Many of us will soon be exercising our right to vote — the foundation of our representative democracy that has stood the test of time for almost 250 years. However, I suspect many have already made up their minds on how to cast their vote — those who are Democrats will vote for their party’s candidates and those that are Republicans will do likewise.

Perhaps this is done strictly out of party loyalty or because like their parents they believe that this is the right thing to do. Sadly, this blind allegiance to vote the party line without a serious examination of the issues is not what our Founding Fathers intended for us as an informed and enlightened electorate.

Elections are not won or lost not by the party’s base but rather by those independent voters in the middle. As an informed electorate they have taken the time to carefully review the issues and cast their vote based on their analysis of the issues and the pros and cons of each respective candidate.

As Ronald Reagan asked President Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential debate “Are you better off than you were four years ago?" I would ask those Independents a similar query “Are you better off than you were two years ago when the Democrat Party assumed control of the Executive and Legislative branches of our national government?" I suspect most of you would answer no.

When the Democratic Party assumed office in January 2021, we were a nation that was energy independent and a net exporter of energy, we had one of the lowest unemployment rates in recent history to include many minority groups, our borders were secure, and inflation was negligible. President Biden was ostensibly elected to office to “unify” the county and tone down the rhetoric. In other words, many Americans looked to him and the Democratic Party to return the nation to “normal” and to heal our differences.

If anything, allowing the Democratic Party to assume control of our lives has caused the opposite. Our borders are porous causing a mass influx of fentanyl that has killed thousands of our youth, violent crime in our inner cities is at an all-time high, inflation is rampant, and the country is hardly unified. All of this happened in just a short two years and yet the Democratic Party is asking you as a voter to give them two more years to try to get it right!

So, when you vote, I urge you make an informed decision and ask yourself are we as a nation better off now than we were two years ago. From my perspective the answer is a resounding NO! Likewise, after careful analysis I suspect, you too will come to the same conclusion and will not be voting for the candidate of the political party that has had two years to get it right and has failed miserably.

James R. Poplar III, of Quicksburg, proudly served with the U.S. government for over 40 years. He specialized in national security affairs at both Vanderbilt and the National Defense University.

(32) comments


Yes I am better off than I was two years ago. I don't go to bed at night worrying if a narcistic man in the White House will unleash a nuclear war and lay waste to the foundations of our Democracy. Biden inherited a mess from this man and it will take bipartisan support to clean it up, something that is lacking unfortunately. As far as unity Biden's predecessor was the "King" of disunity.

Steve F

Biden and his administration bucked a headwind of disinformation and outright lies in working to persuade people to get vaccinated for COVID. So far roughly 76% of Virginians are vaccinated. You must concede that the most important task facing Biden was to gain control of the pandemic after the failures of the Trump administration (even though they fast-tracked the vaccine). There was so much bad information put out from his administration and red state governors that Biden and company had to overcome that it was much more difficult to convince people to mask, distance and get the shot. In fact from Scientific American, 7.18.22: People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties. . So I would say that the most important crisis was handled very well by Biden despite the resistance perpetrated by the Republican Party on the American people.


Steve, thank you for your input and i understand your perspective. Best, Ros

Steve F

Mr. Poplar, I spent today in Winchester at various locations. Aside from the medical center which obviously has a need to protect vulnerable patients, very few wore masks, presumably they were also vulnerable. Not long ago, some stores would only allow a limited number of shoppers into their store. Today, the parking lot and checkout lines were busy. The sporting goods store was the same with no restrictions. I have not checked on the COVID situation lately, but would bet that the numbers are way, way down from 2 years ago.


Steve, yes i would concur 100%

Steve F

How can you make a statement about such a critical issue as fentanyl but not address it with the gravity it requires, instead making a political point with incomplete information? Organizations that market large quantities and can afford to sustain themselves by buying the best people, on both sides of the border, are the by far largest source. The massive profits ensure that someone will be willing to take the risk of smuggling. To ignore this fact is to deal in misinformation and deceit. But this is another Republican trick that gets played every election cycle, scare tactics that unfortunately work by appealing to our fear centers in the brain. Let us see your sources about the quantities of drugs showing up at the southern border on the backs of refugees. And this problem did not just spring into existence since the election of Biden, but has plagued us for years. Exhibit your credibility, examine your sources and acknowledge what you find. How can we attain progress on our critical problems if we do not deal in facts? Republicans do no service to the nation by proclaiming false threats about genuine problems.


Steve, RE " Let us see your sources about the quantities of drugs showing up at the southern border on the backs of refugees," Here's where I'm getting some of my information and it rings true to me.

"Mexican drug cartels are taking advantage of the chaotic influx of migrants at the US southern border to smuggle thousands of pounds of deadly fentanyl into the country, experts say.

“Border patrol agents are too busy dealing with the influx of migrants, and are not really focused on looking for fentanyl,” Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and former deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department, told The Post. “Border agents are not getting the support they need from the federal government to stop the flow of fentanyl, which is killing thousands of Americans.”

More than 90 percent of the 10,000 pounds of fentanyl seized in fiscal 2021 occurred at legal border entry points in California and Arizona –—areas where roughly 30 percent of migrants are entering the US, according to CBP statistics.

Meanwhile, In areas like New Mexico and Texas, where border agents are overwhelmed with nearly 70 percent of migrant entries, there have been fewer seizures — less than 5 percent — of the deadly synthetic opioid, experts told The Post."


Regarding the New York Post. Owned by Rupert Murdock. Overall we rate the New York Post on the far end of Right-Center Biased due to story selection that typically favors the Right and Mixed (borderline questionable) for factual reporting based on several failed fact checks.

Steve F

Your NY Post citation would carry more weight if it wasn’t coming from a Murdoch organization.

From NPR:

VICTOR M MANJARREZ: My name is Victor M. Manjarrez Jr. I am the director for the Center for Law and Human Behavior at the University of Texas, El Paso.

ROSE: Victor Manjarrez served in the Border Patrol for more than 20 years, retiring as the sector chief in Tucson. Manjarrez says it's true that fentanyl is crossing the border - a lot of fentanyl - but it's not coming over on the backs of migrants, who are often turning themselves in to seek asylum.

MANJARREZ: The probability they're going to carry some kind of illicit narcotic is probably close to zero.

ROSE: Manjarrez says some fentanyl is brought in by cartels who are using migrants as a distraction, but the vast majority is smuggled through official ports of entry, hidden in cars and tractor-trailers.

Cartels didn't get to be the powerful actors they are by being inefficient.

Steve F

You reference an informed electorate, but produce opinions unsupported by facts. Does enlightenment only come in a Republican flavor? Your arguments are lacking in any sources but instead are Republican dogma. Ignoring the fact of the upheaval caused by the pandemic, the Russian aggression in Ukraine, worldwide inflation and turmoil in the international petroleum supply chain you want to simplify your argument to reflect a seriously incomplete picture of the world.

Border Patrol staff actually decreased at the beginning of the Trump years. Seizures peaked before Biden took over. Trump chose to squander millions on a wall that can be penetrated by battery powered saws, instead of focusing on intervention.

Following the Trump peaks in October and December of 2020, the fentanyl seized each month has generally hovered between 800 and 1,000 pounds. However, in December of 2021, CBP seized 549 pounds of fentanyl, the lowest amount seized since the June of 2020 uptick.

Why do Republicans fail to create an immigration solution? Is it easier to blame the opposition than to come together on a realistic plan?


Hi Steve please

"Key Provisions of the Dignity Act:

Border Security and Enforcement

Authorizes funding to fully secure America’s border at no cost to American taxpayers.

Implements best border technology available – including radar, cameras, infrared, secure communications, and autonomous detection technology.

Restarts all currently paused border infrastructure contracts and increases funding for physical border infrastructure.

Hires 3,000 new DHS border security personnel and prioritizes hiring of military veterans and law enforcement agents.

Creates a task force to detect and destroy cartel smuggling tunnels along the southern border.

Mandates 100% nationwide e-verify to ensure all American business are hiring legal workers.

Increases criminal penalties for illegal border crossings and immediately deports illegal immigrants who commit crimes.

Expands U.S. authorities to go after transnational criminals, smugglers, human traffickers, drug traffickers, and gangs like MS-13 operating outside the United States.

Establishes 4 Regional Processing Centers to house asylum claimants at the border to end catch and release policies while cases are being determined.

Enacts last-in, first-out judicial policy to cut down multi-year backlog in immigration courts.

Hires 1,700 new immigration court personal to rule on asylum cases faster.

Curbs irregular migration from Central America and address roots causes of northern migration by bring law, order, and increased development to Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Addressing Immigrants Living in America

Creates immediate legal status and streamlined path for Dreamers.

Dignity Program (10 Years): Through the 10-year Dignity Program, undocumented immigrants will be provided a chance to work, earn legal status, pay restitution, and get right with the law. They must comply with all federal and state laws, pass a criminal background check, work or serve as a family caregiver, and pay taxes. They must contribute to the American Worker Fund to begin the program. The Dignity program provides work authorization and protection from removal proceedings as long as conditions are being met. Dignity participants will pay $10,000 in restitution during the 10 years of the program, must check in with DHS every 2 years, and must remain in good public standing.

Individuals in the Dignity Program will not have access to federal means-tested benefits or entitlements. They will be net contributors to tax revenue and the U.S. economy.

The Redemption Program (+5 years): The Redemption Program is optional, and individuals must complete the 10-year Dignity Program to start the Redemption Program. It will offer a chance at redemption and to earn more permanent legal status. The 5-year Redemption Program requires that participants learn English and U.S. civics, and provides the opportunity for those seeking permanent legal status to contribute to their local community either through local volunteer work, national community service, or increased contributions into the American Worker Fund. It also opens up eligibility for existing pathways to citizenship, but would not be a special pathway. Individuals applying would go to the back of the line.

Enforcement through a functioning mandatory e-verify system and certification of a fully secure border will be completed before the Redemption Program can begin.

American Workforce and Economy

Creates an American Worker Fund, using restitution payments from the Dignity and Redemption programs, at no-cost to taxpayers. This provides grants to American citizens for workforce education initiatives, apprenticeship programs, and Career and Technical Education to give opportunities for Americans to enter new careers.

For every $10,000 paid by 1 immigrant in the Dignity program will, this can retrain at least 2 Americans workers.

Implements a market-based solution for our labor shortages by expanding and modernizing the H-2A Agricultural Guest Worker program to adequately respond to workforce needs.

Updates the antiquated definition of farming to reflect modern-day farming practices, setting a policy that works for all of America’s farmers, growers, and ranchers.

Provides wage stability for farmers and ensures a resilient and reliable agricultural commodity supply chain.

Combats food price inflation so families can continue to have access to affordable groceries and a large variety of products that originate from American farms.

Includes the H-2B Returning Worker Exception Act to ensure that small and seasonal businesses can fulfill their labor needs and contribute to our nation’s post-pandemic economic recovery. "


Steve another source regarding that statement that massive amounts of Fentanyl are coming across our borders.

Steve F

Of course, some drugs are crossing the border in someone’s backpack, but there are many sources for the drug, not exclusively depending upon poor people but coming through as part of a larger organized and efficient money-making entity in quantities.

Blaming asylum seekers also brings up the point that the Republican Party has consistently neglected to bring forth any workable solutions. The wall was a crude symbol which we found could be easily defeated. But it makes a great image for FOX News and those seeking to capitalize on fear, instead of crafting solutions to a critical issue. Calmer heads in that party tried to create an immigration solution in the Bush years, but they were thwarted by Tea Part zealots. With the advent of the Gingrich years, the GOP has become less prone to reason and more confrontational. More about amassing raw power at any cost than governance.


Steve, RE "drugs are crossing the border in someone’s backpack, but there are many sources for the drug, not exclusively depending upon poor people but coming through as part of a larger organized and efficient money-making entity in quantities" yes i agree. Please read my commentary -- i did not blame asylum seekers.

However, it is my opinion that our current open border has only exacerbated the issue. I thnk you would agree ?

Steve F

In my opinion the border issue is completely separate from the fentanyl crisis. You call the borders porous, while implying that fentanyl and the refugees are connected. We lost four years that could have created progress instead of a bottleneck, then blame Biden for relieving a humanitarian problem. Yes the border is a problem, but with cooperation instead of scoring points perhaps a solution can be found. But I suspect the Republican Party feels the need to score points not fix problems. Republicans had a majority and four years to forge a solution but failed.

Steve F

As far as energy is concerned, why was our self-sufficiency so fragile? We must recognize the global market's influence. Isn’t it more likely that a combination of circumstances created the crisis? Trump actually sought a decrease in worldwide oil production attempting to salvage the US energy complex which was hit hard by a decrease in energy consumption during the pandemic.

April 21, 2020 article in the Financial Post.

The deal between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies will remove nearly 10 million barrels a day from the market through deliberate cuts. In addition, the group is counting involuntary declines in the production of the U.S., Canada, Brazil and several other countries, as companies reduce drilling activity due to low prices and weak demand.

The market is likely to remain overwhelmed for months to come by the catastrophic collapse in demand caused by the lockdowns designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus through some of the world’s biggest economies.

The most prominent victim was the U.S. shale industry. Drillers in Texas and other states had turned America into the world’s largest oil producer, creating millions of jobs. But fracking is an expensive way to pump crude and the industry had piled up tens of billions of dollars in debt.

As prices tumbled, roughnecks, truck divers and engineers quickly lost their jobs. Whiting Petroleum Corp., once North Dakota’s biggest producer, filed for bankruptcy on April 1.

Fearing that job losses in Texas and other oil-rich states could hurt his re-election prospects, he convinced Putin and the Saudi monarch to end hostilities and make a compromise.

“Trump views himself as a deal maker,” said Joe McMonigle, an energy consultant and former U.S. government oil official. So “Trump went to the oil market’s red phone.”

The president sealed the historic deal by offering the Saudis something that exists only on paper. When Mexico refused a big output reduction, putting the whole agreement in danger, Trump assured OPEC+ that the U.S. would cut its own production on its neighbour’s behalf.

The trajectory of oil prices will be more dependent on how fast the world leaves lockdown and the pace of the economic rebound. Yet the deal’s significance goes beyond numbers.

There has been a tectonic shift in global oil politics. Putin, MBS and Trump, the leaders of the the world’s three largest producers, are dictating global petroleum supply. And America now accepts that low prices aren’t in its interest.

Steve F

In several places in your commentary you stress an informed electorate. But you only trust Republican news sources. Waving a hand and declaring something "fake news" doesn't lead to an understanding of issues, instead it guarantees further division.


Steve, please provide me with an instance in my commentaries of where i have declared something as "fake news." I think you will be hard pressed to cire an example.

Yes i agree it doesn't lead to an understanding of issues, instead it guarantees further division. Thanks, Ros

Steve F

“If anything, allowing the Democratic Party to assume control of our lives has caused the opposite. Our borders are porous causing a mass influx of fentanyl that has killed thousands of our youth, violent crime in our inner cities is at an all-time high, inflation is rampant, and the country is hardly unified.”

This quote from your piece is full of factual errors. Fentanyl has been a problem for years and is not a new problem. The overwhelming quantities of the drug are not coming across the southern border but through well-established pipeline at the border crossings. The Republican Party led the country astray regarding the pandemic. Dismissing common sense medical practices, promoting fake cures, and promoting lies led to widespread distrust and are still causing unnecessary deaths.

The pandemic caused the fluctuations in the world oil market, not Biden stopping a pipeline that would not have been functional for years, and the previous administration contributed to the decline of oil on the world market as well. Yet you blame Biden for circumstances beyond his control.

Violent crime has been on the rise for years, this is not a new phenomenon. Gun availability has also been on the rise and contribute to the rise in violence. The Republican party is incapable of reacting to this being bound so closely to the NRA that their candidates cannot speak out about it. The pandemic and a change in policing also bear responsibility. Police aggression against blacks is a factor in causing a loss of trust in police.

Inflation infects the entire world, it is not a strictly American issue. Yet you pretend it started with Biden.

While you may not have uttered “fake news”, ignoring all factors of an issue illustrates a desire to twist the story to gain political advantage. As for unity, the GOP backs an election lie, attempts to circumvent the electoral process by granting state legislatures power over election results, and is complicit with overing up a coup attempt. Civil rights are under attack because of the Republican grasp of power. They ignore crimes of tax fraud and theft of documents. The embrace of flawed candidates because of a criminal’s power over the base devalues the process. All these things prevent unity. The past several years have been traumatic, causing cynicism and confusion. The GOP wants to leverage fear and lies to win an election.


So we'll said Steve.


Steve, i understand and appreciated your perspective and dialogue.

Steve F

BTW, a search of NPR funding shows a broad spectrum of American companies are donors. They are consistently rated as factual reporting.


The other side of that Dignity Act.

Steve F

As far as the Salazar act goes, will this be another election cycle document? The Republican wish list means nothing without real backing. They also claim to be concerned about the environment and the plan to replace The Affordable Care Act is probably hiding somewhere with the Republican infrastructure plan that was supposed to be rolled out multiple times.

Steve F

James, I appreciate the fact that you keep the dialogue civil, as so many conversations with people on the right immediately become an exercise in hostility and name calling. However, you do not address the deeper concerns that I have raised. Supporting a party that largely believes in stolen elections, one man rule, and pretends the 1/6 coup attempt did not happen. We saw what happened when the English prime minister's tax cuts undermined their economy, but that is exactly what is in the GOP playbook. We see one environmental crisis after another, yet they show no urgency. Without delving into what is behind the crime, they will seek to put more people in jail, despite the fact that we have almost as large a percentage of prisoners as some of the worst countries in the world. SCOTUS is poised to overturn more rights despite the fact that they represent a minority of the country. Our current campaign finance system is nothing but legalized corruption, yet Republicans see no problem. Somehow Republicans need to return to the pre-Gingrich days when amassing power by any means was not the overriding goal, instead attaining the best results for more of our citizens was their guiding light.


Steve, I too appreciate that you keep the dialogue civil. RE your critique of the Republican Party your assume that the party is a monolith and that all believe and or act the same. That is simply not true. I like many others do not support DJT nor condone what took place on 1/6.

Re “stolen elections” the same claim has been made in the past when Democrats lost their respective races.

“Hillary Clinton dismissed President Trump as an “illegitimate president” and suggested that “he knows” that he stole the 2016 presidential election.” So, it works both ways …

Yes, republicans want to save the environment but not to destroy our vibrant economy in the process, etc. et.

As a heard Governor speak this week and he is the future of the GOP “ we need both Democrats and Republicans to work together to form common solutions acceptable not to political parties but to the people. Bottom line – both parties need to clean up their act.

RE “Somehow Republicans need to return to the pre-Gingrich days when amassing power by any means was not the overriding goal, instead attaining the best results for more of our citizens was their guiding light.” I could not agree more.

I admire Ronald Reagan who was able to work across the aisle without compromising his conservative principles.

Steve, keep up the good fight, I admire your tenacity and steadfastness – it is only when we put our differences aside will understanding be achieved and progress be made. Best, Ros

Steve F

But your tacit acceptance of the harms being done by the more extreme members of your party are eroding democracy implies consent. I see no other way to state it. You have not defended the extremes of the MAGA crowd, that is true, but not speaking out about the excesses is functionally the same as approval. I understand the “big umbrella” concept, but if my party was advocating one man rule, covering up an attempted coup, ignoring the climate crisis, endangering democracy by allowing state legislatures the power to “correct” elections or generally denying any election they lost I would be concerned. As someone put it “if Biden ordered an attack on Congress I would not attack Congress”, that did not hold true with the current Republican Party. We need functioning opposition parties in this system, but the GOP does not brook compromise, and does not believe in governance. Someone must be able to reach the base and speak the truth. We will likely see another debt crisis battle this winter, over money already approved and spent. A decade ago, our credit rating was downgraded because of a fight like this. Would this be a good thing for the world’s leading economy when we face global economic woes? Yet these only occur when a Democrat is in the White House. This pattern must not continue, it does not serve either party or the country.


Steve we could go back and forth all day wihout moving forward. For veery one of your points i have acounter point and vice versa ...So i will ask you what exactly do you beleive in ?

Below is the creed i try to live by:

The Virginia Republican Creed

That the free enterprise system is the most productive supplier of human needs and economic justice,

That all individuals are entitled to equal rights, justice, and opportunities and should assume their responsibilities as citizens in a free society,

That fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraints must be exercised at all levels of government,

That the Federal Government must preserve individual liberty by observing Constitutional limitations,

That peace is best preserved through a strong national defense,

That faith in God, as recognized by our Founding Fathers is essential to the moral fiber of the Nation.


Hillary Clinton did not continue the stolen election lie for two years and continuing as Trump has. Neither did she mobilize people to attack the Capitol. After the election results were in she acceded to Trump as the winner. Further she does not have an army of supporters and people running for office that continue this charade. To draw a comparison is ludicrous. Best VN.


"Donald Trump is going to be our president," Clinton said during her concession speech the morning of Nov. 9. "We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don’t just respect that, we cherish it."

Steve F

James, I agree that free enterprise is a very productive system. Whoever, we see what happens when it is allowed to control the economic sphere. Inequality, lack of competition, and near monopolization of markets is stifling competition and the everyday consumer.


Steve, thank you for the feedback and i actually concur with your comment.

So what would you propose as an alternative ? I saw first hand the failure of Socialism around the world in my thirty years of active ,military service. Our economic system may not be perfect but why would so many from other countries be clamoring to cross our borders ?

Welcome to the discussion.

We will consider two submissions per writer per month. Letters: 250 or fewer words. Commentaries: Under 500 words. You may submit a photo with a Commentary if you like. Email submissions to