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Libertarian Perriello? Northam Campaign Has Jumped the Shark

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Tuesday’s debate had this unusual twist in the ideological jostling between Tom Perriello and Ralph Northam: the revelation that Tom Perriello is secretly a Libertarian Party mole!

Or at least that’s how Ralph Northam is pitching this. Footage of the exchange below:

The Northam campaign backed up their claim with an old 2009 article in which the reporter notes that Perriello was “a libertarian at heart.”

The Perriello campaign has responded that one of Tom’s earliest involvements in politics was volunteering for Democrat Doug Wilder in the 1991 Gubernatorial campaign, but in fact this just shows the depth of Perriello’s secret Libertarian identity. After all, the press has similarly described Doug Wilder as a libertarian:

In 1991, Wilder’s focus on abortion as a question of freedom and individual rights was libertarian.

“But Wilder’s campaign, careful not to appear too ardently pro-choice, kept the focus on Coleman’s position and cloaked the issue in libertarianism, Goldman said. A 30-second commercial, with Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello as a backdrop, framed the abortion issue as one of freedom and individual rights.”

On abortion, Wilder struck a libertarian stance.

“He said keeping bureaucrats out of the most personal of decisions was consistent with Virginia’s limited-government tradition. The point was driven home in a powerful television commercial by consultant Frank Greer that juxtaposed Wilder with iconic images: Thomas Jefferson; his home, Monticello, and the American flag.”

Now, the secret cabal between Doug Wilder and Tom Perriello to advance an agenda of freedom and individual rights may be a one of coincidence. But maybe there’s more here?

During his time in Congress, Perriello also voted against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. One of only 87 Democrats to do so while the bulk of the caucus, 162 members, supported it. I know that the Patriot Act seems like a relic of another century (mid-20th century, circa 1984), but this was a very hot political issue in 2009.

Republicans like to talk about protecting individual rights and being skeptical of government power, but it was Democrats like Perriello who voted against the reauthorization, not Republicans. How libertarian of Perriello … but not nefarious.

Tom Perriello has stood with protests against Trump’s Muslim ban travel ban. In talking about keeping Virginia as a firewall against President Trump’s hatred and bigotry, Perriello has highlighted the important role of our judiciary in defending our fundamental rights and liberties. This is clearly a libertarian streak, one that he’s shown in Congress as well with his vote against the Patriot Act.

Now any reasonable person would see the 2009 quote as a reference to these sensibilities, the political views of someone worried about government overreach trampling the rights of minorities. With the firing of FBI Director Comey this distrust of secretive, authoritarian power is needed now more than every. A deep appreciation for our judiciary and our constitutional checks and balances is a valuable trait to find in public servants. That’s also why Perriello has been an outspoken advocate of criminal justice reform in this campaign.

Or you could take the view of Ralph Northam, that in fact this is a sign that Tom Perriello is secretly a member of the Libertarian Party, a fringe political movement that rejected him in 2010 and has been highly critical of key Democratic priorities that Perriello has supported, such as the stimulus, cap and trade, and the Affordable Care Act.

What’s interesting about Northam’s tactics is that he’s trying to pin the claim of Democratic disloyalty on Perriello by bringing up a quote on his political sensibilities. Northam might want to check out his own record first before throwing stones.

Countering Jackson’s attempts to paint him as a big-government liberal, Northam brands himself as a fiscal conservative who is determined to sway moderates and independent voters.

“I don’t consider myself as a liberal. I consider myself as a moderate person. I think the less government, the better,” Northam said.

Northam has consistently embraced the fiscal conservative label, not just in 2013 but more recently at the start of this primary. Here are the facts on Ralph Northam’s world view. He believes that health care is a privilege, not a right, and ran away from defending the Affordable Care Act when times were tough (unlike Perriello).

Moderator: “Do you think that access to quality health care is a right or should it be left to the market or charity?”

Northam: “I believe it’s a privilege. And let me clarify that. If people can get up in the morning and go to work like I can, then it needs to be a privilege. They need to work for their health insurance, for their benefits. If they’re disabled, I will take the shirt off my back to help them.”

And while claiming to have always supported Dreamers, the truth is Northam has called illegal immigrants “a burden to our society.”

At the debate last night, Northam doubled down on his fiscally conservative record, telling Virginia voters that it’s not realistic to run on a platform of two years of debt-free college, community college, or apprenticeship. That it’s not realistic to advocate for tax reform to address Virginia’s income inequalities.

Make no mistake, Northam’s campaign is ignoring any real focus on the economy. Perriello is the only jobs candidate with an agenda focused on the economy for all Virginians, regardless of race or region. Northam tells us that as voters it’s wrong for us to want candidates who will invest in education and who will champion workers rights because Virginia is too fiscally conservative a state. Perhaps the problem is politicians like Northam are too fiscally conservative, not the voters?

  • DevotedSkeptic

    Speaking of 2009 party affiliation…wasn’t that the year that Northam almost sneaked away to caucus with the Republicans in the Virginia State Senate? (And why is this hardly ever brought up?–this is more recent than Northam’s ’00 and ’04 votes for Bush.)

    • This has been brought up numerous times, and Northam keeps denying it. For my part, I’ve hear multiple, conflicting stories, ranging from: a) Northam denying anything untoward happened (including to my face in an on-the-record interview in 2013); b) multiple sources claiming that Northam absolutely DID talk to Republicans about caucusing with them; c) other sources saying that Northam wasn’t going to fully caucus with the Republicans, but was going to vote with them on organizing the chamber, which was pointed out to him by Dems would be equivalent to caucusing with them; d) Northam was “only” going to caucus with Republicans on a couple committees dealing with judge appointments; e) other?

      • Jason Peterson

        It was enough of a done deal that they were openly celebrating. What did it take to lure Ralph back? I’ve heard it was the LG slot. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/10/jeff-fredericks-twitter-u_n_165769.html

        • vadem58

          They were openly celebrating because they were either misinformed or thought that they had pulled the perfect ruse. The Democratic Party might ask someone to run for Lt. Governor, but they wouldn’t “offer” the LG slot to a first time senator. They have no idea how many people are going to challenge in a primary and since primaries are run by the non-partisan State Board of Elections, how could they assure a candidate anything? People are simply throwing things against the wall to see what they can get to stick.

      • vadem58

        Northam keeps denying it because it’s not true. Senators who served with Northam at the time said this was a fabrication to discredit him because Republicans were angry that he had run for office as a Democrat and unseated a two-time Republican incumbent. Every Democratic Delegate, Senator and U.S. Senator wouldn’t be endorsing Northam if this story was true.

  • vadem58

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/2009/08/23/freshman_democrat_wielding_reform_power_220006.html
    Paragraph 5:

    “While some leading Democrats have not held town-hall meetings, the 34-year-old Mr. Perriello – a libertarian at heart who says he became a Democrat “basically when I decided to run” – says he’s on pace to hold more town-hall meetings on health care than any other member of Congress – 21 in all by the time Congress returns next month.”

    And then there’s the Republican bragging when he claimed on FOX to vote with Republicans 60% of the time:
    https://youtu.be/6aefcgU6X6U