Another Meet the Candidates event

This past Saturday, I attended a Meet the Candidates event at Goochland High School for all eight of the candidates running for the open 56th House of Delegates seat. And in contrast to a previous “Meet the Candidates event in Mineral last month, there were many more questions from the audience. For their hard work, the Goochland County Tea Party, Goochland Republican Committee, and Goochland Democratic Party all deserve a hand for a well managed and informative event.

After the opening remarks, the candidates were randomly selected for which order they would speak, giving their opening remarks, and then taking as many questions from the audience as time allowed. And it should be noted that slightly more than half way through this forum, Congressman Dave Brat showed up, taking a seat in the back of the auditorium.

According to the organizers, he was not “invited” to this event and chose to crash the gate so to speak. And from all reports, this in-your-face “pay attention to me” action was very similar to what he and the entire Republican contingent pulled when they crashed a historical society parade in Bon Air several weeks ago.

And the response to his presence was mixed; from holding court with Keith Flannagan the chair of the Goochland Tea Party, and Graven Craig, an attorney and candidate from Louisa while the candidates spoke. His presence was so “disruptive” that Flannagan finally had to publicly acknowledge his presence between speakers.  And apparently the remaining Republican candidates must have thought this was their cue to audition for his approval/endorsement, because almost immediately they started spouting “Bratisms.”

With John McGuire  suddenly peppering his responses with “market forces“, “supply and demand,” And the next guy Jay Prendergast, started talking about “market based solutions“, increasing health care access through “free market,’ and finally, Graven Craig who went so far as to quote some of Brat’s BS economic statistics.

Prompting one person in the audience to say; “OK, every candidate since Dave Brat showed up, was spouting the Brat Bingo Lingo- maybe they had microphones in their ears, and were psychically channeling him, or sucking up to him.” After the candidates finished speaking, the mediator declared a brief bathroom break before their final summary. And yet another opportunity for Graven Craig to bolt up the aisle to confer with Brat.

During this brief intermission and immediately after Tina Spinella Winkler spoke to him about being unable to get a meeting along with asking him some pointed questions, he slipped out the back, avoiding any other members of the audience. And from his and presumably the other Republican candidate’s perspective, it was “Mission Accomplished,” since they now had working outline of how to play their greatest distractions … I mean present their astro-turfed positions.

In the not so distant past, Republican’s spoke in carefully calculated “code,” words designed to activate strong emotional responses from their supporters. Now in the case of John McGuire; they just go straight to self promoting videos, and in Matt Pinsker’s case espousing a barely concealed racism and hatred of others; particularly liberal democrats, minorities, and especially anyone who isn’t like them.

With one person commenting later that the “…others are probably harboring similar ideas; Pinsker’s just the first to say it so overtly.” And to a man, all of the Republicans demonstrated their lack of knowledge of the issues,  giving misleading and evasive answers, particularly the two candidates from Louisa County, George Goodwin and Graven Craig.

And a particular shout out has to go to Mr. Craig who demonstrated his cluelessness about how important  access to the internet is in rural areas, when responding to a question about broadband in rural areas, and how the model being used in Louisa might be applied in other areas, saying “I’m against private/public partnerships,” without the slightest explanation. Contemptuously dismissing the reality of the impact that having access to reliable and affordable internet has on education and economic development.

Yet another reminder of the extent to which he is imitating AFP’s and Brat’s brand of Prosperity gospel.

Not to be outdone, Dr. Dhakar and Matt Pinsker demonstrated their cluelessness and callousness; starting with the good Doctors  diatribe about making sure that welfare moms only have one kid in order to keep health care cost affordable, to Pinsker’s claims that “We have to cut health care,”  without a single word of explanation. Free market sound bytes which encapsulate the Republican’s problem free philosophy on virtually every issue.

As previously mentioned; Graven Craig has been ingratiating himself with Dave Brat’s Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party, and from all appearances is willing to say anything to prove that he’s a “disciple” of their faith, like these fliers his supporters were handing out at this event.

Keep in mind that all of these endorsements (on the left) for him are from various members of the Goochland Tea Party who have seized control of most of the levers of power in that county. Nor was it any coincidence that the last time he showed up at a public event in Louisa, it was with Brat at last year’s Celebrating Democracy Day at Louisa High school, along with a Goochland Tea Party member.

According to the event’s organizer, the Goochland supervisor “was not invited as a candidate,” and “came with party members,” whether that’s an indication that the local conservative bench in Louisa county is so thin that the only way to keep up appearances was to bring in outside help remains unclear.

And even before the “Great Disruptor” graced us with his presence, several of the question directed to certain candidates came from Republican flacks in the audience, and were clearly framed in such a way to point out that  they weren’t members of their tribe. Like the questions asked of Dr. Dhakar and Melissa Dart about their “faith,” questions which weren’t asked of any other candidates.

Another attempt to define certain candidates as being somehow “different” came from Republican operative, Mark Hile who’s long winded question was a clumsy attempt to get one of the Democratic candidates to “agree” that there were circumstances where privatizing our public school system might be justified.

And like the previous candidate forum in Mineral, Lizzie Drucker-Basch pointed out on several occasions that some of the questions she was being asked were so “loaded” as to be virtually meaningless let alone answerable. This was not a coincidence, since those questions originated from the same authoritarian mindset that has wholeheartedly embraced the Republican mantra… I mean creed.

Testaments of faith which work because they are designed to short circuit any rational thought, feeding directly into long standing social and economic resentments, and carefully packaged to maximize their supporter’s anger and sense of outrage.

And unlike the above meme, this is not a temporary state of mind for many conservatives; it’s a deeply ingrained part of their culture, one which has proven highly resistant to any change.  And of particular concern in this open 56th Delegate seat are the subtle racist and phobic slings which are constantly being “normalized” by conservatives.

And it is one of societies greatest social fictions,  a convenient distraction which keeps  people from realizing the true magnitude of their fear and hatred of “others,” one that gives them a them a space so safe that even a snowflake couldn’t melt in which to project those same unspoken attitudes onto other, particularly liberals.

An assortment of prosecution complex’s which helps their supporters maintain the illusion that only they are members of the chosen tribe, making them even more willing to defend their tribe against any attack, or inconvenient facts. Like how all of the Republican candidates are preaching a modern day adaptation of Dominionist prosperity gospel.  A world view which as far as I can tell permeates the entire Party, aided and abetted by an incurious local media who have somehow failed to notice that these quasi-religious attitudes are being co-opted by front groups like American’s for Prosperity.

Or that they are backing other radical Republican state delegate candidates; like Nick Freitas, and Dave LaRock along with Congressman Brat. Doing everything they can to project the appearance of AstroTurfed … I mean grassroots….err widespread support for their ideas.

Or they will be supporting which ever Republican survives this primary.

At least ones who are only interested in giving lip service to having any values, or at least ones which don’t conflict with AFP’s … I mean their corporate master’s agenda’s.

And it remains to be seen whether the people of Louisa will take advantage of this weekends Louisa Street Festival, or the Get out the Vote rally at the Louisa Arts Center to ask these candidates some hard questions before they cast their votes next Tuesday.

Jon Taylor

Editors Note: There will be two articles highlighting both of the Democratic candidates later this week.