Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Conversation with Virginia Tea Party Leader Ron Wilcox

Ron Wilcox is Lead Organizer of the Northern Virginia Tea Party

Virginia Gentleman: Your take on the General Assembly Session so far.  Are you as a tea party leader happy with what has gone on so far?
Ron Wilcox: This is the first year that the Tea Party approached the General Assembly systematically as a citizen lobbyist movement.  We have protested last year and we did put up numbers on a single day to advocate for a conservative, fiscally prudent approach to governance.  This year’s objective is to put a continuing presence on-the-ground during the legislative session – a goal we achieved.  We want a constant reminder to our elected officials that we are watching and measuring their performance vs. their campaign promises.

There are some who continue to try to push the narrative that we are AstroTurf or that we will disappear when the economy improves.  First, we don’t believe the policies of progressive governance can improve the economy-so long as those policies are in place we will be in place.  Second, the Tea Party transforms as we transform the electorate and the leadership of our state and nation.  We are continuing to protest to be sure; augmenting protest activism are 1) citizen lobbyist activism and 20 direct contact with elected leaders sympathetic to the Tea Party.  These added action steps advance through legislation our policy objectives of Federalism, restrained central government action, and fiscal prudence.

Last year’s VA budget was a Democrat budget administered by a new Republican administration. This year’s budget and house legislative activity is a Republican effort, which doesn’t mean it’s all Tea Party.  The Tea Party is non-partisan and interested in prudent governance.  Not all Republicans share the limited government goals and objectives of the Tea Party.  Some of our members are highly libertarian in their outlook, others are more conservative Republican.  Consequently we prioritize issues based on where they fit within our objectives of limited federal governance and fiscal restraint.
Virginia Gentleman: Any victories likely to come out of this session?
Ron Wilcox: Our greatest victory to date is our transformation from a protest movement to a movement engaged at every level of governance to restrain the spending impulses of elected leaders and restore individual liberty, responsibility, and accountability to our body politic.  In a word, we re-waken the need for self-governance first, followed by prudent governance in government action.

Regarding legislation, the House of Delegates is majority Republican.  That means the Republican Party can control legislation coming to the floor for a vote and moving it forward for consideration by the Senate. As noted earlier, not all Republicans are Tea Party.  This year, we have advanced through the VA House a 10th amendment agenda while keeping our eye on other legislation that if enacted would have adverse fiscal consequences either immediately or in the future.  The Tea Party is about protecting America for future generations - ensuring they have a better opportunity in their lives than we had in ours.

Because the Democrat Party controls the VA Senate and is highly progressive in its approach to governance, we recognize that legislation favorable to the Tea Party will not be advanced or voted on in the Senate.  Janet Howell in particular uses the “Nancy Pelosi playbook” to stop legislation protecting the liberties of Virginians.  A good example is legislation designed to protect citizen’s property and stored wealth through property as a result of the Kelo decision in the Supreme court, where the court expanded the definition of eminent domain.  The Kelo decision negatively impacts anyone who owns property, disproportionately affecting lower income and minority property owners in urban landscapes.

The Tea Party possesses a more mature view of governance than the lamestream media popularizes.  Our objective is to put our elected leaders on the record and then work this election cycle to gain control of the legislative floor in the VA Senate.  Once that is achieved we will be better positioned to succeed with a fiscally responsible legislative agenda.
Virginia Gentleman: Any disappointments so far?
Ron Wilcox: Based on our current debt situation, we are unhappy with any legislation that increases the debt load. The $3B road package comes to mind as a cynical attempt to solve today’s problems on the backs of tomorrow’s tax payers.
Also, we were very disappointed that Bob Marshall's HB1506 bill on foreclosure procedures; assignment of deed of trust which was killed in subcommittee despite strong showing by the Tea party in favor this bill at the hearings.  The other important bill that was killed in Senate subcommittee was the the Repeal Amendment.  We had high hopes for this approach to restore the balance of power of Federalism.
Virginia Gentleman:  Looks like the Governor's ABC privatization plan has failed.  Are you surprised?
Ron Wilcox: The Tea Party did not take a strong position for or against this effort.  As a matter of principle, there’s no reason the Commonwealth of Virginia should be in the liquor business.  As capitalists there’s no reason that the Tax payers of VA should not benefit from the consumption of alcohol without the expense of a government bureaucracy.  We hope that whatever deal can be reached for VA’s liquor business that the profits/revenue/taxes be used to fund today’s issues while paying down debt

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