I think that there are very few Americans who'd disagree that the election last fall was a sincere departure from the sort-of sober application of the democratic process we were all taught about in civics class. Really, it was more blood sport than anything- and incredibly toxic. Neighbors wouldn't make eye contact with one another. Friendships were broken; families were at each other's throats, and couldn't even talk to one another at Thanksgiving.
That's, just... not a state of affairs that our country can long abide. And it's certainly not living up to the lofty standards set for us by our Founding Fathers. As a proud graduate of "Mr. Jefferson's University", I remember feeling the weight of those expectations sitting heavily on my shoulders as I walked down the Lawn for my graduation all those years ago. It was profound and humbling; it's an honor that's yet to subside in my heart.
But understand that part of that recognition stems from the realization that our founding fathers, rather than being the sterling heroes of popular opinion, were- in many cases- jerks. And I mean, dang, they weren't just small jerks, either.
I mean, look at Thomas Jefferson- founder of the University of Virginia, and architect of the Declaration of Independence. Amongst other things, he had a lifetime feud with John Adams. They fought constantly, trading barbs and venom from the Continental Congress onward. Jefferson lost a close election to Adams in 1796, and became the Vice President. But when Adams would propose legislation, Jefferson would work behind the scenes to undermine it. Adams lost another very close election to Jefferson in 1800, an election that was very acrimonious and polarizing, for a number of reasons (both legitimate and hyperbolic). The tension between himself and Jefferson so consumed John Adams that his last words were: "Thomas Jefferson still survives."
Think about that. The second President of the United States was so consumed by the animosity he felt towards Thomas Jefferson, his last words were a curse against the fact that Jefferson had "beaten" him once again. Of course, unbeknownst to Adams, Jefferson had died only a few hours earlier; the fact remains, however, that two stalwart heroes of the Revolution could hardly stand one another, and fought each other every chance they got.
But- have you ever heard the phrase "certain unalienable rights"? It's a great phrase, and, really- when you get down to it- it's defining part of the Declaration of Independence. And coined by none other than John Adams, who, as it turns out, was the chief editor of the Declaration.
So- here's two people who can barely stand one another personally, but are more than willing to put all of that aside and work together for the sake of their country- which continued to the hard work of building the Constitution of the United States. In fact, while they never fully reconciled, Adams and Jefferson nevertheless kept up correspondence with one another for a number of years after their retirement from public service.
And that's what I'm talking about. The entire framework of our country was built on the principle of dispassionate discourse- people might've not gotten along, they might've been jerks to one another once and awhile- but they could still put that aside in order to accomplish great things. And we are becoming a country who cannot put aside their differences. Who seem to not have their countrymen's interest at heart. It's become a game of Virginia versus Virginia Tech, writ large, where "success" is defined solely by when "your team" scores- no matter how it's done.
After the election, the realization of all that weighed heavily on my mind. And, as I've said many times, I thought to myself, well... I could sit on Facebook and bellyache about how bad things had gotten- or I could stand up and try to do something about it.
So- here I am. But I can't do it alone. No one is an island- and the consequences for failure, for not making out politicians live up the lofty standards set for us by the Founding Fathers, is huge.
On March 4th, we're going to officially launch our campaign to stand up, and say "No More!" to the toxicity that's plagued our Commonwealth and our country. I'm going to conduct a "listening tour" of the 58th District. We're going to start in Elkton- an outstanding little town nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, one that could've easily fallen victim to the double-whammy of NAFTA and the Foreclosure crisis. Through the perseverance of the elected officials in Elkton, and the folks who make up the town, though, they've endured through hardships greater than any community ought to endure.
We're going to stop in Stanardsville. Ruckersville. Hollymead. Keswick. Scottsville. Lake Monticello. Cunningham. And we're not going to do rallies, where I give a "rah, rah!" speech and we hustle up a bunch of folks for the cameras to cheer anytime I make an exclamatory statement. I don't need my ego stroked. And I'm not going to pretend to have the perfect plan to fix every single thing that ails our district 100%; that all it'll take for things to be perfect is to just vote for me on November 7th.
No, if I want to actually make a difference in Richmond, for the folks of the 58th District, then I need to listen. I need to listen to their concerns. Their struggles. Their ideas. And that has to be from everyone, not just people who like me, or agree with me, or who'll tell me what I want to hear. And every citizen of the 58th deserves a delegate who will meet them where they are; be it McGaheysville, Free Union, or Troy. Not just sit back, over a mountain range or across dozens of miles, and count their votes. I want to make sure folks know that, if I have the honor of representing the 58th District, every part will have a voice in Richmond.
Every tree must draw it's strength of the soil from which it grows, else it should wither and fall. The roots of the 58th run far and wide; they draw life from many different streams, and, therefore, we are better nourished to stand through time. Our roots here in Central Virginia run as deep as any in these United States, and they grow strong from the diversity and hard work of the people who call it home. How else could I launch my campaign, but by tapping into that strength, and using it to go forward and fight for our interests?
And as I do go forward towards November and beyond, I'm asking for your help, to stand with me- to fight for the ideals our Founding Fathers laid out for us. No one is an island, and while the road ahead will be fraught with hardship, with blood, sweat, and tears, it's a fight we must- we MUST- have.
Because Virginia- America- is, and always will be, worth fighting for.