The Honorable John Connolly, member of the Front Royal, Va. Town Council, spoke to Christendom students on March 30, as part of the college’s politics practica speaker series. A 2008 alumnus of Christendom College, Connelly explained his notion of politics as warfare to the students, and encouraged them to be optimistic about the future of American politics.
Connelly, who earned his B.A. in English and his master’s in library information studies, began by admitting that as an undergraduate, he had very little interest in politics.
“But then, I became interested in ideas. At first, I was content that I simply knew the right ideas, and didn’t care to do anything practical. Slowly, however, I became more involved,” Connolly said.
Connolly’s understanding of politics changed drastically after he volunteered as a delegate for Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. Ron Paul would lose the campaign, and the distraught Connolly was ready to give up on politics. But after attending a dinner for Ron Paul’s supporters, Connolly met a lot of good, young people who convinced him that he needed to work in the vineyard, and produce concrete results.
Connolly questioned the students about the issues that are particularly important to them, and what politics is, practically speaking. For Connolly, politics is essentially warfare without death, and if that is the case, then one is obligated to understand the rules of engagement, and how to use those rules to one’s advantage.
He recommended the book Robert’s Rules of Order, a set of rules used by most political gatherings and business meetings around the world, to learn about this subject. Using these rules, one might be able to force a political figure to vote on an issue he would not like to go on his record.
But, the rules are of little use unless you have numbers and this is why unifying people by making them interested or even angry, is important, he said. Connolly once volunteered to go door-to-door to gather support for Virginia delegate Dr. Mark Berg, running against a twenty-year incumbent who, by all accounts, seemed to have the race in his grasp. But Connolly and the other volunteers were so successful in their campaign that Berg won the election.
Connolly went on to describe some aspects of the political process, including the fact that primaries do not carry much weight in the election process, and that the reality of the system is that people have won the election much earlier. He encouraged the students to help more people become active in the process earlier, or join political races themselves, to keep “spineless” and selfish candidates out of office.
Connolly concluded by showing optimism about the future of American politics.
“We can get it under control if there is political will. But the problem has to be fixed from the local level – it’s much easier to weed out small fish at the local level before he becomes a big piranha on the state level. It will take some time, and a lot of hard work and commitment, but I think it can be done,” he said.
Christendom College’s politics practica program, directed by professor of political science and economics Dr. Bernard Way, has been a unique feature of the political science department for many years, giving students the opportunities to not only network with known political figures, but also earn credit for rigorous political internships.