State of the Union vs. the Response: ‘Hope and Change’

SAN DIEGO, Ca., February 6, 2019:   Another State of the Union address, and an inevitably contradictive response have come and gone. Within days, no one beyond political aficionados will remember the content of either speech or the reactions that were witnessed, beyond what talking points the Parties and media outlets choose to use to manipulate beliefs. As has become the practice, one Party offers hope while the other pleads for change.

From a non-partisan perspective, the SOTU speech was generally well-written. It highlighted successes and provided a glimpse into what might lie ahead. With regard to the latter, it provided no clear vision of how to get there, but then again, these speeches almost never do

The “response” was also well constructed. It emphasized the talking points that provided favorable results for Democrats in the 2018 congressional elections. It also provided a forum for Stacey Abrams for whom the Party has great expectations.

The delivery of both speeches was reasonably well done. President Trump will never read as well as former President Obama did any more than the former President ever delivered a speech as fluidly as former Presidents Clinton or Reagan. Each President must be measured within his or her own skill set, and reading from a TelePrompTer will never be one of President Trump’s gifts.

Conversely, Stacey Abrams performed extremely well in a difficult role. The “response,” which never really is one, is often problematic. Reaching for a water bottle or applying too much ChapStick® can undermine a promising career. However, Ms. Abrams avoided those minefields and delivered an articulate, well-framed synopsis of her Party’s talking points.

Both speakers had their weak moments; none of which seemed terminal.

President Trump unnecessarily raised eyebrows on at least three occasions:

  • “We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress or pointless destruction. Tonight, I ask you to choose greatness.” To some, the “vision or vengeance” comment may have seemed to be ironic coming from the President who so often chooses to tweet with a vengeance. Yet, he doubled down on the concept when he later stated, “… we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution — and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” The reality is that “revenge” and “retribution” seem to play a prominent role in his political arsenal.
  • An economic miracle is taking place in the United States — and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.” The President would have been well-advised to stop at “politics” as the inclusion of “ridiculous partisan investigations” appeals only to his base, which will never abandon him. Similarly, while his supporters may have enjoyed the line, “If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” it risked sounding more like an homage to the late Johnny Cochran than a presidential proclamation.
  • And finally, “If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea with potentially millions of people killed,” was an “opinion” that might have better been left unstated.

Ms. Abrams also had some fallibilities as well. While she led with a compelling personal story, her speech was anything but responsive to a relatively positive State of the Union address. Instead, it reinforced what her Party believes is wrong with the United States while ignoring her Party’s failure to address the issues in periods during which it dominated the legislative branch.

For example, “We fought Jim Crow with the Civil Rights Act,” glaringly ignores the history of which Party passed Jim Crow acts and filibustered, and in many cases voted against the Civil Rights Act. Then, she stated, “…we continue to confront racism from our past and in our present – which is why we must hold everyone from the very highest offices to our own families accountable for racist words and deeds – and call racism what it is. Wrong.” While her sentiment is unassailable, her Party is prominently struggling with this very issue in Virginia.

Ms. Abrams also made a self-serving reference to her recent loss in the Georgia gubernatorial election. She stated, “While I acknowledged the results of the 2018 election here in Georgia – I did not and we cannot accept efforts to undermine our right to vote. That’s why I started a nonpartisan organization called Fair Fight to advocate for voting rights… We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a “power grab.” Again, she conveniently ignored that she has not always made the distinction between eligible and ineligible voters. During her campaign, she included undocumented residents among the voters who would comprise the “blue wave” whose votes she hoped would put her in office. Her new cause is laudable if the organization truly remains nonpartisan.

In summary, both President Trump and Stacey Abrams served their Parties well but did little to close the gap between their respective Parties and those with whom they politically disagree.

For those with inquiring minds, here are links to the second State of the Union addresses[1] of former Presidents Reagan (1983), Bush #41 (1991), Clinton (1995), Bush #43 (2003), and Obama (2011) as well as President Trump’s. Compare the accomplishments, the tone of the language used, and the vision for the future in each of them. The Party in power usually offers “hope” while the opposing Party calls for “change” in its response. If elected officials could learn to combine the two in a more meaningful way than a campaign slogan, there might be a “hope” for positive “change” for all of us.

Spoiler Alert: The 1995 SOTU is particularly compelling because it highlights how far the Parties have swung in their respective positions.

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

[1] The first speech delivered by a President to a joint session of Congress is not officially a State of the Union address. Therefore, what appears to be a President’s third SOTU address is officially only his or her second address.

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Trumping the State of the Union

SAN DIEGO, CA, January 30, 2019:   Political pettiness has been temporarily suspended and the State of the Union will be given on February 5, 2019.  From its original purpose under Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, which was to “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he (the President) shall judge necessary and expedient,” it has degenerated into an exercise of political self-indulgence and simply bad TV.

What would happen if its show-biz aspect was put aside for a straightforward overview of where we are as a Nation?  The following is a very tongue-in-cheek version of how that SOTU address might sound.

“My damn Speaker… Sorry!  I meant Madame Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, the First Lady of the United States, and my fellow Americans:  This is my third… and some of you hope last… State of the Union address.

“Normally, I’d tell you how great I am… so incredibly great… and how much we are winning.  It’s been unbelievable!  And believe me when I tell you we’d be winning even more… a lot, lot more… if it wasn’t for the deep state and Democrat obstructionists!  But my staff tells me that the State of the Union’s ratings are down, so I’m going to change things up to try to rebuild the audience.  After all, Barack praised himself and blamed the Republicans for eight straight years, and even his SOTU ratings tanked.  So, I’ve got to do something different.

“First, I’m not using any human props this time to draw sympathy for my cause.  I didn’t invite any guests with sad stories that I could exploit.  That trick seems to have run its course.

“I’m also not going to try to deliver applause lines because I know that Nancy is going to be sitting on her hands and making faces rather than jumping up and clapping like a trained seal like she did when Barack would even clear his throat.  Go back and look at the tapes.  It’s embarrassing.

“That being said, I wish Paul Ryan would have been half as supportive as Nancy.  Mr. Goody Two-Shoes didn’t want to offend anyone by being even remotely overzealous on my behalf.  Maybe if he had I wouldn’t still be asking for my wall.

“Speaking of which, the wall was one of my biggest campaign promises.  I knew it was over the top and that Mexico would never pay for it, but it became a rallying cry for my base.  I have to deliver on it at some level or I’ll be a one-term President.  Nancy, would you please sit down and stop applauding?

“And believe me when I tell you that most campaign promises are nothing more than hot air designed to separate the American people from their money and their votes.  But there are some promises that stick with people, and you have to deliver them.  For me, it’s the wall.  For my predecessor, it was health care reform.

“We don’t always deliver exactly what we promise, but I need some kind of wall.  It’s not like Obamacare put $2,500 in every American’s pocket or allowed you to keep your plan or your doctor as promised, but at least it was something.  Besides, you all supported a wall or fence of some kind before I took office.

“You have to admit, some things have gotten better since I took office.  The economy is doing much better, unemployment is way down, North Korea isn’t testing missiles every other day, and the JV team in Syria isn’t beheading people on TV.  Then again, I’m not sure our climate is improving or that I’m setting the best example for our kids. Things have been a little ‘stormy’ at times.

“The bottom line is that none of us is perfect.

“I’m not asking for a Nobel Peace Prize.  I just want to be treated fairly.  So, here’s the deal… and no one negotiates deals better than me.  That, I can tell you!

“I’ll stop making things up to distract the public if you will, too.  I’ll stop denying things I’ve said if you’ll stop pretending you didn’t support my positions before I beat Hillary… and I beat her easily… maybe the easiest victory in history.  I’ll even stop badgering the press if they’ll stop badgering me.  It’s called quid pro quo.  You can read about it in my great book, ‘The Art of the Deal.’

“Speaking of books, for those of you who keep bringing up emoluments… the State Department authorized the purchase of $70,000 worth of my predecessor’s book, ‘Dreams From My Father,’ in 2011.  Crooked Hillary was Secretary of State at the time.  Of course, her staff got immunity deals and the opportunity to destroy cell phones and computers while I got Bob Mueller and my corrupt buddies got prosecuted.  There’s just no justice.”

[The President looks to an aide and asks, “How am I doing?”  The aide responds that the SOTU’s ratings are climbing.  The President nods his head and looks into the camera with a broad smile.]

“I think we’re done here!

“Thank you, and God bless America.”

[Notification is given to the networks to cue up the Democrat’s negative response, which was prepared well in advance of the President’s address.]

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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Don’t Let November 6 Become a ‘Trick or Treat’ Nightmare

SAN DIEGO, Ca., October 31, 2018 – Halloween evolved from the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) when it was believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. While the tradition has radically changed over the years, we now celebrate something similar on the second Tuesday of November every even year: Election Day.

On Election Day (and the year that precedes it), the boundary between truth and political rhetoric becomes blurred and the “ghosts” of ineffective elected officials are returned to office (over 90% of the time). It doesn’t seem to matter whether their failure to solve problems is blatantly obvious or even if they’re under indictment. It only matters that we recognize their names and, if we are highly partisan, that the appropriate “D” or “R” appears after their names.

There is an inherent responsibility associated with the privilege of voting and that is that we cast an informed vote. Yet, as Civics has disappeared from the curriculum of our school system, the importance of being informed seems to have been lost on the masses, hence the phrase “voting for the lesser of two evils.”

For the most part, this dilemma is self-imposed. We accept the premise that only a Democrat or Republican can win, and as long as we vote in conformance with that belief, it will hold true in practice.

The first step toward “recovery” is to examine the basis of that belief.

  • Who has “installed” that belief among the electorate and reinforced it with billions of dollars of advertising over the years? ANSWER: The two major Parties.
  • Why would they do it? ANSWER: It dramatically reduces competition.

This is all about maintaining power. It is designed to lock in money and votes.

Beyond the Machiavellian aspect, there’s a certain Halloween flair to the “lesser of two evils” tactic. Partisans are told that the “other side” is nearly satanic and that life as we know it may cease to exist if the opposing Party gains (or maintains) control.  Conditioned beliefs based upon implicit fears create unconscious biases which, in turn, are protected by confirmation bias. It’s a nice closed-loop system of behavioral control.

The establishment and reinforcement of fear actually trigger a chemical release in our brains that favors a “fight or flight” response over cognitive thought. This is exactly what the political doctor ordered since, in effect, we are doping ourselves to remain true to our partisan beliefs regardless of the objective facts that are available.

Taken to the extreme, the Parties can influence our Behavioral Inhibition System, which occurs when neither “fight” or “flight” seems to be an effective alternative. At this point, the chemical cocktail makes passive submission seem to be our only path to political survival. Perfect!

Add social media to the mix and it becomes easier to understand the increased influence of political extremes in recent years.

The chemical cocktail that is released in our brains lasts for about 3.5 hours. However, an equal dosage is released every time we are reminded of the original stimulus (i.e., a political comment with which we strongly disagree).

With our addiction to social media and the heavily biased and often inflammatory political rhetoric to which we are exposed, we are suffering self-administered dosages that are life-threatening.

Cortisol and adrenaline create micro-abrasions in our arteries, which attract cholesterol.  Cholesterol blockages lead to heart attacks and strokes. Politics, in some cases, is literally reducing our life expectancy.

These particular chemicals also kill brain cells, which may explain some of the stupid behavior we are witnessing in the world of politics these days.

If we even suggest that we may vote for an independent or third-party candidate, we hear: “You’ll only be wasting your vote.

  • Again, from where does that warning come? ANSWER: The Parties.
  • Why? ANSWER: To dissuade us from casting such a vote.

The reality is that nothing in the Constitution favors one or more of our political parties. The Preamble doesn’t begin with the words “We the Democrats” or “We the Republicans.”  It begins with the words “We the People.”

The question we should ask is:

  • Which is the greater waste: Casting an informed vote for the candidate we deem to be best suited to serve or surrendering our vote to the Party with which we most closely align (even if its candidate has obvious flaws)?

This November 6, you have an opportunity to control whether you receive a trick or a treat. Choose wisely.

Happy Halloween!

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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John Cox vs. Gavin Newsom: Will We Get a Televised Debate?

SAN DIEGO, Ca., September 24, 2018 – California is the fifth largest economy in the world and has the fifth highest tax rate in the United State. It would be reasonable to assume that those alone would be enough to merit a round of debates between candidates vying to become its governor. However, like many other things in California, that is not the case.

With less than 45 days remaining before the election, California’s two gubernatorial candidates, Gavin Newsom (D) and John Cox (R), still haven’t agreed to a single televised debate much less a series. Cox is on record as wanting a series of debates, but he also wants to frame the issues. Newsom has only agreed to do one nationally televised debate on a network that many might consider to be favorable to his campaign (CNN).

It was reported last week that the two agreed to a radio debate on October 8.

The strategic rationales are obvious. According to a recent poll, John Cox has been closing the gap on his opponent. The wide margin that existed between the candidates in June has eroded to just 4 percentage points. Cox has also been piling up endorsements, but he tactically needs more exposure to overcome the Democrat majority that defines the California electorate.

Meanwhile, Gavin Newsom is keeping a low profile. He doesn’t need exposure and, in fact, benefits from not receiving it. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 44.4% of California’s registered voters are Democrats as compared to 25.1% who are Republican. If he can avoid controversy, the numbers are clearly in his favor.

However, those who registered No Party Preference (NPP) now comprise 25.1% of California’s electorate surpassing Republican registrations. The Newsom camp is apparently counting on an equitable split of those votes to seal his victory. Cox, on the other hand, must gain the attention of that constituency to sway it disproportionately toward him.

There are stark differences between the candidates’ positions on a wide variety of critical issues, but the average voter in California is likely to remain unaware of them unless one or more debates are held. Despite its economic prowess, California is facing crises on many fronts. As compared to the other 49 states, it currently ranks:

#1 in Poverty and Homelessness

#34 in Public Safety

#38 in College Readiness

#41 in Transportation

#44 in K-12 Education

#44 in Cost of Electricity

#46 in Opportunity

#48 in Cost of Living

#49 in Road Quality

#49 in Cost of Housing

#50 in Urban Air Quality

#50 in Quality of Life

The larger, economically thriving coastal cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco are Democratic strongholds with 56% of registered Democrats living in those two cities. They also exert tremendous media influence and house 52% of registered independents (NPPs), which bodes well for Newsom.

Conversely, they have become epicenters for homelessness and the opioid crisis; metropolitan areas marked by tent cities, human feces, and drug paraphernalia strewn about their streets.

Orange County and San Diego, which traditionally lean Republican, are suffering similar challenges but to a lesser degree. Meanwhile, other strong Republican areas, such as the Inland Empire and Central Valley, are struggling economically and have been for quite some time. Their agricultural economies have been hit hard by regulations and water shortages.

The question is: Do either of the candidates have specific solutions to offer?

The office of governor in California should not be sought out of ego or as a stepping stone to higher national aspirations. It is a complex “business” that requires unique skills, social empathy, and a clear vision of the solutions that can return its “Golden State” status.

Casting a vote based on party affiliation is a pathetic way to determine the state’s next leader.  Its residents deserve one or more legitimate gubernatorial debates that will assure transparency with respect to the candidates’ positions and allow the electorate to cast informed votes.

Are either of the candidates the solution to California’s growing problems?  Only time will tell, but it would be nice to hear them distinguish themselves in one or more debates.

[NOTE: If the candidates cannot reach an agreement to debate through a traditional media outlet, IVN would be happy to host and record a non-partisan-facilitated debate in its studio and provide free access to all interested media outlets as well as publishing and distributing the debate through its social media network.]

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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California v. United States: Appropriate or Political?

SAN DIEGO, Ca. July 25, 2018 – The Los Angeles Times recently ran an article entitled, “California has sued the Trump administration 38 times. Here’s a look at the legal challenges.” As a United States citizen and a resident of California, it occurred to me that I was paying the legal fees for both sides of the 38 different lawsuits. It also raised the question of whether my rights were being protected or abused for political purposes.

It almost goes without saying that California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is a Democrat with higher political aspirations. He was appointed to office in January 2017 by Governor Jerry Brown to complete the term of former state Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is now a member of the United States Senate and rumored to be contemplating a potential presidential bid in 2020.

As the former chair of the House Democratic Caucus in California, Becerra had some political visibility, but not nearly what is being offered in his capacity of California’s attorney general. By aggressively pursuing litigation against the current administration (having filed 38 related suits in a year and a half), he has become a leading national figure in the “resistance” movement.

Of the 38 suits he’s filed against the administration, 21 involve environmental issues, nine involve immigration, three involve healthcare, three involve education, one involves the rights of transgender individuals to serve in the military, and one involves net neutrality. It is reasonable to question whether these lawsuits represent the general interests of California residents sufficiently to offset their costs.

While that question is ultimately left to the voters, California has become somewhat of a political monopoly. The Democratic Party has established a supermajority at the state level that has ruled California with an iron hand for decades. Higher-level offices are almost conceded to Democratic candidates.

According to Political Data Inc., which compiles figures from California’s county election offices, the Democratic Party has approximately 8.44 million registered voters as compared to 4.77 million registered Republicans and under 1 million registered voters for all other Parties combined. Lost in the mix are the 4.84 million voters who register as No Party Preference.

The numbers indicate that the majority of registered voters in the state are not Democrats (10.61 million to 8.44 million). However, it would require nearly every voter, who isn’t registered as a Democrat, to vote as a block to successfully impact any state or federal-level race … other than in gerrymandered districts (but that’s another story).

As a result, the use of California taxes to litigate on behalf of the “resistance” may not reflect the best interests of the state’s residents as much as it reflects the best interests of the state’s dominant Party. This is not meant to assert that the lawsuits do not have merit specific to the state, but rather to caution citizens that political influence may also play a role.

Meanwhile, try to guess how many lawsuits were filed by Attorney General Becerra’s predecessor, Kamala Harris, against the Obama administration (at least, prior to the President’s endorsement of her for the United States Senate).

Lawsuits of this nature capture national attention (win or lose), particularly during volatile political times. That translates into media coverage, increased name recognition, and the reinforcement of both Parties’ positions on any given issue. It’s an “Us versus Them” mentality that attracts donations and rallies the Parties’ respective bases to show up at the polls.

The benefit to the Parties should be obvious.  The benefit to California’s taxpayers may be more difficult to establish particularly since they are paying both sides’ legal bills.

If the courts avoid the temptation to legislate from the bench, at best, a stay order or injunctive relief may be issued.  This simply throws the issue back to the Executive Branch or Congress to rework their approach.  Guess who pays for that process as well.

California’s appointed attorney general will win his first election to that office in November.  That result is already cast in stone.

Then, he will continue to file lawsuits that keep California (and him) in the national limelight and reinforce his Party’s interests.  He’ll win a few and lose a few. Hopefully, the ones he wins will be relevant to the citizens of California who are footing the bill.

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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SCOTUS Renders Its Own ‘State of the Union’ in Janus Decision

SAN DIEGO, Ca., June 27, 2018 – The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME may serve as a landmark decision.  While traditional media outlets and the Democrat establishment are already discrediting the decision, the gnashing of teeth may be relatively short-sighted.  The very basis of this decision could be used as precedent to attack the Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010).

Both cases were predicated on the First Amendment protections.  The Janus decision got it right while Citizens United got it wrong.

Citizens United held that the “freedom of the press” protects “associations” of individuals in addition to individuals.  Had it stopped there, the decision may have been correct as the facts of the case concerned the airing of a film that was critical of Hillary Clinton (just as had been done with the airing of a film about George W. Bush).

However, the majority transitioned from “freedom of the press” to a more expansive application of “freedom of speech” by arguing that the First Amendment precludes the government from “rationing” speech in any manner.  In the process, it overturned Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, 494 U.S. 652 (1990) and opened the floodgates for disproportionate PAC spending to influence elections.

As an aside for those who are concerned with Russian “interference” in our elections, let me assure you that corporate and union interference poses a far greater threat.  The reality is that countries (including the United States) have historically tried to influence the elections of other countries.  They simply haven’t been as effective at “buying” results as have our corporations and unions.

The real impact of Citizens United is that it essentially confers individual status on corporations and unions.  Conversely, Janus argues against this.

In Janus, the Court held, “The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech… (and) freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.’”

It also emphasized that “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” [Emphasis added.]

The Court’s decision in Janus is predicated on preserving individual rights and precluding unions from usurping them without specific consent.  In effect, SCOTUS recognizes that a union does not possess the right to exercise the individual rights of its members unless those members have waived their rights.

Why not apply the same rationale to challenge Citizens United?

In full disclosure, I made the following argument during my 2012 presidential campaign:

“Corporations and unions are entities that were only created for legal convenience.  Corporations were created to allow businesses to continue in perpetuity (i.e., allowing them not to be tied to the life of a sole proprietor or the lives of partners).  Unions were created to facilitate an organized way of bargaining in a collective manner with respect to wages, benefits, and work conditions.  Neither is a living, breathing human being. They are merely legal entities comprised of individuals.

“In that light, neither bears individual rights under the Constitution (other than in extremely limited circumstances) particularly when it comes to the exertion of political influence… and neither can assert a valid need to intervene in our election process.

“It is disingenuous to suggest that a corporation or union can accurately represent the political opinions of all of its employees or members.  It is also completely unnecessary.

“Employees and union members have the right to decide which candidates and issues they choose to support on an independent basis.  They do not need a legal entity to pretend it represents their individual interests since they can demonstrate those interests directly by casting their own votes and deciding to which campaigns, if any, they choose to contribute.

“A rational solution to the undue influence exerted by corporate and union PACs on our political process is to simply restrict political contributions to those who enjoy the right to vote (i.e., individuals).  The second step is to restrict individual political contributions to a level that is equitable among voters and precludes any significant influence.”

Janus v. AFSCME sets the stage for this argument on a grand scale.  We simply must stop pretending that corporations and unions are people and prevent them from usurping the individual rights of their employees and members without an express waiver by each individual.

Of course, we can expect biased arguments to be made by the parties and their supporters based on whose balance sheet is impacted and whose power is threatened.

For example, the Economic Policy Institute, a pro-labor think tank, immediately proclaimed, “It is likely that today’s decision will lead to greater instability in state and local workforces. The EPI used “recent teachers’ strikes in states like West Virginia and Oklahoma” as “examples of the effect of denying workers the right to effective collective bargaining.”  That would be a more effective argument had SCOTUS not reaffirmed the right to collectively bargain in Janus.

Then there is the “stolen seat” argument that will be lodged against any 5-4 decision of the current Supreme Court.  The basis relies on the premise that had Merrick Garland been confirmed to the Court, the decision would have ended 5-4 in favor of AFSCME.  As attorneys are fond of saying, that argument is predicated upon “facts not in evidence.” 

Assuming the decision actually would have reached the opposite decision had Garland been seated, the Republicans would be making the same “stolen seat” argument citing the Democrats’ opposition to “lame duck” appointments when the shoe was on the other foot.

It also suggests that the United States Supreme Court has become compromised over time by political bias.  We should not be able to routinely predict how SCOTUS will decide a case unless the constitutional issues are blindingly clear nor is this necessarily the case.  If we need a reminder, we need only look to Justices Breyer and Kagan recently siding with the majority in the politically controversial Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et al. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission et al.   Even our Supreme Court Justices can put aside bias on occasion.

Rather than striking a position based upon the impact a decision might have on the power and coffers of a particular party, we should learn to focus on the facts of the case and leverage them to eliminate the undue influence that money has on our elections.  If we do, we might even return power to the people.

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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Sports Organizations Lose Bet to State of New Jersey

SAN DIEGO, Ca., May 15, 2018 – Contrary to popular belief, the United States Supreme Court did not legalize sports betting in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association. It merely ruled that the decision of whether to authorize sports betting resides with the states.

However, it changed the betting line on a variety of issues including the decriminalization of cannabis as well as the validity of sanctuary states and cities.

At its core, the majority in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association simply resurrected the Tenth Amendment, which the federal government too often forgets:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” 

In this case, SCOTUS held that the 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which among other things bans states from authorizing sports gambling, is unconstitutional under the Tenth Amendment.

The court also found the anti-commandeering doctrine to be applicable. This precludes the federal government from “commandeering” states to enforce federal law.

The countervailing arguments of federal preemption and the Commerce Clause, which are often used to extend federal reach beyond the original intent of the Constitution, did not represent a winning hand on this occasion.

Justice Alito wrote the opinion in which he was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kagan.

Justice Breyer concurred in part and dissented in part (with respect to limiting the decision to the ban on sports betting rather than rendering PASPA unconstitutional in its entirety).

Justice Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion in which she was joined by Justice Sotomayor.

So, what does this have to do with the decriminalization of cannabis and a potential decision with regard to sanctuary cities and states?

States have begun to legalize cannabis for recreational as well as medical uses in contravention of federal law. This has created an enormous problem for federal banks and FDIC-insured state banks that cannot risk falling afoul of federal law regardless of what an individual state’s law might permit.

As a result, these banks generally will not permit cannabis industry businesses that are legally licensed under state law to even open banking accounts much less write checks or use credit cards to transact business.

There is also a significant risk of liability at the state level if the cannabis ever crosses a state line or is sold to minors.

While a change in the federal scheduling of cannabis would help (reclassifying it as a Schedule II narcotic rather than a Schedule I), there would still be a conflict between federal law and that of a state that chooses to legalize possession and sale.

Would Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association become precedent should a state choose to challenge federal law under the Tenth Amendment and the anti-commandeering doctrine?

Similarly, would cities and states that choose to enact “sanctuary” laws be better positioned to argue their point because of SCOTUS’ ruling in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association?

The latter might be more difficult since Article I, Section 8 reserves the right to Congress “to establish an (sic) uniform Rule of Naturalization.” If this is deemed to have delegated power to the federal government, the Tenth Amendment would not apply, nor would the anti-commandeering doctrine carry any weight.

However, it is interesting to note which justices made which arguments in the case immediately before the court. If a cannabis or sanctuary state or city case were to make it before the court, would the justices be compelled to follow their own logic? Or, would they apply the age-old practice of distinguishing the fact patterns to provide a modicum of flexibility?

Justice Kagan represents the most surprising member of the majority in the current case. She favored a relatively strict interpretation of the Constitution. Was she doing it in anticipation of a cannabis or sanctuary case?

It is difficult to know. Cannabis is legal in Washington, D.C. for adults 21 and older, so perhaps she was just high.

While Justices Ginsburg’s and Sotomayor’s positions were more in alignment with their political bias, will they attempt to reverse course and argue in favor of states’ rights on the more left-leaning issues?

Conversely, how will the more conservative justices apply the Tenth Amendment when it comes to a state’s right to legislate cannabis?

While they may be able to distinguish the sanctuary state and city fact patterns for legal purposes, it will be more difficult to differentiate between two recreational activities such as gambling and smoking marijuana (putting medical use aside).

In the meantime, place your bets on how you think SCOTUS will decide those issues while the odds are still high.

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T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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The Political Art of Fear-Mongering and Fundraising

SAN DIEGO, Ca., May 2, 2018 – The DNC and RNC have evolved into fundraising organizations. They no longer offer cogent solutions to our nation’s challenges.  hey simply try to fan the flames of hyper-partisan positions and extract money as they go.

If you ever venture onto one of the Parties’ websites, you will almost immediately begin to receive “personal” emails from high-ranking government officials, their family members, and a few famous celebrities. Please pretend that you really believe they sent the emails to you.

In their quests for cash, both Parties exploit harmless things such as presidential birthdays as well as those of their spouses. “Please sign the card… and make a donation.”  As campaigns become more expensive, expect the birthday solicitations to expand to include the birthdays of the President’s children, grandchildren, first cousins, gardener, etc. to help fill the gaps.

The Parties also like to survey you as if your opinion matters. The issues are usually irrelevant (“Which bumper sticker design do you like?”) or self-serving (“How would you grade the President’s performance: A+, A, or A-?). When you try to submit your answer, you’ll be hustled for a donation.

You may even be able to have dinner with the President who, rest assured, is “really eager to meet you.” Just donate to enter the drawing.

In the grand scheme of things, these are fairly innocuous methods of separating you from your money. The more sinister ones are viciously opportunistic.

The Republican Party routinely features ominous warnings about “fake news” and the media’s unfair assault on the President. It alerts you to how “witch hunts” and the “deep state” are destroying our country. You will be exposed to how our nation is in danger of being overrun by murderous hordes if a wall isn’t built in time.

The Democrat Party likes to focus on allegations of collusion, personnel turnover within the Administration, and spending abuses among Cabinet members (as if those haven’t occurred in the past). It also likes to suggest that the President is about to fire a Special Prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General, or someone else deemed to be fighting for justice or at least serving as an advocate for the resistance. According to the emails, a constitutional crisis is on the horizon that may well spell doom for our country if Republican advocacy for polluted air and water doesn’t kill you first.

However, the most distasteful campaigns are the ones that exploit human suffering.  When a tragic event occurs, the Parties circle like vultures over a decaying carcass.  They immediately default to their most polarizing positions that are designed to evoke visceral reactions among their respective bases.

For example, both Parties shamelessly capitalized on the recent Parkland school shooting. Apparently, the more victims the better from a fundraising perspective.

With respect to Parkland, the RNC and its supportive PACs immediately sounded the alarm that Democrats were committed to repealing the Second Amendment and confiscating your guns. They were quick to argue that “Guns don’t kill people – people kill people,” as if an intelligent discussion of the issue would be pointless. Correspondingly, the airways were flooded with celebrity spokespersons who explained why gun control is anti-American and an overt attempt to destroy the country.

Meanwhile, the DNC and its supportive PACs manipulated young survivors; weaving them into the narrative for their emotional impact. There were four such solicitations on the day of the shooting and 19 more over the next few weeks (23 total) …and the money flowed. The DNC argued that anyone with a gun is a threat regardless of their mental state. It also called for banning assault weapons, or rather anything that looks like an assault weapon, while continuing to ignore the appalling handgun murder rates in the major cities it has controlled for decades.

On a positive note, all our nation’s issues apparently can be solved for the amazingly low price of $3. That seems to be the threshold level for donations in our current political environment. Of course, it scales to $10, $25, $50, $100, and “other” should you be so inclined, but $3 is the magic number. It seems that every one of your Party’s candidates will lose if you don’t chip in $3.

Additionally, the need is always “URGENT” …particularly on the last day of an FEC reporting period. Of course, your donation will be equally important the next day. It will just have to be based on a birthday, survey, or with any luck, a horrific tragedy. If all else fails, the Parties will push the inevitable sale of tchotchke items like t-shirts, hats, pens, and other memorabilia that will make you feel like part of the team.

If you’re offended by the intellectually demeaning way the Parties solicit your money, do something about it. If you want to witness meaningful change, stop responding to their fundraising campaigns with a donation. If the monetary tap begins to run dry, they will be forced to change their tactics. It may even force them to try to earn your support by offering actual solutions. Imagine how rewarding it would be to receive that type of solicitation.

__________

T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

__________

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

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The ONE Thing Trump’s State of the Union Will Absolutely Confirm

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SAN DIEGO, Ca., October 3, 2017 – We have witnessed another senseless tragedy: the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Desperate cries for gun control almost immediately surfaced. While the motivation for such pleas cannot be questioned, their timing and impact can be.

Gun-related homicides take place every day in the United States with New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta leading the way on a per capita basis. Chicago barely makes the top ten (#9).

These major cities roughly parallel the rates of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil, and South Africa, respectively (and Guyana in the case of Chicago).

Yet, our moral outrage is often reserved for mass casualty events. Perhaps, it is because they are given more media attention while everyday killings are not. However, from a victim’s perspective, death is death regardless of the circumstance.

The historic result of the predictable calls for gun control has been a radical increase in short-term gun sales. It is tantamount to a “strike while the iron is hot” theory that has rarely provided any desired result.

We seem to be conditioned to accept the political exploitation of innocent victims while never questioning the complete lack of legislative progress.

In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes.

Note: Mass killings (or any homicide) should not be confused with “traditional lawful purposes.” The real issue has less to do with the “means” than the “end.” With the proliferation of knife attacks, bombings, and the weaponization of vehicles, particularly within the context of terrorist attacks, we cannot effectively ban every device that can be used to inflict injury and death. However, we should take intelligent steps toward lowering the probability of such attacks. Unfortunately, neither party seems inclined to debate rational ways to manage the issue much less pass effective legislation. Consider the following chart, which demonstrates that both parties have had ample opportunities to address gun control had they chosen to do so.

Both parties have had periods during which they controlled the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the presidency. Yet, they conveniently failed to address the issue when they had the chance.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, most people are unaware that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been prevented from studying causation and prevention issues relative to gun-related deaths for over 20 years.

After a 1996 CDC study suggested that private firearm possession could pose a statistically significant danger, the United States House of Representatives tried to shut down the entire $46 million in funding for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention.

When that failed, the $2.6 million appropriation for gun studies was re-appropriated toward other studies that were unrelated to guns.

In addition, under the Prohibition on Use of CDC Funds for Certain Gun Control Activities, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act specifically states: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” 

Referring once again to the chart that addresses the periods during which both parties have enjoyed legislative and administrative control, the question becomes: Why has neither party chosen to pass gun reform or at least allow the subject to be studied?

The NRA lobby is an obvious part of the answer. However, that only addresses the gun ownership aspect of the CDC’s research. Another aspect had to do with the impact of video games, movies, etc.

If you are beginning to think that both parties had a base to protect and that big money was involved, you might be on to something.

Let’s hope that our political representatives come together someday to have a meaningful debate on the issue. After all, an old document, which they often choose to ignore, suggests that it is their responsibility to provide for our common defense and general welfare. It would be nice if they took that responsibility seriously.

In the meantime, sporadic mass murders will continue to attract self-righteous indignation, an onslaught of political rhetoric, and nothing in the way of legislative action.

Grants for Injury Control Research Centers, authorized under Section 301 (a) of the Public Health Service Act, and Section 391 (a) of the Public Service Health Act, as amended; Section VIII, Other Information, Require Federal Citations, Lobbying Restrictions.

__________

T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

__________

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

Read more

It’s Not Just Laws – The CDC Can’t Even STUDY Mass Shootings

SAN DIEGO, Ca., October 3, 2017 – We have witnessed another senseless tragedy: the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Desperate cries for gun control almost immediately surfaced. While the motivation for such pleas cannot be questioned, their timing and impact can be.

Gun-related homicides take place every day in the United States with New Orleans, Detroit, Baltimore, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta leading the way on a per capita basis. Chicago barely makes the top ten (#9).

These major cities roughly parallel the rates of Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia, Brazil, and South Africa, respectively (and Guyana in the case of Chicago).

Yet, our moral outrage is often reserved for mass casualty events. Perhaps, it is because they are given more media attention while everyday killings are not. However, from a victim’s perspective, death is death regardless of the circumstance.

The historic result of the predictable calls for gun control has been a radical increase in short-term gun sales. It is tantamount to a “strike while the iron is hot” theory that has rarely provided any desired result.

We seem to be conditioned to accept the political exploitation of innocent victims while never questioning the complete lack of legislative progress.

In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia for traditionally lawful purposes.

Note: Mass killings (or any homicide) should not be confused with “traditional lawful purposes.” The real issue has less to do with the “means” than the “end.” With the proliferation of knife attacks, bombings, and the weaponization of vehicles, particularly within the context of terrorist attacks, we cannot effectively ban every device that can be used to inflict injury and death. However, we should take intelligent steps toward lowering the probability of such attacks. Unfortunately, neither party seems inclined to debate rational ways to manage the issue much less pass effective legislation. Consider the following chart, which demonstrates that both parties have had ample opportunities to address gun control had they chosen to do so.

Both parties have had periods during which they controlled the House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the presidency. Yet, they conveniently failed to address the issue when they had the chance.

Perhaps even more disturbingly, most people are unaware that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been prevented from studying causation and prevention issues relative to gun-related deaths for over 20 years.

After a 1996 CDC study suggested that private firearm possession could pose a statistically significant danger, the United States House of Representatives tried to shut down the entire $46 million in funding for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention.

When that failed, the $2.6 million appropriation for gun studies was re-appropriated toward other studies that were unrelated to guns.

In addition, under the Prohibition on Use of CDC Funds for Certain Gun Control Activities, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act specifically states: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” 

Referring once again to the chart that addresses the periods during which both parties have enjoyed legislative and administrative control, the question becomes: Why has neither party chosen to pass gun reform or at least allow the subject to be studied?

The NRA lobby is an obvious part of the answer. However, that only addresses the gun ownership aspect of the CDC’s research. Another aspect had to do with the impact of video games, movies, etc.

If you are beginning to think that both parties had a base to protect and that big money was involved, you might be on to something.

Let’s hope that our political representatives come together someday to have a meaningful debate on the issue. After all, an old document, which they often choose to ignore, suggests that it is their responsibility to provide for our common defense and general welfare. It would be nice if they took that responsibility seriously.

In the meantime, sporadic mass murders will continue to attract self-righteous indignation, an onslaught of political rhetoric, and nothing in the way of legislative action.

Grants for Injury Control Research Centers, authorized under section 301 (a) of the Public Health Service Act, and Section 391 (a) of the Public Service Health Act, as amended; Section VIII, Other Information, Require Federal Citations, Lobbying Restrictions.

__________

T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years. He also has served as the Principal Political Analyst and host of Deconstructed for the Independent Voter News (IVN).

__________

This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, Deconstructed, in the Independent Voter News (IVN).

Read more