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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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.

Third Parties Could Have a Future, If New Bill Passes

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It’s no secret that the two party duopoly in this country has done everything in their power to suppress political freedom in this country. From filing lawsuits to deny minor parties ballot access, to refusing to let non Republican and Democrats debate, many people feel as though they have no choice but to vote for the “lesser of two evils” or else risk “wasting” their vote. Well, legislation introduced late last month is designed to change all of that.  

In late June, Democratic Virginia Congressman Don Beyer, along with his Democratic colleagues Ro Khanna (CA), and Jamie Raskin (MD) introduced legislation that would radically alter the way we elect our representatives. Nader vote

As it currently stands, individual state legislatures are in charge of drawing up congressional districts.  What generally tends to happen, in this scenario, is that the governing party draws up districts in a manner that is most beneficial to said party. This gerrymandering means that a Republican controlled legislature in Wisconsin, or a Democrat controlled legislature in Connecticut can use their power to ensure that their opposition will have a tough time winning an election.  This gerrymandering means that 97% of congressmen get re-elected.

Under the “Fair Representation Act,” that would change. According to Rob Richie, Executive Director of the advocacy group “FairVote,” this legislation creates an

“ impartial, national standard that gets at the core of FairVote’s mission: Giving voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.”

The bill has three major components. RCV_Easy_Ballot_Ranked_3.jpg

First; it would ensure that an independent board, not state legislatures are drawing congressional districts. By having an independent board handle redistricting, it eliminates one political party from drawing up districts that specifically help that party.

Second; the bill would establish “multi-member” districts. This means that if you’re living in Michigan’s third district, instead of having one person represent that entire district, you may have 3 people representing that district. That way there is a chance for every group to receive equal representation.

Finally, and most importantly, this bill would change our voting system from a “winner take all” system, to a “ranked choice voting” system.  As it currently stands, if a candidate wins 40% of the vote, and their opponent receives 39% of the vote, the person who received 40% of the vote wins the election, even though 60% of voters voted against them.  

In a “ranked choice voting” system, voters would be allowed to rank their candidates based on preference.  So if you’re a Libertarian, who wants to vote for the Libertarian candidate  but also doesn’t want to help elect a progressive socialist, you won’t have to compromise on your values and vote Republican. Instead, what you would do, is vote for the libertarian candidate, ranking them as your first choice, then you could vote for the Republican as your second choice. Because in a “ranked choice voting” system, candidates need a majority of votes to win the election.  

So let’s say you vote for a Libertarian as your first choice and a Republican as your second choice.  If the Libertarian only receives 10% of the vote, and the Republican receives 45% of the vote, while the Democrat receives 40% of the vote, there would be no official winner.  In that scenario, the election committee would then look at voter’s second preference, so if that 10% who voted Libertarian all had the Republican candidate as their second choice, the Republican would win with 55% of the vote.  

While ranked choice voting seems like it wouldn’t make much of a difference, especially if the two major parties continue to win elections, it would erase the “wasted vote” stigma, and over time third party candidates would have a legitimate shot at winning more elections.

The Libertarian Party Looks to the Future

 

 

Coming off a 2016 Presidential election that saw the Johnson/Weld ticket receive almost 4.5 million votes, the largest third party in America has wasted no time planning for the future, and last week, they began the long process of planning for their 2020 convention.

 

Dear State Chairs,

For many years the LNC has heard requests from various state parties that they would like to have their state considered as a location for a LP National Convention and now you will have an opportunity to do so!

The Convention Oversight Committee finalized the RFP for the 2020 LP National Convention during our meeting last night and would like to share it with those state parties that would like to help with the effort to locate the site` for what should be a historic convention.

LP Operations Director Robert Kraus (Redacted) is leading the site search at this time. If your state party chooses to participate in this effort please contact him for further details.

At the least you should expect to be asked to contact convention bureaus in your state to determine what sites might meet the RFP requirements and would want to bid on our convention. You should be willing to scout those sites in person for suitability. It would be helpful if there were people on your committee who have attended a couple LP National Conventions (including a POTUS Convention).

Thanks in advance for your help.

Live Free,

Sam Goldstein

LNC Member at Large

Convention Oversight Committee

 

The Libertarian National Committee’s  “Convention Committee” hopes to have all prospective destinations submit an RFP by the end of business Monday.  So far, state parties that are known to have submitted an RFP include Washington and Iowa.  The LNC hopes to have a list of semi-finalists by the middle of July, before naming 3-5 finalists the first week of August.  The 3-5 finalists will then be invited to give their presentations at the next National Committee meeting the weekend of 8/19-8/20.  

 

Puerto Rico Wants to Be a State

 

 

On Sunday, Puerto Ricans had the opportunity to vote on a referendum that would be the next step in becoming America’s 51st state.  With only a 23% voter participation rate, the referendum passed.

The island, which has been a United States territory since 1898, has been stuck in an economic depression for the last decade , and has seen an astounding half million Puerto Ricans migrate to the mainland.  Proponents of statehood proclaim that becoming a state would help fix their economic woes, while opponents say the expensive referendum is just a politically charged distraction.

 

The referendum had 3 options; remain a territory of the United States, cut ties with the United States and become an independent nation, or try and become a state.  Statehood was supported by Governor Ricardo Rossello from the “New Progressive Party,” while the “Popular Democratic Party” and “Puerto Rican Independence Party” called for their supporters to boycott, rather than participate in, the referendum.   

Gov. Rossello, and his “New Progressive Party,” support statehood.

Supporters of statehood, like Rossello, see becoming a state as a way to help out the territories economic problems.  Rossello, and other supporters, point out that the current situation cannot continue to exist. As a territory, Puerto Rico receives less federal funding for programs like medicare and medicaid than their counterparts,  and its residents are not allowed to vote for President, despite the fact that those born in Puerto Rico have been granted US citizenship since 1917.  

 

Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez, a native of Puerto Rico, doesn’t think statehood is likely.

Opponents of the referendum said that the vote was an expensive distraction; costing the cash-strapped territory nearly $11 million dollars at a time when the island is over $70 billion in debt.  Other opponents, like Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez, just don’t see it happening, even though the support seems to be there;

 

“The supporters of statehood are selling a fantasy that a Latino, Caribbean nation will be admitted as a state during the era of Donald Trump (and) that states, many of which supported Trump, will accept a Spanish-speaking state”

 

Representative Gutierrez brings up a valid point: just because Puerto Ricans want to become a state, doesn’t mean it will happen.  Past referendums have ended with the people declaring that they want Puerto Rico to become a state, yet they are still a territory. This is, in part because, admitting a new state for the Union is difficult, and vague.

 

Admitting a New State

 

Admitting a new state is incredibly rare, last occurring when Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in January and August of 1959.  The process for admitting a new state is laid out in Article IV Section 3 of the Constitution.

 

“New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any particular state.”

 

The process generally plays out like this: the proposed state votes on statehood, proposed state then petitions Congress for statehood, next the House and Senate (can) vote to accept the proposed state; after all of that, the President then signs off, if he wants. The process also calls for the proposed state to adopt an “acceptable” constitution, which Puerto Rico had ratified in 1952.

The path Puerto Rico would follow, would be the “Tennessee Plan” which calls for drafting a constitution, holding a referendum, and then petitioning Congress for statehood.  The plan has been used successfully six times (MI, IA, CA, OR, KS, AK).  Following the referendum, Governor Rossello would send a lobbying party to DC to lobby on behalf of Puerto Rico’s statehood.

 

Puerto Rico’s Long fight for Statehood

Puerto Rico voted for statehood in 2012, and the Democrats didn’t let the issue come to a vote.

Puerto Rico has had a long history of trying to become our nation’s 51st state.  They took the first steps towards becoming a state in 1950, when Congress gave Puerto Rico the permission to draft a constitution, their constitution was ratified by Congress in 1952.

 

Although they voted to become a state in 2012, Puerto Rico has seen nothing from Congress that suggests statehood will happen anytime soon.  In an attempt to rectify this, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the U.S House of Representatives, introduced thePuerto Rico Statehood Admission Process Act” in 2015. This legislation outlines the process for Puerto Rico’s statehood admission. Pierluisi’s legislation states that if the citizens of Puerto Rico vote for statehood, than within 30 calendar days of a positive vote, the President will begin the process of adopting Puerto Rico as a state:

Despite being a congressman, Puerto Rico’s Pedro Pierluisi may not vote on legislation.

“(a) Proclamation.—Within 30 calendar days of receipt of the certified results transmitted pursuant to section 4, the President shall issue a proclamation to begin the transition process that will culminate in Puerto Rico’s admission into the Union as a State effective January 1, 2021.”

 

Despite having over a dozen co-sponsors, the bill hasn’t seen any movement since 2015.  

 

Despite Sunday’s outcome, it does seem unlikely that Puerto Rico will be admitted to the Union anytime soon. As Rep. Gutierrez pointed out; it is unlikely that the Trump administration will be itching to admit a Spanish-speaking state into the Union.

If admitted, however, Puerto Rico could become the first “state” to elect representatives from a political party outside of the big two. The “Puerto Rico Independence Party” (PIP) believes that regulation imposed by the United States government is prohibitive in nature, and that the island’s independence is the best option for the future of Puerto Rico.  While the “New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico” tends to believe that the benefits of having two Senators, full voting rights, and access to more federal funding will solve their economic woes.