Liberty Will Be Rebuilt By the People in the States


“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”

This observation by Tom Hanks’ character in Forest Gump applies just as much to my current experience going to door-to-door in my Republican primary campaign for Virginia Senate in the western suburbs of Richmond, VA.

You never know what you are going to get.

Everybody has a story to tell at the door, especially when it comes to reacting to the central message of my campaign.

A typical exchange at the door of a voter starts like this:

 Hi my name is Vince Haley and I am knocking on your door because I am running in the Republican primary on June 9th. The incumbent is retiring after 32 years in the General Assembly.  This card has information about me and my positions, but I want you to know that the conviction behind my running for Virginia Senate is that Virginia has to take a much more aggressive posture in pushing back on the federal government when it overreaches, as it is doing in so many areas of our lives today.

The reaction of the voters is one of near universal agreement — even before I have the chance to provide a single example of federal overreach and how Virginia can combat it.

“You’re singing my tune.”

“Well that’s for [darn] sure.”

One retiree immediately told me that he was good for gathering 10 votes for me from his group of friends that gather weekly at Panera. It seems that they are already way ahead of me in pushing this message.

Another person whose door I knocked on turned out to be a pastor of a large local church. He took my hand and prayed for my effort.

And then we talk about the federal overreach that affects their lives. I hear many stories of how Obamacare has made health insurance increasingly unaffordable. Others describe how our open borders immigration policy is depressing wages for working Virginians and how deeply unfair it is.

But what I have taken away from almost every single person I have spoken with during this campaign is that they feel one of two things.  The first is that something is deeply and fundamentally broken in our system of government. The second is that they feel completely powerless to change anything in their government.

Many of the people I’ve met are deeply cynical of the whole political process, and for good reason. They have been betrayed by politicians – and the process – their entire lives.

Regardless of who, or what party, is elected to office, the end result is always the same – their taxes keep going up, their economic opportunity keeps going down, their freedoms keep eroding, and the powers that be become more entrenched.

This slow, gradual, creep of governmental power is felt all day, every day. The number of things not directly regulated or mandated by the federal government is decreasing every waking moment.

For decades, we’ve watched as an increasingly arrogant and aggressive federal government gradually extended its powers, overreached its lawful limits, and shed accountability to the people.

In the past six years, we’ve suddenly found ourselves facing lawless and out-of-control bureaucracies on many fronts at once, agencies laden with bureaucrats and determined to impose their will on the rest of us.

Because these bureaucracies so often pursue destructive ends, so often make a mess of it when they do, and so often go unchecked by an ineffective Congress, federal overreach has become a problem of daily life.

The attempted takeover of our classrooms with Common Core, the lawless open-borders immigration policy that is depressing wages, the Obamacare law that has made healthcare unaffordable, the EPA’s desperate attempt to raise every Virginian’s electricity rates by 30 percent, and the effort to undermine our religious liberties–all are fronts in a conflict with federal bureaucrats whose values and priorities are at odds with hardworking Virginians.

I decided to run for Virginia Senate because I want to change this situation.

I believe that newly assertive state legislatures can resist this federal overreach that threatens our freedoms, our livelihoods, our families, and our communities. State legislatures have the potential to be the greatest bulwarks for liberty in America. They are our last line of defense.

Just as the Constitution divides power between three branches of the federal government so that they can check each other’s excesses, our system also distributes power between the federal and the state governments. While the federal government has significant (though limited) powers, the states have wide-ranging powers themselves.

State legislatures have been underusing these state powers, especially where the federal government has overstepped its authority in ways that hurt our citizens.

Take for example the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” which is designed by unelected bureaucrats and estimated to increase the cost of electricity on Virginians by 30 percent. The EPA has no legal authority to impose this destructive policy, a cruel back-door tax that will fall hardest on our state’s seniors and least well-off. Even President Obama’s own Harvard law professor, the liberal Laurence Tribe, has described the EPA’s plan as “burning the Constitution.”

In the states, we do have an answer to this abuse. It’s a simple one: No.

No, you don’t have the authority.

No, we won’t assist you in “burning the Constitution.”

No, we won’t use Virginia’s tax money and Virginia’s public servants to write a plan for impoverishing our Commonwealth.

No, we’re not going to help you take over Virginia’s power plants. We’re going to place the wellbeing of our citizens ahead of Washington’s bureaucratic whims.

The state legislatures, if they have the courage to defend the rule of law and our right to self-government, have appropriate answers for almost every federal overreach.

President Obama, justifying his illegal amnesty orders, says the federal government must “prioritize” its immigration enforcement efforts–to the point of hardly enforcing our immigration laws at all.

Well, state governments must prioritize their activities, too. Cooperating with the President’s unconstitutional plan should be at the bottom of Virginia’s list of priorities.

On these issues and more, Virginia and the rest of the states have answers. We can defend our way of life and the rule of law. It is why I am running for Virginia Senate. I want to lead this effort in Virginia.

In deference to Congress, the States–and the people thereof–have largely been forgotten as fundamental defenders of liberty. But if we are to keep the Republic, liberty will have to be rebuilt by the people — acting without permission from federal authorities — in the states themselves. Otherwise, our Republic will be lost, and the first and last truly free people will be lost with it.

Vince Haley is a grassroots conservative running in the Republican Primary for Virginia Senate.