On the Issues...
The State of American Politics
Our two-party system has completely failed the American people. This is partially because we have allowed it to reach this point. We’ve become comfortable with our lack of choices with two major political organizations which grow ever more detached from the needs and will of the people.
For now, let’s focus on the Republican Party. The so-called “Grand Old Party” (or “GOP”) has drifted further into the political abyss for the sake of power. From attacking every hint of cultural progress and flat-out demonizing anyone who dares to take a dissenting point of view from their agenda to weakening our democracy and undermining the legitimate election of the opposing side, the evidence that the Republican Party has leaned into authoritarianism with each election cycle is striking. Let’s be honest, though, this didn’t start with Trump. It culminated in his rise.
This trend towards “us versus them” Napoleonic-style politics is nothing new for the once-proud “Party of Lincoln”. It’s a tragic tale of a long descent into corruption out of love for power. Lincoln became a towering figure in politics, catapulting the Republican Party into prominence by leading a charge to reunite a nation divided on the question of our original sin (slavery). The Republicans then went on to pass the first Civil Rights Act, eventually fought to end the corrupt Spoils System, and even became the leading force in advancing Progressivism to the political mainstream. Yet, they have done an about-face to appease the aspiring Oligarchs over the past century.
Their change of heart was gradual and even coincided a little with the more progressive period of their rise. Early on, they latched onto big business and the vision of the Robber Barons. This fealty to Corporate America eventually overtook their openness to the Progressive movement. Then came the Red Scare, the McCarthy Era, and Nixon. Each passing generation saw the Republicans parroting blindly the concerns of the wealthy about the potential of the people to break their economic chains. Reagan and the Bushes were merely the conduits of the dream of an America molded in the vision of the few.
Along came Trump and his authoritarian proclivities. Trump was and is a representative of the natural result of this corruption of democracy by oligarchic meddling. Trump didn’t wreck the nation, divide us, or ruin the Republican Party. He isn’t the cause of our troubles. He’s the symptom of something deeply wrong within the system. Think of Trump as a boil, representing a disease growing inside the body which threatens the survival of the whole. He is a warning sign of worse things to come if we don’t act quickly to deal with the root causes of what made his rise possible to begin with.
For too long, the Democratic Party has been content with doing the least of amount of work to correct our course. When the people needed a resolute voice in government to stave off the emergence of fascism, the Democratic Party instead embraced corporate-friendly neoliberalism which has effectively smoothed the path towards a system of, for, and by the few. The Democrats acted surprised at every step of our descent into this madness as if they had no clue what was happening, but too many of them offered their unyielding support for fear that the Republicans would attack them for not taking a stand against our drift downward.
It is no mistake that the Democrats are predominantly financed by many of the same Corporate interests which finance Republicans. The Sinemas and Manchins were preceded by the Liebermanns and Bidens. Corporate America’s stranglehold on the system has been made possible because the Republicans openly advance their agenda while the Democrats barely put up a fight. Even so, this critique of the Democratic Party should not be confused with an attempt at arguing equivalency between the two political organizations. The Democrats may have fallen into a corrupt state, but they are not an immediate threat to democracy and the Republic overall. It simply needed to be pointed out how we got to where we are now.
In other words, we can deal with the Democratic Party later, because right now the Republican Party must be defeated and the wealthy must be sent a message that they are no better than the working class. If we don’t address the rise of fascism in this order – defeating the fascists, and then the neoliberals who paved the way for them -, then we will expedite the collapse of our representative democracy and doom life on this planet due to our lack of action on climate change. To put it more succinctly, it is too late for us to choose an alternative route.
Is this doom and gloom? Am I being hysterical? Hyperbolic? I don’t think so, because everything that we witnessed with the Trump rise to power, his refusal to acknowledge his loss in 2020, the attempted coup on January 6th, 2021, the dangerous shift rightward of the Supreme Court, the obvious attack on democracy by Republicans nationwide, and the continued emergence of the threat of climate change tells me that this is an emergency.
Now, that we addressed the primary reason why I am running, let’s get into my positions on the issues that you care about (if saving our democracy and planet was not sufficient).
The people need job creation not for the sake of job creation, but meaningful job creation that actually makes a difference. When you have leaders who openly say “I don’t care what kind of jobs they are” (which is paraphrasing what the Republican Mayor of Newark – Jeff Hall - said) they are telling you that they don’t care whether these jobs lift people out of poverty or keep them trapped in despair in perpetuity; they simply only care that they can tout job creation numbers for the electorate. This does more harm than any good. Everyone who wants to work should be able to work and no one working should be trapped in poverty. We need to do everything in our power to responsibly create jobs which will empower the working class.
Unfortunately, the homeless are a favorite target for weak politicians to attack. Instead of trying to get rid of the homeless or punish them for being seen struggling we absolutely must do more to protect them and lift them out of their desperate condition. The State ought to create a program to help communities pave a path out of deep poverty. Investing in projects like the Tiny House Project has proven to be far more cost efficient than doing nothing. The homeless are victims of a failed system and it is incumbent upon the whole of society to be there for each of us when one of us falls through the cracks.
You may be reading this header thinking “what exactly is a ‘living wage’?” In short, it is the minimum wage required to survive without needing any government assistance. Presently, the federal minimum wage – last updated in 2009 to $7.25 an hour – falls far short of the minimum required to survive in our evermore expensive society. Ohio’s minimum is higher than the federal, but still doesn’t come close. What we need to do is raise the Ohio minimum wage to no less than $15 an hour (in 2022 dollars) and attach it to inflation. This will dramatically reduce the number of people on government assistance, will increase tax revenue, will grow the economy, and will leave Ohio stronger in the end.
Housing is a human right. At the very least, every Ohioan must be ensured that their housing will be safe, clean, and affordable. Each tenant must be fully informed of their rights as a tenant. Each community should have a rental registration system and an anonymous mechanism to report slumlords. Furthermore, every tenant should be able to own whatever domesticated animals they wish to have and have the option for a reasonable and affordable rent-to-own agreement after a short period of time living in their home (no more than 5 years).
The mobility of citizens is crucial, and development solely around individually-owned cars, Uber, Lyft, and traditional taxi services is the wrong way to go. Ohio would serve the citizens well to adopt a Twenty-First Century public transportation system with fixed route busing and high-speed rail leading the way. This would be beneficial for Ohioans of all ages and socioeconomic statuses.
Right to Organize
In 2011, the people of Ohio loudly affirmed their support for the right to organize when the voters soundly rejected Senate Bill 5; which would have effectively rendered Ohio’s public unions toothless by ending collective bargaining rights. Since then, we have seen a steady rise in the number of workers joining and struggling for unions. The government must intervene on behalf of the people to protect the right to organize and collectively bargain with passage of an Ohio equivalent of the federally-proposed PRO Act.
Paying taxes is never popular, but it is necessary to ensure that the numerous services provided by the state continue. What Ohio needs is a truly fair tax system which ensures that everyone pays their fair share in accordance with their ability. Some citizens won’t pay anything at all due to poverty, but that can be reversed if we pass a living wage standard that can help to reduce the number of citizens who can’t afford to pay as well as to reduce the costs on the system with fewer citizens needing help.
Moreover, we must shift away from our reliance on property taxes. The elderly are the citizens who take the biggest hit and have the least amount of funds to spare compared to other taxpayers due to their limited income. A flat and constant rate of property taxes which never takes more than a certain percentage of a homeowner’s income is something Ohio should seriously consider.
The entire country is struggling with maintaining our roads and bridges, but it shouldn’t stop us from taking the challenge head-on. As the “heart of it all”, Ohio should lead the way in updating the entirety of our infrastructure both above and below the ground. This will lead to massive job creation, especially since these projects will take a while to complete. Ultimately, this is an issue where we honestly have no choice: something has to be done.
Over the past few decades the decision to deregulate our utilities has led to a state of chaos in our utilities, but also has solidified the existence of powerful intrastate monopolies enjoyed by AEP and Columbia Gas. Instead of breaking up the Corporate monopolies in charge of the infrastructure which provides our energy, the General Assembly created energy anarchy wherein a plethora of “utility providers” compete to deliver our energy. This may sound good in theory, but the problem is that there is very little transparency in the system as customers are bombarded with constant visits from these competitors as they knock on your door, aggressively sell you a bill of goods, and then leave you to hope that you weren’t deceived about their “deal” being better than what was offered by the last provider.
It’s beyond time to make public the energy infrastructure – with the maintenance thereof opened to bidding, if need be – so as to end the monopolized grip enjoyed by AEP and Columbia Gas while creating a completely transparent utility provider marketplace through which customers can compare and shop for the best services. Moreover, we need to ensure that we stop price gouging and protect citizens especially in times of elevated vulnerability such as in the coldest parts of Winter and the hottest parts of Summer.
Education is the bedrock of a prosperous economy and fully functional democracy. We must detach our schools from their unconstitutional reliance on property taxes. Our teachers should be paid in a manner which displays our recognition and appreciation for the undeniably important role they play in molding our future. Class sizes must be manageable, to ensure that every student gets the most out of their time in school. The school day and school year overall ought to be revisited so as to improve the educational experience (to enhance lesson memory retention, improve outcomes, and to avoid fatigue). Also, it is imperative that we not leave teachers to have to spend their own money to supply their classrooms.
Finally, and this is the proverbial elephant in the room, we must address the issue of standardized testing. While the “No Child Left Behind Act” mandates it, we must research how to improve performance without reducing lessons to “teaching to the test”. We would best serve our students and teachers by empowering the teachers to design our curriculum. In the end, fully funding our education and making sure it works for everyone are key to improving the system.
War on Drugs
First and foremost, the “War on Drugs” is an abject failure. The answer isn’t to punish people for private experimentation but to assist them in their time of need. If we truly believe in liberty then it should be none of the government’s business what people choose to do with their own body. Chief among these failed “anti-drug” policies is the prohibition on the recreational use of marijuana.
There is a great deal of potential to create jobs, boost revenue, and clean up our streets were we to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Stop supporting paternalistic government and let the people live their life and do what makes them happy! While we’re at it, everyone in prison for possession or consumption of marijuana should be fully pardoned.
The lack of adequate regulation on our pharmaceutical industry has contributed to the rise in our present tragedy of a so-called “epidemic” in the use of opioids. Unfortunately, far too many citizens are struggling with the disease of addiction regardless of whatever new regulations are put in place. Accordingly, this is an issue which I see as two-fold:
Either opiates should be administered only in a controlled/supervised setting or the patient should have to regularly demonstrate with some kind of proof that they are the only consumer thereof. One way to mend these two ideas would be to have a temporarily assigned individual administer the drug or supervise its consumption for the duration of its prescription. This could conceivably be a loved one who signs a document affirming that they will oversee the process and ensure that it is done legally.
Fight the stigma about harm reduction with education, fully fund harm reduction efforts and safe injection sites which are proven to help reduce the threat of overdose, of disease spread, and are responsible for increasing the chances that someone breaks free from addiction.
Legalize fentanyl testing strips and other similarly banned methods of testing and protecting those citizens suffering from addiction.
Like Housing, Healthcare is a human right. I strongly support creating a Medicare-for-All program, but I am also open to empowering citizens to buy-in to Medicaid. Additionally, we must protect citizens by preventing them from being denied service by any medical health professional in the state. Doctors should not be permitted to reject any insurance, especially not insurance which is paid by taxdollars.
A serious issue which gets lip service from time to time – and sadly only when a cowardly politician wants a scapegoat – but which never gets dealt with is mental health. Nearly 25% of Ohioans suffer from mental health issues. First, we must fight the stigma and strive to educate the populace and our policymakers about this issue. Secondly, we must significantly expand mental health services in Ohio. Thirdly, everyone who needs mental health services absolutely should get help irrespective of their ability to pay.
No one is going to round up everyone’s guns. That’s never happening. So, let’s just start off with that. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone should have a gun whenever they want one.
The notion that “guns don’t kill people” is an acceptable excuse for doing nothing about violence which involves guns is idiotic and irresponsible. Of course guns alone don’t kill people, but they absolutely make it easier for people to kill one another, and on a mass scale.
I fully support a ban on semi-automatic weapons designed to kill dozens of people in a few minutes. If a gun has the capacity to pierce armor, it should be banned. If a gun is equipped to fire from a magazine holding in excess of ten rounds, it should be banned.
There should be no reason why a prospective gun owner needs to own a gun in less than 10 days. Every sale of guns in Ohio should have to entirely transpire in person, and only after waiting 10 days through a background check and a cooling off period. This obviously means that no gun should be permitted to be sold at a gun show or online.
It would also be beneficial to the interests of public safety if every gun owner was required to be licensed to own a gun. In this respect, I support making this license free of charge. However, I also strongly support requiring insurance for gun ownership.
At the very least, I support so-called “Red Flag Laws”. In the event that a gun owner is showing obvious signs of being a threat to others the temporary confiscation of their firearms is both justified and essential to protect the public.
I realize in stating this out loud that I may lose the support of many of you reading this, but I will not shy away from addressing this vital issue while running for an office which has the power to make a difference.
To crack down on crime, we need our law enforcement officers to be the best trained, most adequately equipped (not with surplus military equipment, but community-appropriate equipment) and staffed that they can be. Crime, however, is not just about law enforcement. A lack of opportunities and/or preventative intervention creates the conditions for criminal activity. We also need better community outreach in order to address citizen concerns before they become a major problem. This is not an issue for which there is a single solution.
Rather, there are a host of ideas that we ought to tap into to pave a better way forward. What’s clear is that the approach of simply reacting to crime by capturing and punishing criminals is not enough. Reducing recidivism should be just as important as the justice phase. Likewise, addressing the desperate conditions which breed bad behavior must be just as vital.
Many of us know police officers personally. I worked with numerous officers working in retail as they provided security. I’ve laughed with them, sought their counsel, and even disagreed with them on a face-to-face level. While I see the need for serious change in how we conduct law enforcement I still recognize that each police officer is a human being with their own story. Before we proceed with discussing what we should or shouldn’t do with respect to police reform, we have to appreciate the human nature at play here and the fact that all of us humans have our weaknesses and fears.
Ending police brutality is essential to helping rebuild trust in law enforcement and to enhancing our common cause of crime prevention. Right now, there are countless citizens of numerous backgrounds who don’t trust any police officer. No community is more plagued by this fear of the authorities than the most common victims of abuse by those same authorities: people of color. Just as with our need to recognize the flaws of officers as humans we must also confront the dark past and still ongoing track record of law enforcement’s abuse of minorities in this country.
We can not begin to heal or make this right until we face these two realities: a) that officers are human with all the flaws that come with that, and b) that police have abused their power and aimed most of that abuse at minorities. So, what do we do here?
First and foremost, recognizing the human nature that we all battle with, we have to look at and help train officers to put aside their natural tendencies for blind loyalty to their group. What group? Fellow officers. Human’s, by nature, have to be part of a group and that desire and need compels us to defend – violently, if necessary - said group and every member within. Police Officers are fiercely loyal to one another and often see the world through a “Police versus the World” mentality; especially when they are under public scrutiny. We see the same phenomenon amongst soldiers and even teammates in sports. It’s a product of our evolution.
To combat this it would be beneficial to train our officers to put aside their blind loyalties to the group and to report illegal behavior from amongst them. No, this alone will not fix the problem, nor should it be trusted to serve as the only necessary training that officers need. In addition to training on reporting crimes amongst police, every single officer must be outfitted with a body camera which records footage to a site that is not under the control of police. No officer should be able to turn off their camera, because that is an invitation for abuse. Dash camera footage should also record at a remote site not under police control.
Who should control this footage? I propose the creation of a new, independent agency to oversee the police. This agency should be run by a nonpartisan board of 10 or 20 members – separate from local governments - elected by members representing each subset of the broader community. This agency should also be in charge of dispatching what we now know as “Internal Affairs”. To make investigations of the police reliable the people doing the investigating should not be at all affiliated with the police. Furthermore, this agency – let’s call it the “Law Enforcement Accountability Board” - should be in charge of deciding punishments for breaking the rules (not for breaking the law, as that will be a matter for the justice system) such as determining suspensions, fines, and terminations for bad actors in law enforcement.
Even with these proposed reforms it is still nowhere near sufficient to curb police brutality or to address the lack of trust in law enforcement. In addressing the track record of abuse, police must undergo monthly training on de-escalation. They should also at least have a quota for two factors: proportional officer representation of the community and at least half of the officers should be recruited from the community they are charged with protecting. Additionally, each officer should have to attend at least one community gathering every 3 months – for the duration of said gathering - so as to facilitate regular interaction with the citizens from each demographic group. These officers should also be required to “walk the beat” for a shift over the course of a week in each neighborhood of a community at least once a year (for the sake of argument, let’s define “neighborhood” as being a one square mile area).
Finally, in addition to the required community attendance and “beat walking” duties, each officer should have to attend an initiation meeting specifically designed for the purpose of allowing that officer to hear the concerns of citizens; including the highlighting of concerns related to police brutality. It is my belief that these reforms will help to reduce the cases of brutality, restore faith in the justice system, and help combat crime across the board.
Bodily Autonomy is inextricably linked with liberty. No person should ever be told that they must give birth. Abortion should be safe, legal, and up to the pregnant person. I strongly support repealing the so-called “Heartbeat” law which bans abortions after 5 weeks. Abortions should be legal up until the third trimester, and then it should only be permitted when the life of the pregnant person is in potential danger; including if the fetus is determined to be stillborn.
Right to a Dignified Death
Euthanasia should be legal. To safeguard against abuse of this right, I support developing a system which protects vulnerable patients from being compelled to end their life. At the end of the day, the time of one’s death should be up to the patient entirely, if possible.
Our voice as citizens is the greatest power that exists in this country. Any effort to suppress that voice should be condemned outright and wholeheartedly. Partisan Gerrymandering – the redrawing of electoral districts in a manner which tilts the odds of winning for one party over all – should be prohibited. This process ought to be handled through a nonpartisan 10 or 20 person commission elected by the people every ten years during the census. For approval of districts, the commission should draw and then approve with a vote of 70% in favor. Another option could be to send a set of district proposals to the people with a simple majority vote.
Additionally, every election in Ohio either ought to be nonpartisan or significantly reformed to create truly equal access to the ballot via an open primary system with universal signature requirements for each elective office. This is needed because the current system effectively entrenches the two major parties as the only serious contenders for office while raising the bar to an unfair degree for all independent candidates. Also, every political party – officially declared and filed with the Secretary of State’s office - should have ballot access regardless of the number of votes cast in any election.
Finally, regardless of whether the system is partisan or not, Ohio’s elections should be conducted via ranked choice voting and Ohio ought to join in the national movement to award our Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote (which only takes effect once states representing 270 electoral votes adopt the proposal). Our present way of electing officials is antiquated and is not truly representative of the people. If we honestly value a nation “of the people, for the people, and by the people” then it is incumbent upon us to ensure that every voice is heard and respected equally.
Lastly, we must address climate change. There is no more debate needed here as the science is clear as day: the globe is warming and we humans are to blame. While Ohio alone can not correct the course of humanity as a whole, we absolutely should lead the way in finding innovative solutions to curb the rise of greenhouse gases with renewables and smart development practices. We must crackdown on polluters across the board, and we must send a collective message that we are in this together.
I wish we had time to debate a gradual shift to a green future, but too much time has elapsed for that discussion. Combating this genuine existential threat requires bold and swift changes. Will it be painless? Sadly not, but the pain we feel in the transition now will be far better to tolerate than the nightmarish changes to come if we do nothing.
We owe it to our children and grandchildren to act now. The cost of kicking the can down an ever-shrinking road is just too great to risk.