This piece ran this past week as an op/ed column in the Northern Virginia Daily under the title, “In These Times, the Main Battle is Not Liberal/Conservative.”
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Joshua Huffman is a genuine conservative. He named his own personal website the virginiaconservative.net. And when the Harrisonburg radio station WSVA decided to recruit a conservative to be paired up with the liberal voice of Andy Schmookler (my husband), for a kind of point-counterpoint radio conversation on the day’s politics, they chose Joshua Huffman.
That’s how we first met. And I wouldn’t have predicted that he and I would turn out to be political allies, but that’s what’s happened because in these extraordinary times in America, the real political battle is not about liberal vs. conservative. It’s about morality vs. moral bankruptcy.
That’s why those radio conversations about politics for which Joshua was recruited have turned out mostly not to be the expected point-counterpoint kind, where a liberal and a conservative give their competing takes on the issues that divide right from left— like on climate change, or health care, or guns, or abortion.
Rather, almost all the conversations find the two of them – the principled conservative and the principled liberal – on the same side. They both stand up for integrity, and for the basic values of the system of government our founders gave us.
And they are both appalled by what the Republican Party has become.
Joshua began his political life as an enthusiastic Republican. But as the Party changed, Joshua chose to stick with his conservative principles rather than stick with a Party that — from the Trump Presidency, to the Trump Party, to the Republican Party here in Virginia – he saw as abandoning principles altogether.
It is in that context that, in their radio conversations, both Joshua and Andy find themselves not debating their differences on policy so much as working together to paint, for the listening audience, a picture of the threat to basic American values coming from the political party to which Joshua once gave his allegiance.
And it is in that context that Joshua, the conservative, has been helping me in my campaign to unseat Mark Obenshain in the state senate this November.
Years ago, when Joshua saw Mr. Obenshain as representing real conservative values, he worked to help Mr. Obenshain get elected. But having watched Obenshain and his party become something very different, Joshua sees that the best way for him to help advance his “conservative principles” is to go canvassing from door to door in behalf of a reasonably liberal Democrat who is challenging Mark Obenshain. Me.
As it happens, because of his canvassing for me, Joshua got his picture in Harrisonburg’s Daily News Record. Obenshain saw that picture, and it prompted him to send Joshua a message that implicitly wondered if Joshua’s working with the Democrats signified that something had gone wrong with him.
In his response to Mr. Obenshain, Joshua explained his volunteering to help my campaign, saying:
“Like Richard Obenshain [Mark Obenshain’s father, and an important Republican leader in an earlier time], ‘the most important goal in my life is to have some impact in preserving and expanding the realm of personal freedom in the life of this country.’ Toward that end, I’d like to have someone representing me in Richmond who …works for the good of the people (and not out of a desire for power, to please special interests).”
In other words, Joshua’s helping my campaign was evidence not of something wrong with him, but something right: namely, that he’d remained faithful to his basic values.
Joshua’s using Mark Obenshain’s father to make that point was no cheap shot. In 2011, Joshua had written a profile celebrating how Richard Obenshain – the father – represented important conservative principles.
As the Republican Party changed, so did the nature of Obenshain Republican politics. As Joshua sees it, Joshua’s working to help me unseat Mark Obenshain – now seeking a fifth term in office — expresses his fidelity to the values he celebrated in Richard Obenshain, a leader in that more principled Republican Party.
Which makes Joshua Huffman the kind of conservative we most need in today’s America: one who recognizes that today’s most important political battle is not at the level of conservative vs. liberal positions on policy questions. That battle is, rather, to restore a fundamental commitment to principles of honesty and to the common good.
As Joshua has written:
“Although, as a limited government conservative, I disagree with April Moore on certain policy issues, I’m supporting her because I think it is important to have someone loyal to principles of honesty and integrity, not someone who isn’t who he claims to be.”
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