What’s in a Name: 3 Pieces of Legislation with Misleading Titles

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Upon winning independence, our founding fathers were wary of centralized power. They understood the corrupting nature of power, and set about creating a system meant to balance power, and reduce greed and corruption. 

Our system of “checks and balances” is supposed to ensure that the government doesn’t violate the constitution, and they were successful.. for a while.

Arguably the first erosion to this system came in 1913, when the 62nd Congress voted to pass the 17th amendment. Prior to 1913; the general population would directly elect members of their community to represent their interests in the House of Representatives, while state legislatures would pick 2 citizens of the state to serve the interests of the state at the federal level. When state legislatures picked Senators to represent their state, the Senator holds no power, if you’re not living up to your obligations, than the legislature would replace you.  Counteracting the members of the house who would stay in power by using charm to win re-election. The general population lives in an echo-chamber. If you’re a liberal, you watch MSNBC and read Slate on your phone while driving the kids to school.  If you’re a republican you watch “The Five” on Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh on your lunch break. When you think about it, it’s incredibly easy to trigger Democrats,Republicans, and Libertarians.

For example most Democrats LOVE giving their takes on these topics:

 

  • Income inequality
  • Healthcare
  • Identity politics 
  • Environmental concerns
  • Abortion
  • Guns
  • Taxes not being high enough

 

While Republicans will lose their mind for:

 

  • Illegal immigration
  • Military spending
  • Police
  • Guns
  • Taxes
  • Christianity
  • Muslims
  • Abortion

Libertarians? We will lose our mind for just about anything, but if you want to get us going discuss:

  • Roads
  • Military
  • Public Education
  • Free Markets/Regulations
  • Entitlement Programs
  • Ron Paul
  • Government spending

 

We’re all hypocrites. Democrats care about identity politics, unless you’re a person of color who may disagree with you politically.  They want government mandated equality for every gender and race, except white guys. Republicans think we spend too much. Specifically on regulations, bureaucracy, and entitlement programs; but balk at cutting military spending, despite finding $125 billion in administrative waste, or any government spending that helps them remain in power; you’re a conservative farmer who wants to cut food stamps? Alright, how about after we cut corn subsidies? Last month I wrote about how Social Security is destroying our country and Republicans went ballistic. Libertarians are the most annoying people on the planet, nobody’s a “real” libertarian, we have a portion of the party that wants free markets, but is anti-immigration and “America first.” We have a county chair in Michigan who supports Antifa, and our Vice Presidential candidate appeared to be actively supporting Hillary. Literally no consistency.

Our general stupidity, and tendency towards hypocrisy has allowed the career politician to thrive. Knowing we react to buzz words and topics that sound sexy, they use psychology to garner support. Just look at the title of the bills they write .

The Patriot Act

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Sixteen years ago next month, on 10/26/01,  George W. Bush signed the “USA Patriot Act” into law. Passed in the aftermath of September 11th by a vote of 98-1 in the Senate, and 357-66 (it is worth mentioning that the only Republicans to vote against this bill were Robert Ney, Butch Otter, and Ron Paul) in the House, in an attempt to curb terrorism.  

To put it simply, the legislation was passed in a panic with very little debate. Former Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced H.R. 3162 on October 23, 2001, the House passed it the next day, and within 72 hours we had passed legislation that massively expanded the scope of the federal government.

There is nothing “patriotic” about the “Patriot Act.”  The indefinite detention of immigrants? That violates the sixth amendment. “Enhanced surveillance?” That’s led to NSA wiretapping, a clear violation of the fourth amendment. A lot can be said about some of the shady things in our Constitution, but the most important political document in American history isn’t the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence; it’s the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers. Both collections of essays helped develop this country; while the Federalist Papers defended the Constitution, the Anti-Federalists demanded there be a Bill of Rights to protect the people from the government.

The point is, the first ten amendments to the constitution are so important that it almost tore apart this country.  And in a moment of panic, we passed laws that violate the bill of rights.

The reason the Patriot Act keeps getting extended (last extended by Obama in 2011), is that no politician wants to appear weak on national security, and being against the Patriot Act means you support terrorism, so politicians continue to support it. Even though it doesn’t  work and often ruins lives.

Affordable Healthcare for America Act

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The “Affordable Healthcare for America Act,” commonly referred to as “Obamacare” was President Obama’s landmark legislative achievement. FDR had “The New Deal,” Johnson had his “Great Society,” Barack Obama has “Obamacare.”

Signed into law by the 111th Congress in March of 2010, with a single Republican voting for the legislation (Joseph Cao, Louisiana). 39 Democrats voted against the bill, bringing the final tally to 220 for, and 215 against.

The legislation is exceptionally long, and provided healthcare to 24 million uninsured Americans (at the threat of a tax for non-compliance). After surviving the Supreme Court, Obamacare premiums have continued to soar. As the “New York Times” points out;

“While fewer than 20 million Americans buy their own insurance, the tribulations of the individual market have captured most of the public’s attention. The average cost of a benchmark plan in the individual market rose 20 percent this year, according to Kaiser, as insurers tried to stem their losses. “

Although they later go on to defend the Affordable Care Act, the fact is that using the the term “affordable” is a misnomer. Being forced to pay for insurance you don’t want, that rises at a rate of 20% annually, under threat of punishment is the exact opposite of “affordable.”

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984

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Unlike some other pieces of legislation, “The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984,” enacted by President Reagan in October of 1984, doesn’t have a flashy nickname. The name itself is straightforward and to the point. An idiot could conceive what this legislation was meant to do. When enacted it became the first comprehensive revision of the United States criminal code since 1900. Like the Patriot Act for Bush, and “Obamacare” for Obama, “Comprehensive Crime Control” was meant to be, and is, a cornerstone of Reagan’s legacy.

The name itself is brilliant. Nobody likes crime, crime is bad. We need to get rid of crime.

But what is crime?

We all have our own moral code, our own sense of right and wrong. We all define crime differently. A soccer mom from Kansas is going to have a different vision of right and wrong than a poor kid from LA.

The benign nature of the name meant most people wouldn’t pay any attention to it. The goal was if you were against crime, than the average American wouldn’t give it a second glance.

Problem is the legislation was not benign. This country was founded on a set of principles that valued the individual over the community, the community over the state, and the state over the federal government. When it came to legal affairs the founding fathers preferred to leave the punishment of citizens to locals. A soccer mom in Kansas and a poor kid in LA have different experiences, values, and ways of life, it only makes sense that there would be minimal federal oversight on criminal affairs. That was true until small government conservatives created the United States Sentencing Commission, and put them in charge of normalizing prison sentencing.  Their recommendations became the “Armed Career Criminal Act,” creating mandatory minimums. Mandatory minimums have had a jarring effect on society. Disproportionately affecting people of color, and lower economic status, hurting multiple generations. Mandatory minimums created career criminals, comprehensive crime reform just created more crime.

The legislation also reinstated the federal death penalty, increased penalties for marijuana possession and cultivation, and created the despicable act of civil asset forfeiture .

All of this was able to get through because the name was self-explanatory and boring.
How a lawmaker labels their legislation matters. These pieces of legislation affect hundreds of millions of lives. What they pass matters. Using clever, or boring names and nicknames to either attract or repel attention is manipulation that pays off in votes. We need to demand better.

 

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CalExit Will Never Happen

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After the election of Donald Trump, many people got irrational, particularly Governor Jerry Brown, and the people of California (who ironically opened an embassy in Moscow in protest). Since then, many people, both in California and across the country, have pushed for the Golden State’s secession. Last Tuesday, California’s Attorney General decided to humor the #CalExit organizers.

Last Tuesday, California Attorney General  Xavier Becerra apparently finished his scotch, said “what the hell,” and gave his stamp of approval for a group of people to begin gathering the more than 585,000 signatures needed to allow a ballot initiative that would allow a ballot initiative calling for secession to be put on the 2018 ballot. If the ballot measure were to somehow pass, a commission would form to explore how the state could secede from the United States, unfortunately, this will never happen. calexit dos.jpg

Secession isn’t a new idea, outside the Civil War, the idea pops up every couple of years, normally in Texas, and at that time realists endlessly mock these attempts, and for good reason, the fact remains that there is no way to secede from the Union written in the Constitution.  Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution deals with how to admit a new state into the country, but the reverse is never discussed, and has been dismissed outright by plenty of respectable legal scholars.

In 2006, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was asked by screenwriter Dan Turkewitz if a group of people suing the government for the right to secede would be a good plot point. Scalia responded saying that state’s do not have the right to secede. In his letter back to Turkewitz, Scalia said that such an issue would never even reach the Supreme Court:

“To begin with, the answer is clear. If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. … Secondly, I find it difficult to envision who the parties to this lawsuit might be. Is the State suing the United States for a declaratory judgment? But the United States cannot be sued without its consent, and it has not consented to this sort of suit.”

Scalia.jpgWhat Justice Scalia pointed out in that first line is something most people don’t realize.  In the eyes of the United States government, there no such thing as the “Confederate States of America.” The southern states, in their mind, were just occupied by hostile citizens. This line of thinking was pointed out in the 1869 Supreme Court case Texas v. White.  This case argued that Texas’s Confederate state legislature had illegally sold bonds that were owned by Texas, and issued by the United States government as part of the compromise of 1850. While ruling on this case, the justices wrote;

“The Constitution, in all its provisions… looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States.”

So while Jefferson Davis and his friends may have seen themselves as an independent country, the United States hadn’t given them the go-ahead to secede, so they had no sovereignty. The Civil War was a war for independence, much like the American Revolution was a war for independence. We had to defeat the British before getting the go-ahead to secede; if we had lost, we’d have socialized medicine and a government that doesn’t respect individual rights, and do we really want that?

While it amuses us to think that a state that disagrees with our own core ideologies could soon be gone, it is unlikely to happen. So unfortunately it looks as though referring to San Francisco as a “foreign country” will remain hyperbole.

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2018: A Make It or Break It Midterm for Libertarians

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Logging onto Facebook this morning I was met with a pleasant surprise – a message reminding me that it had been a year since I had signed on to the Gary Johnson campaign.  The public declaration that I was done with the Grand Ole Party meant absolutely nothing to the people on my friends list, let’s be honest most people don’t give a damn about your political leanings unless you’re constantly flaunting your beliefs.  The announcement did, however, mean a lot to me.

Prior to last July I was a Republican who had gradually lost faith in the Republican Party.  I was sick of the hypocrisy, the blatant violation of our civil liberties, the lack of fiscal conservatism, and the message of the Republican nominee for President. I felt, at the time, that Gary Johnson could legitimately carry a state in the general election.  My optimism turned out to be wrong; Johnson/Weld did not carry a state, nor did they receive an electoral vote.  Despite that, the ticket received nearly 4.5 million votes, carrying 3.27% of the vote, while appearing on the ballot in all 50 states and Washington DC. Disappointing according to my own expectations? Yes. But the election was monumental for the Libertarian Party.

For the longest time the biggest hurdle facing the growth of third parties in this country has been ballot access.  A lack of ballot access ties up a third party’s limited resources, forcing them to focus on things other than campaigning.  Heading into the 2018 midterm elections, the Libertarian Party will have ballot access in 37 states.

What’s more important than ballot access, however, is that the Libertarian Party has incumbents that need to win re-election; Nebraska State Senator Laura Ebke, along with New Hampshire State Representatives Brandon Phinney, Caleb Dyer, and Joseph Stallcop all ditched their former parties, and registered as Libertarians in the last year. Now they all face re-election bids without the backing of the powerful two party duopoly. 

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Brandon Phinney is one of 3 libertarians in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives 

All the aforementioned candidates had their own reasons for ditching their former parties. Joseph Stallcop, who serves in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives representing Cheshire 4, was elected as a Democrat. His decision to switch to the Libertarian Party, he told Authentic Liberty, was based in part because of the disrespect his ideas and views were generating among Democrats. Stallcops colleague, Brandon Phinney, explained his decision to switch parties as frustration with the direction, and leadership  of Republicans, a familiar sentiment. When Authentic Liberty asked Senator Laura Ebke why she switched parties, she pointed out several moments where she realized that the Republican Party no longer represented her values. Senator Ebke told us that “the recognition that the Republicans were going to nominate Trump, and then a “call out” for not being an adequately “platform Republican” at the 2016 State GOP convention by the Governor–when he called out a number of us by name” appeared to be the last straw. Like many people, Senator Ebke realized that the GOP didn’t care about policy, but party.

While Representative Stallcop is unsure if he will be running for re-election next year (he is set to graduate from college), the state of New Hampshire presents an interesting scenario for Brandon Phinney and Caleb Dyer, his colleagues in the only libertarian caucus in the nation. New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that allows for “fusion tickets,” which allow one candidate to run under multiple parties. Both Phinney and Dyer, former Republicans, could choose to seek both the Republican and Libertarian nominations for their districts,and in a comment to Authentic Liberty, Phinney stated that this is his intention; in doing so they would eliminate potential rivals while having their names appear multiple times on the ballot.  That scenario could be interesting, and increase their odds of reelection, but could also make them beholden to the whims of two different parties. A victory on a fusion ticket would also minimize the importance of the Libertarian Party; if, in this hypothetical situation, both candidates win both the Republican and Libertarian nominations, then win the election, outsiders could say that they only won because of the Republican Party, marginalizing the importance of libertarians.

Senator Ebke’s situation in Nebraska is also interesting. She serves in the only unicameral state legislature in the nation, and in Nebraska, all state elections are

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Senator Laura Ebke is up for re-election in 2018

nonpartisan, when voters step into the ballot box in 2018 they will see a list of names with no party affiliation. Senator Ebke believes the nonpartisan nature of Nebraska’s state elections probably helps her, as she explained to Authentic Liberty “while many people will know the affiliation, the fact that it isn’t listed on the ballot, nor do we organize by party in the legislature–probably helps me some.” Senator Ebke says that the biggest difference she has noticed during her re-election bid is her ability to effectively raise money; “Libertarians–as a whole–seem to be far less likely to part with their money–whether $25 of $100. Republican (and probably Democrat) activists are used to being asked for cash, and attending fundraisers.”  With that said, she has had some success raising money for her re-election, and she will continue to need our support, if you’ve got $10, you can make a donation here.

Winning re-election to these offices should be the focus of the Libertarian Party. As we move forward we cannot simply be content with the occasional officeholder quitting their party out of protest, and registering as a libertarian.  Libertarians need to learn how to win elections; we need an effective, proven blueprint, and we need to show the Republicans and Democrats that we can do more than just steal a few votes. The best way to do that is by continuing to seek support from the party at both the state and national level. If we cannot support our candidates and win elections as libertarians, then party members really need to question if there is any advantage to running for office as a libertarian.

Hey, Libertarian Party, Go Big or Go Home!

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Politics is a game of numbers.

Top political strategists work tirelessly to find out what percent of this group and that group is needed in order to achieve victory. This is most evident in presidential elections and the quest for 270 electoral votes. Focus must be given to the right demographics in order to secure certain states which are normally up for grabs. Unfortunately, the current state of politics in this country makes the electoral map game only a Democrat and Republican thing.

That doesn’t mean third parties shouldn’t focus on large races, though.

Races for national office and governor races receive the most press. Local races are winnable, and should certainly be a focus for third parties and independent candidates, but those races fail to move the needle on the larger scale.

What third parties need to compete, is raw numbers.  Every four years, the presidential election is going to be a minor party’s best opportunity at free press and opportunities to spread their message. To qualify for federal assistance, a party must secure at least 5% of the national vote. To achieve this, there must be a strategy.

Although the Libertarian Party did well in places like North Dakota and Montana in 2016, those are not populous areas. Gary Johnson received his best raw vote total in California, where 3.4% of the vote, netted him over 400,000 votes. 5% of the vote would have gary.jpggarnered roughly 600,000 votes in California, where as 6.3% of the vote in North Dakota only gave Johnson a little over 21,000. Even doubling that number, does very little to move the national vote total for the Libertarian Party. In Texas, 3.2% of the vote gave the ticket of Johnson and Weld over 280,00 votes. Therefore, like it or not, the biggest names in the Libertarian Party must run for the highest office available to them, especially when they live in a state with a large population.

For third parties, the goal needs to be consistent, and quantifiable, growth. Nationally, these numbers can be seen through congressional, senate, gubernatorial, and presidential races. There is no denying that local and county races must be won, too, but real marketing must be done in higher races. In these races, candidates are gaining inclusion in debates, and social media allows for a message to traverse through various circles with greater ease and less spin. Since these races have the widest audiences, they have the greatest opportunity to gain attention from those who are either unfamiliar, or improperly informed, of a different message. Within these opportunities, exists the greatest chance for party growth and a dedicated voting population. If the Libertarian, and other minor parties, can keep up their momentum, and continue raising the floor of expected votes, more people will join and there will be exponential growth until state and federal offices have representation for those who don’t identify as Republican or Democrat.

2018 could prove to be a boom for the Libertarian Party, should former vice-presidential candidate Larry Sharpe’s run for governor of New York gain any traction. With only 2.3% of the vote for president in 2016, the Libertarian Party could use dedicated growth in the Empire State moving forward. Should Sharpe’s polished and friendly message exceed that total, New York could give the Libertarian Party the extra boost needed to cross the 5% national threshold in 2020.

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Larry Sharpe, Libertarian candidate for Governor of New York

 

 

Libertarians Need To Start Running For Offices They Can Win

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After the controversial 2000 presidential election Gary North, writing for lewrockwell.com, argued that third parties need to stop focusing on national elections, and instead focus on winning state and local elections. In his essay, “The Dogcatcher Strategy” he writes;

Why do libertarians think they have to field a candidate for President when they have not yet put anyone into the office of dogcatcher? Why does anyone believe that he should send money to a political party that has never won anything locally? I think it’s a way for people to tell their friends, “I’m fed up.” Fine; but don’t take politics seriously. “I’m fed up” is not a campaign platform or a way to effect political change. Don’t imagine that it matters who wins a no-win party’s nomination. Don’t give any post-election thought to the question, “How could we have won 2% of the vote instead of less than 1%” It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.

There are 3,144 counties in this country, and over 100,000 offices a person can get elected to, so why do we focus on elections that, at this point in time, we cannot possibly win?

As I write this former Libertarian Vice Presidential hopeful Larry Sharpe is announcing that he will run for Governor of New York in 2018. Last week Arvin Vohra, Vice Chair of the Libertarian National Committee, announced he will run for Senate in the state of Maryland. Another strong Libertarian candidate, Alicia Dearn, has also announced that she will run for Senate in the state of Missouri. But honestly, why bother?

I don’t believe any Libertarian candidate running for Governor, United States Senate, or the House of Representatives truly believes that they can win public office at that level. Many of these candidates justify their run as a way to raise awareness, and spread the ideas of liberty, to grow the party for the future. That idea is laughable. The party that has championed a less centralized government in favor of valuing local communities since its inception in the December of 1971 has been employing this “lets raise awareness” strategy for its entire existence, to no avail. 

Gary North points out why this line of thinking is laughable;

“Why does anyone believe that he should send money to a political party that has never won anything locally? I think it’s a way for people to tell their friends, “I’m fed up.” Fine; but don’t take politics seriously. “I’m fed up” is not a campaign platform or a way to effect political change. “

If the Libertarian Party really cared about empowering local communities, our best candidates would be running for city council, state house, or mayor. The best way to show people the way to liberty is to lead by example, not celebrating receiving 4% of the national vote in a presidential election. We need more people like Steve McCluskey, the Libertarian who just beat out a Republican and a Democrat to become the Mayor of  

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Steve McCluskey, the Libertarian Mayor of McLain Mississippi

McLain Mississippi. As Mayor, McCluskey will be able to implement actual change in his community, and if things go well, maybe he can run for Mississippi’s state legislature, where he will actually be able to run not only on Libertarian ideas, but on his record as well.  

Libertarian candidates, it seems, are only interested in running for office to say that they ran for office. Maybe if Larry Sharpe showed as much enthusiasm about running for New York State Assembly as he did in his announcing his run for Governor, a talented, smart, charismatic Libertarian could get elected legitimizing the entire party future, larger campaigns.