This exchange with David Larsen is getting weirder and weirder
On January 19, at a gathering called to discuss the future of the conservative movement, two-time candidate for Congress David Larsen raised some issues in an exchange with libertarian Professor Murray Sabrin. Larsen later posted this statement, which for me summed up what he was getting at:
“Conservatism is a life style, not a covert name tag to wear during a primary.”
In a column that appeared on CNJ a week later, I offered my opinion on David Larsen’s assertion, but instead of explaining his assertion, the Larsen campaign’s former social media consultant wrote a nasty column full of name-calling and personal insults. Looking to bring the focus back to a discussion about Mr. Larsen’s original assertion, I wrote another column on the subject and the Editor at CNJ invited Mr. Larsen to share his ideas with us.
Unfortunately, David Larsen has chosen to ignore the idea that started this commentary - his idea, his words - and instead he offers us a reply that is prickly and personal, and fails to move the intellectual discussion any further.
To start with, Mr. Larsen attempts to avoid discussing the topic he raised, by questioning my credentials. This is very rich coming from someone who nobody had ever heard of before he announced that he was “the conservative for Congress” in 2010.
Speaking of me, Mr. Larsen writes: “Good golly! who is Ms. Molly? Is she involved in the Conservative movement in NJ? If so, for how long? What organizations does she belong to?”
All of the same could have been said of Mr. Larsen just three years ago, with one difference - his mode of expressing his “conservatism” was to become a candidate for federal office, a public figure, while mine was to pen a column on a conservative blog from time to time. So I ask Mr. Larsen and his supporters: “Which of us deserves the greater scrutiny: Candidate Larsen who wants to make the laws for every one of us in these United States, or blogger Molly?”
According to the documented record kept by the Federal Election Commission, David Larsen never found any conservative candidate or committee worthy of his support, until he himself decided to become a candidate for Congress. Then the floodgates opened. In 2010, Larsen donated $239,822.00 to his campaign for Congress. He followed that up with a loan of $74,395.43 to his 2012 campaign for Congress.
And while I am glad that Mr. Larsen finally found a “conservative” he could believe in, couldn’t it be that this was as much an exercise in personal ambition as it was about any “conservative” cause?
As for a “name tag to wear during a primary”, isn’t it possible that Mr. Larsen, upon finding that he had the ambition and resources to run for Congress, decided to adopt the tag “conservative” in the Tea Party year of 2010? Why wouldn’t he? I’m sure his campaign’s voter survey poll informed him that most Republican primary voters called themselves “conservative”. As a businessman, he understands basic marketing and what a “brand” is.
But please don’t get me wrong. It is not my goal to dispute whether David Larsen is “conservative” or not. What I dispute is surrendering to him the right to decide who is “conservative” or not.
David Larsen is not a philosopher. He is a two-time candidate for public office. Before that, he worked in his family’s manufacturing and real estate business. End of story. Mr. Larsen hasn’t written a book or even a series of articles that explains his world view to us and his philosophy of what it means to be “conservative” or to live, as he puts it, a “conservative life style”. There are men and women who have spent their entire lives pondering these questions and I would rather look to them than to Mr. Larsen, begging the question: “Just who the hell is David Larsen”?
As for Mr. Larsen’s threat to chase down every young woman in the tri-state area who happens to share my name, all I can say to him is “knock yourself out”, because it says so much about him. It tells me that he is a hypersensitive authoritarian, who would rather try to intimidate those who disagree with an assertion that he raised - he raised, his words published and distributed by him - than try to have a mature, civil exchange of ideas. I can understand why there are those who think he’s weird.
In his response, published this morning on CNJ, David Larsen makes several attempts to mislead the reader. Writing about the person who I identified as “the former social media consultant to Mr. Larsen’s campaign”, Mr. Larsen wrote:
“The blogger - who is well known for his independence and confrontational style of writing - posted this article on his own. To my knowledge and by his own admission, he is not an opposition research consultant, as that is a person who does such work for a living.”
I never wrote that he was an “opposition research consultant”. I wrote that he was “the former social media consultant to Mr. Larsen’s campaign”. This is easy to verify. I got that information from the Federal Elections Commission. They got it from Mr. Larsen’s campaign, and Mr. Larsen’s campaign treasurer - under penalty of law - certified that it was true. The record shows that Mr. Larsen’s campaign paid this person in a non-employee role to handle “social media”. He was paid as a “consultant” to the campaign. If there is anything Mr. Larsen would like to dispute about this, I suggest he contact the Federal Elections Commission.
In another attempt to mislead, David Larsen writes:
“Then again, speaking of ‘opposition research consultants,’ it’s worth noting that the author did mention Rep. Leonard Lance. Rep. Lance did hire a professional consultant firm and its proprietor is Mr. Bill Winkler - whose association with CNJ is well known - to dredge up campaign dirt on his primary opponent, which of course is public record.”
Again, a simple check of the documents provided to the Federal Elections Commission by Mr. Larsen’s campaign reveals that Mr. Winkler worked for Mr. Larsen’s campaign in 2010 - and as late as July 2011 he was still being paid by Mr. Larsen’s campaign. Does Mr. Larsen now dispute what he reported to the Federal Elections Commission? Did he mislead them then, or is he trying to mislead us now?
Mr. Winkler will not speak on the record about Mr. Larsen’s campaign or why he left it, but the records filed with the Federal Elections Commission indicate that very few employees or consultants stayed with David Larsen for very long. Why the huge turnover?
In today’s response, Mr. Larsen writes:
“The CNJ article claims to offer inside information from ‘many who were once affiliated with Mr. Larsen’s campaigns’. I have yet to locate anyone associated with my campaign who has been interviewed by this author or who even knows this author. In spite of this, the author claims that all those interviewed spoke of the ‘the religious nature of the campaign and how it centered on Mr. Larsen. Maybe calling it a cult of personality is going too far, but being endlessly asked what you think about ‘David’ and being asked to reaffirm your commitment to ‘David’ is weird to many people.”
In the course of his two campaigns for public office, David Larsen’s campaign succeeded in making quite a few people uncomfortable. In response to Mr. Larsen, I need only to offer this one example. If you read my first column on this subject you will note that I closed with these paragraphs:
“For all its strong points, the two campaigns of David Larsen did not exhibit an intimate understanding of the different contexts which make up the conservative movement. According to activists involved in Larsen’s effort, there were strong religious overtones to his campaign meetings that did little to reassure those conservatives who happened to be of other faiths or indeed, no faith at all.
These were self-inflicted problems that plagued Larsen’s campaigns and cost him support. If the former candidate seems a little bitter for the experience, he should look no further than the mirror for the cause. Certainty is the cause of many a failed campaign - and nothing is more certain than when a candidate believes that God has pre-ordained his victory.”
Read the comments under my column, and you will find a comment from Mr. Larsen’s campaign manager in 2012. He is a Tea Party leader and a conservative activist. Under his own name, he thanked CNJ editor Rob Eichmann for posting my column, calling it a “great article.”
That’s what Mr. Larsen’s campaign manager had to say about my column. Any questions?
In yet another attempt to mislead, David Larsen gets all huffy because I mentioned his wealth and writes this in his response:
“I will not apologize for the success enjoyed as the result of my toil, sweat, sacrifice and blessings. America is the land of opportunity where all people have an equal opportunity to advance themselves - and I’m appalled this sort of aspersion would be cast on me, noting the fact that Rep. Lance is himself, a multi-millionaire who also campaigned for public office.”
I only made reference to Mr. Larsen’s wealth because he himself made reference to it when he was talking other conservatives out of running against Congressman Leonard Lance. Mr. Larsen made the argument that he was the conservative with the most resources, so every other conservative should defer to him. Mr. Larsen put the political consideration of resources above whether or not another candidate had more experience with or fluency in the conservative cause.
And while objecting to criteria raised by him - Mr. Larsen attempts to mislead the reader again by leaving out a very important source of his wealth, namely, inheritance.
“I will not apologize for the success enjoyed as the result of my toil, sweat, sacrifice and blessings.”
Maybe “blessings” is newspeak for “inherited wealth”?
As for your campaign events, the “David” crap, the odor of men’s feet, the praying, and all the rest of it, these were turn-offs for many of those involved with your campaign. Sorry to tell you that, but they were. Some people thought it was weird. Again, not every “conservative” shares your outlook on these things and you didn’t seem to want to accommodate that in your campaign. Tell you the truth, your statement that “brand new slippers were offered to anyone who doffed their shoes”, freaked me out too. I mean, WTF!
Finally, you claim to know Reid Buckley and Michael Reagan. Good, you appear unable to, but maybe you can get them to respond to the question of whether or not conservatism is a “life style” as you contend, and what is a “true conservative” as you claim to be. We need to have this discussion in 2013 and as you appear unwilling or unable to elaborate or your assertion, perhaps you can get them to do so on behalf of your assertion. I suspect that they have some of the philosophy that you - “the true conservative” and the judge of what is a “(conservative) life style” - appear to lack.
The boys who write Rubashov brought up the philosopher Michael Oakeshott the other day. I understand where they are coming from when attempting to define what is conservative. Professor Oakeshott was attempting to find a modern context for conservatism and in doing so rejected the modern followers of Burke because they attempted to use metaphysical and religious beliefs as the cornerstones of conservatism. Oakeshott recognized the “radical individuality and diversity” of our times (and he was writing this in the 1950s) and argued that a “conservative understanding of government as a limited and specific activity was more appropriate than the alternative understanding of government as the imposition of a substantive conception of the common good.”
Professor Oakeshott wrote: “It is not at all inconsistent to be conservative in respect of government and radical in respect of almost every other activity.”
And so, on that note, once again I’ll ask David Larsen to elaborate on his assertion that “conservatism is a life style”.
Editor’s Note: Once again CNJ invites David Larsen to offer his response to this column. Once again, we offer to publish his thoughts in their entirety and unedited if he chooses.