5 Republicans To Watch in 2020

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Over the weekend, while out with my friends, I asked “what Republicans will run for President in 2020?” They all sort of looked at me with strange looks, one of them said “this is why we don’t invite you to things” while another asked “who wants to play Buckhunter?” Being a politico is difficult sometimes. After most of the table cleared out to go play Buckhunter, I was left with two others. Besides myself (a Libertarian) I was left with a Republican and a Democrat. While the three of us don’t generally agree on many political issues, we all agreed that Robert Mueller convening a federal grand jury to look into Russian meddling likely meant that Trump would either be impeached, resign, or not run for re-election.

Over the next half hour we came up with a list of five Republicans who we all thought could win the nomination in 2020.

 

Mike Pence

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The most obvious choice for the Republican nomination is current Vice President, and former Governor of Indiana Mike Pence.

Nobody wants to be Vice President, the position has no purpose outside of breaking a tie in the Senate, and most find it to be an exceptionally boring, and possibly worthless job.  John Adams, our nation’s first Vice President stated:


“My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”

Adams may have been the first to complain about the office, but he wasn’t the last. The office is generally sought by those who have higher aspirations, and appearances suggest that Pence wants to be President. While he has denounced rumors that he would challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020, he certainly has the pedigree for the position. Prior to being Governor of Indiana he served in the House of Representatives from 2001 till 2013, serving as the chairman of the House Republican Conference from 2009-2011.  

On the issues Pence is pro-life, pushed for a balanced budget amendment to Indiana’s state constitution, opposed government bailouts, is against increasing regulations, is for “stop and frisk” policies, supports the war on drugs, and is a hawk on foreign policy issues.

Pence would have a leg up for the nomination, especially if Trump doesn’t finish his first term. If he were to audition for the office, it’s hard to imagine that Pence, an establishment favorite, wouldn’t seek the nomination in 2020.

 

John Kasich

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The current Governor of Ohio sought the Republican nomination in 2016, and has been a staunch opponent of President Trump since the beginning. Over the last few years he has done as much as he possibly can to distance himself from Donald Trump, including skipping last summer’s convention, even though it was being held in Cleveland. Kasich, also an establishment favorite, served in the House of Representatives from 1983 till 2001, and supposedly turned down Trump’s offer to become Vice President.

When it comes to the issues, Kasich has been a staunch advocate for criminal justice reform; signing bills in 2012 and 2011 that make it easier for felons to find jobs, and advocating for shorter rehabilitation over prison for nonviolent offenders. Kasich favors “common core,” wants to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, and while he wants to cut corporate taxes, he also wants to raise taxes on oil companies, and move away from the income tax.

Governor Kasich has failed to rule out a 2020 Presidential run, and is planning several “policy forums” across Ohio and New Hampshire.

 

Nikki Haley

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The former Governor of South Carolina, and current UN Ambassador has never been a Trump supporter (despite serving in his cabinet). Her reputation is helped by the rumor that one of the key reasons she was chosen as UN Ambassador is because her former Lt. Governor in South Carolina, Henry McMaster, was a vocal Trump supporter. When Haley was named UN Ambassador McMaster became South Carolina’s Governor, the rumor is this was McMasters reward for supporting Trump.

Nikki Haley presents a unique opportunity for Republicans. Her Indian-American ancestry would essentially negate any perceived advantage Democrat Kamala Harris, another Indian-American, would have based on gender and ancestry alone. The fact that female minorities would have two qualified candidates to choose from would mean that they would be more likely to vote on policy issues, rather than following their heart strings.

While serving as Governor of South Carolina, Haley reduced unemployment from 11% to 4% and created 85,000 new jobs. She’s anti-Obamacare, pro gun rights, anti-immigration, and pro-life.

 

Rand Paul

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Another former presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul is among the most ideologically consistent members of the Senate who easily won re-election last year. Senator Paul is a favorite among libertarian leaning republicans. During his time in office he has been critical of the NSA and the surveillance state that is supported by many establishment leaders, he’s been critical of our foreign policy, he’s one of only a few Republicans who has recently advocated for a full repeal of Obamacare, he’s  co-sponsored legislation with liberal Senators like Kamala Harris and Corey Booker on issues like criminal justice and bail reform. He’s been critical of Washington’s spending problem, while consistently vocalizing his opposition to new taxes and regulations.

While Paul may have some issues with establishment republicans; his crossover appeal with both libertarians and (some) democrats, as well as his popularity with millennials could mean a well-run campaign leading up to 2020 could secure his nomination.

 

Ben Sasse

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The freshman Senator from Nebraska has always been a vocal opponent of Donald Trump. In the lead up to the 2014 election, Sasse ran as the “anti Obamacare” candidate and ran as a strong social conservative.  

When it comes to Obamacare, he has consistently voted to repeal as much of the act as possible. In his short time in office, he has also taken a surprisingly libertarian view on foreign policy issues; joining Senator Paul in opposing additional sanctions against Russia, and opposing selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

When it comes to the economy, Sasse has consistently been against government regulations, while calling for more privatization and a revamp of the tax code.

Like Kasich, Sasse also hasn’t ruled out a 2020 run. In the last few months, Sasse has popped up across the state of Iowa; whether he’s talking policy, or just driving for Uber, the Nebraska Senator has made sure that Iowans know who he is.

 

As Republicans continue to distance themselves from President Trump, it doesn’t look like the party would have much difficulty in finding a better candidate in 2020.

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Minneapolis Police Kill Bride To Be

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Around midnight on Saturday, Justine Damond was fatally shot by Minneapolis police officers. The 40 year old Australian woman, who was set to be married next month, called law enforcement to report a possible assault taking place behind her home.  Instead of investigating the assault, the responding officers killed her.

Justine Damond became the 661st person to be killed by a police officer in the United States this year, the shooting is alarming especially considering it happened less than a month after a different Minneapolis police officer was acquitted of the murder of Philando Castile.  

What makes this crime particularly suspicious is that the two police officers didn’t have their body camera’s turned on, which in and of itself  is illegal in Minnesota. Last May,  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation requiring that all law enforcement officials have their body cameras turned on while on duty.  Furthermore, the video camera in the police cruiser suspiciously didn’t pick up any video footage of the event.

According to reports:

Three sources with knowledge of the incident said Sunday that two officers in one squad car, responding to the 911 call, pulled into the alley. Damond, in her pajamas, went to the driver’s side door and was talking to the driver. The officer in the passenger seat pulled his gun and shot Damond through the driver’s side door, sources said. No weapon was found at the scene.”

The incident is unfortunate, and all too common. The number of people killed by law enforcement officials is at its highest in at least 2 decades, and we have gotten to the point where people legitimately have to think twice before reporting a violent crime.

The militarization of law enforcement, combined with legislation meant to give police even more power seems to ignore the problem. The powerful police unions who spend millions of dollars a year lobbying for more legal protection and financing encourage violence.  If we are going to see a dramatic reduction in police violence, than government officials need to demand accountability, instead, they’re doing the exact opposite.

Oregon Could Become The First State To Decriminalize Drugs

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In 2015 more than 50,000 people died from a drug overdose, while 13,000 of those deaths were due to heroin, that number was up 13% from 2014. Nearly 10,000 of those people died from an overdose on synthetic opiods like fentanyl, up 73% from 2014. In fact, 4/5 heroin addicts were first addicted to the synthetic opiods prescribed by doctors across the country.

This number is scary as hell, considering that 7/10 Americans take at least one prescription daily, while more than half are prescribed at least two drugs to take regularly. The number of Americans taking prescription drugs has increased 48% in the last decade, and we can logically conclude that the actions of  doctors and pharmaceutical companies has helped kill hundreds of thousands of Americans in that time period.

The numbers are alarming, and the question of how do we handle this country’s drug epidemic has become a more bipartisan issue.  As politicians and health experts scramble to come up with a solution, Oregon thinks they may have found an answer.  

Last month the Oregon state legislature passed two controversial bills, HB3078 and HB2355, meant to tackle the state’s growing drug problem. In a state that sees more than 19,000 deaths annually from drug overdoses, why would legislatures pass two bills that essentially decriminalize the possession of heroin, meth, cocaine, and other hard drugs? Shockingly, the answer comes from the  Oregon State Sheriff’s Association and the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, who wholeheartedly support the legislation; 

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HB2355 and HB3078 are sitting on Governor Kate Brown’s desk

The two groups released a statement Monday saying they want to lighten what they see as the heavy hand of Oregon law by supporting changes that would make drug possession a misdemeanor. They support the change only in cases when someone possesses “user amounts” of drugs and commits no other crime.”

The two groups argue that drug addicts need professional treatment, not jail time, and while at first glance the idea to decriminalize incredibly dangerous substances may seem idiotic, it’s not like it has never been done before.

The Portugal Experiment

In 2001 Portugal saw a rising drug epidemic in their country, in an attempt to fix that problem the decriminalized all drugs. The Portuguese saw drugs not as a criminal problem, but a public health problem, they decided that instead of send

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via the Washington Post

ing offenders to prison, everyone would be better served if the offender entered a mandatory treatment program. At the time, the move was roundly criticized, both within Portugal and abroad for being reckless. Sixteen years later, Portugal has the second lowest overdose rate of any country in the European Union, with only three people out of a million succumbing to a drug overdose.  

Despite decriminalization, Portugal has actually seen a dramatic decrease in drug usage, as well as a decrease in the diseases, and costs, associated with drug use.

What Oregon’s Legislation Actually Does

As it stands, drug use costs the state of Oregon $6 billion taxpayer dollars annually, while 23% of inmates within the state are serving time for drug related offenses, and 72% of men arrested within the state are charged with some sort of drug related crime. The negative economic effect this problem has on the economy, as well as the number of families that are torn apart because of the health issues and  lengthy prison sentences associated with drug usage are staggering. Oregon policy expert Dale Jarvis explains the negative effects drug usage has had on Oregon;

“What many don’t realize is that someone with a serious addictions disorder is going to have their body fall apart in a relatively short period. They are going to become disabled, if they don’t die first. They’re going to end up costing the taxpayer an enormous amount of money treating their serious health conditions, and then they are going to die early.”

House Bill 2355 would decriminalize hard drugs for offenders with no previous felonies, and no more than 2 previous drug convictions. Diverting offenders to mandatory treatment programs instead of putting a criminal conviction on their record gives these offenders a chance at a viable future, an opportunity for them to recover and live a normal life, providing them with hope for the future.

House Bill 3078 would be enacted in conjunction with HB2355, reducing drug related property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Known as the “Family Sentencing Alternative Pilot Program” offenders would be eligible if:

(b) The defendant [has not previously been convicted of, and] is not currently being sentenced for: (A) A person felony as defined in the rules of the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission; (B) A sex crime as defined in ORS [181.805] 163A.005; or (C) An offense requiring a specified sentence

Instead of jail time, eligible offenders will have to enroll in a 12 month treatment program followed by a probationary period, with the goal being to help these addicts recover and live a normal life.

“the Department of Human Services, shall determine if the Family Sentencing Alternative Pilot Program is an appropriate program for the defendant and, if the program is appropriate and the defendant is sentenced to a term of probation, require participation in the program for the first 12 months of the probationary sentence. In addition to the conditions of probation ordered under ORS 137.540, the defendant may be required to comply with any additional conditions related to the program”

HB3078 would further provide local jurisdictions with $7 million dollars annually to give communities the resources to set up treatment programs.  

Whether or not the inefficient state should be running such a program is debatable. But what isn’t debatable is the fact that this country has a major drug problem, and the status quo isn’t working. Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said in New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann that a “state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Lets hope, for everyone’s sake, that Oregon’s new policy towards drugs is signed into law, and effective.

Austin Petersen Announces Senate Run

 

Yesterday, as American’s complained about the Fourth falling on a Tuesday, former Libertarian Presidential candidate Austin Petersen, in front of a crowd of several hundred supporters, announced his intention to seek Missouri’s Republican nomination for US Senate.  

Petersen stands with his father before his announcement.

The announcement that Petersen would be running for Senate came as no surprise – for months the 37 year old has dropped some not-so-subtle hints that he planned to challenge Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018. What was somewhat of a surprise, however, was that Petersen was deciding to switch parties.

The decision to run as a Republican wasn’t easy for Petersen, and in his farewell letter to the Libertarian Party, Petersen describes what led to him making such a decision;

For the last eight weeks, I’ve spent six hours a day calling my supporters to ask them their thoughts on how I might best advance liberty. I took the time to listen to every single persons’ opinion about a potential opportunity to seek a seat in the U.S. Senate here in my home state of Missouri.

Of the thousands of people I spoke to, all encouraged a run, hundreds donated, and the vast majority offered their opinion regarding which party I should align with. Over 98% of them, including registered Libertarians, independents, Republicans, and even Democrats, said to run GOP.

Those who think that running as a Republican would show Petersen’s “true colors” were right. During his 30 minute speech to the crowd, Petersen passionately discussed the issues that matter most to him; repealing and not replacing Obamacare, reducing regulation, auditing the Pentagon to find bureaucratic waste, criminal justice reform, lowering taxes, treating drug addiction as a public health problem instead of a criminal issue, etc. If his platform sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the exact same set of values he ran on while seeking the Libertarian nomination for president last summer.  

Petersen’s announcement came one day after establishment favorite, Representative Ann Wagner, announced she will not challenge Claire McCaskill in 2018. In her statement on said decision, Wagner rationalized her decision;

“While I am grateful for the incredible support and encouragement I have received from across Missouri to run for United States Senate, I am announcing today my intention to run for re-election to the United States House of Representatives in 2018. The 2nd District is my home. It’s where I grew up, went to school, have worked and volunteered, raised my kids, and attend church every week — there is no greater honor than representing a place and people that I love.”

The former US Ambassador to Luxembourg has several reasons not to run for Senate, as the “Washington Examiner” reported;

“Republicans close to the congresswoman stressed that the decision had little, if anything, to do with the politics of giving up her relatively safe seat to run for Senate with an unpopular Republican in the White House and a healthcare agenda that has been rejected by a broad cross-section of Americans.”

With Wagner withdrawing her name from consideration, attention shifts to other potential Republican nominees. Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer and Vicky Hartzler are both expected to explore their own senate runs, but it is Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley that seems to be the establishment favorite.  The 37 year old is a favorite of Mitch McConnell, and has only been on his current job for six months. Supporters have  urged him to run believing Hawley can unite all conservatives.  

While the charismatic Hawley has made waves recently for suing three pharmaceutical companies in the state (which could be seen as a political counter measure since Claire McCaskill has made opiod abuse a focus) friends of liberty should be wary of throwing their support behind a candidate supported by political insiders. After all, there are enough Senators who wax poetically about the virtue of the Constitution and civil liberties, right up until the point where they support warrant-less wiretaps.

While Hawley, if he announces his intent to run, may be the favorite heading into the Republican primary, Petersen is hoping to use Missouri’s own primary rules against them.

Missouri holds an “open primary” meaning that any registered voter, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in the Republican primary.  Petersen hopes that this will play to his advantage as he intends to seek support not only among the base, but among Libertarians and Independents as well.  If Petersen is able to successfully convey his message, he could not only win the nomination, but pose a real challenge to McCaskill as well.

It Costs Money To Infringe on Your Rights

 

June is a great month for many reasons, least of which is because it marks the time of year when the Supreme Court issues decisions on the cases they heard earlier in the year. While cases like Murr v. Wisconsin and Gill v. Whitford made waves this past month, headlines like  the disappointing Philando Castile verdict, and the “Back the Blue Act” have the chance to further enhance police power. The expansion of the “police state” is nothing new, and reminds me of an interesting Supreme Court case from last June; Utah v. Strieff.

In that case, Utah detective Douglas Fackrell suspected that a Salt Lake City residence may be selling drugs, so he decided to monitor the property. One day, Fackrell saw Edward Strieff leaving the residence. Seeing the opportunity he had been waiting for, Fackrell stopped Strieff for questioning.  During that questioning, Fackrell discovered that there was an arrest warrant out for Strieff, so he searched him without obtaining a warrant. Upon that search, they found some meth, and arrested him.

Lower courts found that even though the initial questioning was illegal, the evidence discovered during the stop still could be used at trial because it was proof of a crime, the Utah Supreme Court disagreed. The Utah Supreme Court ruled that the evidence found during the stop needed to be suppressed in court since the search of Edward Strieff violated the fourth amendment, therefore any evidence found during the stop should be ruled inadmissible.

The case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, where the justices had to decide if evidence obtained during an illegal search is enough to arrest someone on an outstanding arrest warrant. In a 5-3 decision, SCOTUS sided with law enforcement. In his 5-3 majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas stated that evidence obtained during the violation of your fourth amendment rights should not be excluded if the “costs of its conclusion outweigh the benefits.” 

Essentially, what this means is when a valid warrant is discovered after an unconstitutional stop, the connection between the unconstitutional conduct and the discovery of evidence incident to a lawful arrest based on the warrant is sufficient. The ruling essentially nullifies the fourth amendment.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan both wrote dissenting opinions, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg joining in for parts of both. In Sotomayor’s dissent, she recognizes just how much power law enforcement wields in this country;

“Although many Americans have been stopped for speeding or jaywalking, few may realize how degrading a stop can be when the officer is looking for more”

It’s incredibly easy to get pulled over for speeding, only to have an ambitious law enforcement official “discover” some minor issue that would result in an arrest.  While most law enforcement officials are good men and women, the general public needs to be able to hold the small minority accountable for their actions. With the Strieff ruling, Sotomayor points out, the Supreme Court has given law enforcement a great deal of power;

“This Court has allowed an officer to stop you for whatever reason he wants — so long as he can point to a pretextual justification after the fact.”

“By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time”

“It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.”

Sotomayor makes an incredibly valid point, it has become increasingly clear that the “Prison Industrial Complex,” has gained enough power that even though crime has dropped 40% in the last 20 years there are currently over 2.5 million people in jail.  

The prison population isn’t just exorbitant, it is incredibly expensive.  At a cost of $30,619.85 per federal inmate, per year, it seems a bit irresponsible to lock up nearly 188,000 people, of which nearly 95,000 are serving time for ridiculous drug offenses.

The cost per inmate is much higher in major cities. In New York City, for example, it costs $167,731 to incarcerate one person for a year. With 8.5 million people in NYC, that means each resident of NYC is spending $242.46 a year to lock up residents, and that number is based off of population alone. If you only count taxpayers, that cost per person would be much higher. And while $243/year seems like a small price to pay to lock up rapists and murderers, is that money really worth locking up an 18 year old with an ounce of pot?

Even if you don’t necessarily care about  other people, you have to realize that if you’re paying $243 a year to lock someone, what other government programs are recklessly spending money? Maybe you’re spending $20 a year to ensure that kids have the necessary permits to cut their neighbors grass, or $80 a year subsidizing research for a corporation owned by billionaires.  At some point in time society needs to realize that the government bleeds taxpayer dollars.

When you combine the overwhelming power of law enforcement, with a large amount of bureaucracy and a crackdown on victim-less crimes, criminal justice reform is necessary to not only wrestle back control of our civil liberties, but to  help save our economy as well.