Virgil Goode: Mr. Independent
Yesterday, The Richmond Times-Dispatch ran the following opinion piece on my friend Virgil Goode, who is seeking the Constitution Party nomination for President:
Virgil Goode has run for office as a Democrat and as a Republican. Partisanship never has defined his career. He is a true independent. Goode is his own man, which may help to explain why in 2008 he lost his seat in the U.S. House.(emphasis added)
For many years Goode represented a Southside district in the state Senate. He promoted rural interests. When the parties split 20-20 in the chamber, he compelled his reluctant party colleagues to share power with Republicans. The Democrats did not embrace power-sharing because they believed in comity. Goode gave them no choice. He also once challenged Chuck Robb in a primary for U.S. Senate.
Goode won election to the 5th House District as a Democrat. Later he became an independent before joining the GOP.
Goode now is seeking the Constitution Party's nomination for president. He concedes his election is unlikely, yet he has points he wants to make. The Constitution Party embraced a Tea Party agenda before the movement's birth. "To thine own self be true," advises Polonius in "Hamlet." Virgil Goode has not strayed.
The Atlantic also has a good piece on Virgil: "Virgil Goode: This Is What a Third-Party Candidate Looks Like".
... But it's that mix of social conservatism with economic populism that doesn't get much a hearing as it should, based on Americans' political views. As my colleague Ron Brownstein noted in his column last week "each side's electoral coalition is now bound together far more by shared cultural values than by common economic interests."(emphasis added)
That means Republicans, increasingly dependent on the support of blue-collar voters, are campaigning on cuts to popular entitlement programs that may rankle some of the GOP rank-and-file. And it means that Democrats can't effectively win over these voters with populist appeals because the party's views on litmus test cultural issues, like immigration and abortion, are well out of step with their personal beliefs.
That's why former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode's third-party presidential candidacy should be receiving more attention. The Democrat-turned-Republican congressman is campaigning on a platform of reducing immigration (legal and illegal), protecting Social Security and Medicare and balancing the budget immediately.
Goode, by virtue of his relative anonymity and likely lack of funding, probably won't get much traction -- even if he emerges with the Constitution Party nomination. But he's the prototype of a third-party candidate that would have the potential to get support from a swath of voters who would see both President Obama and Mitt Romney as elites disconnected from the concerns of working-class Americans. Americans Elect isn't jumping to his side, but he's the type of candidate whose positions could resonate with a significant minority of voters.
The media tend to think that the impetus for third-party candidates comes from Americans who are just plain sick of politics-as-usual and want a truth-teller to come in and shake things up. Hence, the regular Bloomberg boomlet in certain circles. In reality, the greatest demand for a third-party candidate would come from the voters whose views are most out of line with the political establishment and most newspaper editorial boards.
Some background on the candidate: Virgil is 65 years old, although he looks and seems younger than that. He served in the Virginia Senate for 24 years, from 1972 to 1996. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996 and served for 12 years until 2008, when his seat was targeted by national Democrats because Charlottesville was part of his district.
(Incidentally, Tom Perriello, the ObamaCath co-founder of Soros-backed Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, who defeated Virgil in 2008 thanks to Soros and the Democrats' focus on the 5th District seat, himself went down to defeat in 2010 - in no small part for selling out his Catholic faith in service of Obama and ObamaCare.)
Virgil is a solid conservative of a definite Southern populist bent. He was a Democrat for most of his political career, but like so many conservative Demcorats, left the party as the party lurched leftward. He was one of only 5 Democrats in the House who voted to impeach Clinton (again, remember that C'ville was part of his district, so that was something of an act of political courage). He then became an independent caucusing with the Republicans in the late 90s, and eventually became a Republican during the early Bush years.
As for policy, he is solidly conservative, especially on the issues that matter most to me. NOTE: Just as I disagree with Rick Santorum, who I am currently supporting, on his harsh immigration rhetoric, neither am I in agreement with Virgil on immigration - and Virgil is far more belligerant on the topic than Santorum has been. That said, his views on immigration are not disqualifying for me, and I could gladly cast a ballot for Virgil Goode based on his record and his views on other issues of importance to me. Virgil's views on the issues can be read on his campaign website.
A personal note on former Congressman Goode: Virgil was of immense help to me when I was Mayor of Columbia, Virginia, in my work on Columbia's revitalization plan. He took a personal interest in the town, and actually made a public appearance at a town festival to promote the revitalization process. Note that this was a town of only 50 people whose electoral value was probably close to zero compared to other localities in Virgil's district such as Charlottesville.