try to identify all the scenes that took place in the Capitol. It would be a nice exercise for me in particular since my first degree was in radio, tv, and film production—a marriage, in a sense, of that degree with my history doctorate.

We also visited the Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House. At the museum, we listened to a fascinating account of how people in the Civil War era handled death and mourning, and all the beliefs and rituals associated with the loss of loved ones. At the White House, I could picture in my mind not only the reality of Jefferson Davis living there, but also the day Lincoln was able to walk into that house and rejoice that the long war he had overseen was about to conclude.

I always enjoy my trips back to the Old Dominion; the history is palpable everywhere. My students on this trip are not history majors, but I hope this time together sparked a lifelong interest in our American heritage.

The Pocahontas Moment

Most of my posts deal with current events, but as a historian, I want to highlight key moments in history. Today, for instance, is the anniversary of a special moment in American colonial history: the Powhatan princess Pocahontas married English settler John Rolfe in 1614.

Why is this so important? Pocahontas’s father, Chief Powhatan, had tried to wipe out the Jamestown settlement by starvation just four years earlier. The two cultures weren’t meshing well at all. But when Rolfe and Pocahontas married, the hostility and tension lessened considerably. Prior to the marriage, Pocahontas had been tutored in the Christian faith and accepted what she heard. She asked to be baptized.

This particular painting of the baptism of Pocahontas can be viewed in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC. It’s a little idealized—those columns didn’t exist in colonial Jamestown—but it captures the spirit of the event. She even changed her name to Rebecca, which she considered a more appropriate Christian name.

The Virginia Company knew a good thing when it saw it, so Rebecca and family [she had a young son as well] were all packed and sent to England to show off the good work being accomplished in the New World. While in England, she had her portrait painted in proper English dress.

By all accounts, her conversion was genuine, as was her love of English culture. Unfortunately, before she could return to Virginia, she died of pneumonia. Only a few years later, the peace between the cultures deteriorated. In March of 1622, the natives rose up and tried to exterminate all the English in the Jamestown area. Though they failed in that attempt, any hope for the two cultures to live peaceably side by side disappeared.

But for a few special years, Pocahontas/Lady Rebecca was the cornerstone of good relations. She played a valuable role in early American history.