Del. Scott Lingamfelter is a decorated combat veteran, a retired U.S. Army colonel, and candidate for lieutenant governor. He’s an energetic, positive force in Richmond, with a well-deserved reputation for leadership. I admire and respect him and his service to country and Commonwealth. However, I am disappointed by the divisiveness of his latest public statement.
Yesterday, Lingamfelter sent a heartfelt message to supporters rightly denouncing former Rep. Ron Paul for his disgraceful Twitter post about the tragic murder of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. As a fellow veteran and American Legion member myself—and a huge admirer of Chris Kyle and his life’s work—I join Col. Lingamfelter and countless other veterans outraged by Paul’s insensitive and disrespectful remark.
But, Scott’s message on this came with an unfortunate subtext. He did not stop with denouncing the remark and the man who made it, but instead seemed to lash out at a whole segment of our party. Stating that the “Republican house is divided,” Scott then says that the problem is the fault certain conservative leaders (i.e., Ron Paul). He further writes that “those that follow him” are “worthy of utter disdain,” and that we are witnessing “the utter destruction of our Republican Party at the hands of those who would rather destroy than build-up our GOP.”
Respectfully, Col. Lingamfelter is way off base here. Sadly, he’s not alone in his reflexive hostility to the new blood in our party over the last few years, whether it be from “Paulistas” or Tea Partiers, or others motivated by growing threats to liberty. Leaders in our party too often forget that, as Reagan taught us, politics is a game of addition, not subtraction. Instead of opening doors and opening arms to welcome newcomers, many party leaders instinctively sense a threat to their parochial interests and go to the mattresses against them (see, for instance, the recent drama surrounding the Northumberland County GOP’s handling of “newly arrived extremists“).
To be clear, Ron Paul deserves opprobrium for his tasteless Tweet. But let’s not create division across the whole party because of it. There is plenty of room for disagreement around the edges without alienating some of our newest and most energetic activists. Libertarians and Tea Party-types have improved our discourse, and helped us as a party to sharpen our focus on bedrock conservative principles. They helped fill the phone banks and campaign headquarters last fall. Many of these new activists are already serving in leadership roles in local committees, and even on RPV’s Executive Committee. The newcomers have made us better. It is well past time to lay out the welcome mat—and begin building our future—instead of howling about invaders destroying our party.
Scott Lingamfelter is a good man, loyal to his brother warriors, who is righteously indignant about a stupid Tweet and its author. But his reaction here is not the right one for the future of our GOP.