Imagine if the world you’ve come to take for granted was suddenly compressed into a black-and-white binary.
The irony is, you needn’t even imagine such a fantastical world, because it already exists. This very same stark polarization is currently affecting our political discourse and infecting our society.
It is imperative to understand and appreciate views & articulated arguments underpinned by exhaustive research and data that aren’t necessarily commensurate with one’s own. Unfortunately, ultra-conservative and left wing extremes are almost certainly epitomized by callous ad hominems and hyperbolic appeals to collective emotion to demonize “the other side” instead of simply, to respectfully disagree.
Individuals and coalitions on the far-left often band together on the basis of identity politics; attributing more weight to one’s “privilege points,” which are too often obtained not on the merit of one’s ideas, but rather on that person’s genitalia, sexual orientation, or the amount of melanin in their skin. To make matters worse, these identity politics are sometimes weaponized to brand the far left’s ideological opponents as racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and so on. Their misplaced objective is to discredit an ideological opponent’s arguments without having to actually refute the ideas posited or argument proffered.
It is not obvious why (voters), sick of Mr Trump’s antics, would warm to a Democrat offering a different set of implausible promises. “If we try to out-crazy the policy announcements of a troubled president, we will do nothing to restore confidence,” warns Senator Chris Coons of Delaware. - The Economist
On January 27th, Howard Schultz, the founder and former CEO of Starbucks, announced his interest in running as an independent candidate in the 2020 election for President of The United States. TQC hopes he formally declares himself a candidate. From the due diligence we've done, Schultz appears to be center-left on social issues and fiscally to the center-right. In our view, this is exactly the prescription this great nation needs at this time.
At The Quintessential Centrist, we are transparent about our views. We pride ourselves on being malleable and open when new ideas, proposals, or policies merit serious consideration. We are open to respectful debate and welcome the prospect of having our minds changed. Indeed, if a counter-party offers a superior argument underpinned by facts and empirical evidence, we will (as we have done in the past) alter our views.
As most of our readers are aware, Howard Schultz is the man responsible for turning Starbucks into a international success story and, in the process, created a new coffee culture in America. In addition to paying better wages (before service industry wages became a political talking point) and offering affordable health care options, Schultz provided an opportunity to all his employees -- both part time and full time -- to advance their education tuition free via a partnership with Arizona State University's online program. In short, Schultz is a socially liberal, fiscally centrist self-made businessman who advocates both for his workers and for meaningful social causes. And unlike the current businessman currently occupying the Oval Office, Mr. Schultz was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
Schultz was born to a poor family in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in a housing project with his two siblings, a homemaker mother and father who became a truck driver after serving in the US Army. Schultz learned the value of hard work at a young age and has since carried those values throughout his incredible life. When Schultz was a young boy, his father had an accident that left him unable to work. The family was left with no steady source of income, and no health care insurance. To help, Schultz worked a series of odd jobs. He attended Canarsie High School and was later awarded an athletic scholarship from Northern Michigan University. He was the first member of his family to attend college.
On the fiscal side, here are a few prudent and responsible positions Schultz takes:
*Supports a progressive tax code: people who earn more should pay a higher rate of income tax. We agree. That said, he also understands that excessive taxes and regulation thwart economic growth and stifle job creation. We also agree. He should know. He's created over 300,000 jobs, the majority of which are in the United States.
*Believes paying his employees a living wage is both ethically correct and good business practice: Schultz paid his baristas a living wage well before it was politically fashionable to do so. As a result, Starbucks' employees earn above average wages vs. their peers. Schultz has delivered on the notion that by treating his workers well via higher pay and benefits, they would be more productive and create a value-enhancing experience which would yield greater customer satisfaction and increased brand loyalty. In that, he has been proven correct.
*Opposes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (AOC's) proposal to raise the marginal tax rate on earnings in excess of $10 million to 70%. Ms. Cortez claims her plan will only affect the richest sliver of Americans. We vehemently disagree. In our view, Ms. Cortez seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that a disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of her tax plan are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. Impose a 70% marginal tax on those families, and you take away their economic incentive to create employment opportunities for working Americans. Under AOC's tax plan, the richest sliver of Americans will certainly be worse off. And so will the 99%. Like Mr. Schultz, at TQC we believe that people who earn more should pay more, but a progressive tax code should be applied with a degree levelheadedness and proportionality.
The Quintessential Centrist’s core mission involves offering readers an elevated discourse that blends news, careful analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political continuum. There is a sizable contingent of centrist-Americans who are interested in compromise, open to reasonable ideas, and whose main objective is facilitating legislation that will benefit the country, bridging ideological differences and helping to unite our bitterly divided nation.
This week TQC presents six centrist ideas, that if implemented prudently and responsibly, have the potential to improve America by making our nation safer and more equitable for the majority of its citizens. These represent topics that The Quintessential Centrist intends to continue researching.
At TQC, we believe in a progressive tax code. People who earn more should pay more. However, a progressive tax code must be applied with levelheadedness and proportionality. We agree with the position taken by many on the right side of the aisle who argue against excessively high marginal tax rates. A disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of all in marginal tax rates over 50% and / or be subjected to “wealth taxes” proposed by politicians on the left, are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. We must be careful not to impose a marginal tax so burdensome that it takes away job creators' economic incentive to offer employment opportunities for working Americans. That is suboptimal for all Americans. It is important to keep in mind: most higher earning salarymen and women in the United States already do pay significantly more taxes, as they should.
We align ourselves with many on the left side of the aisle who argue that although marginal tax rates are higher on the wealthy, it is unjust that certain rich individuals can use the tax code to their advantage and lower their tax rate to a level lower than what working class Americans pay, in some cases to 0%. Hedge Fund managers, Family Office principles and Private Equity partners are typically wealthy individuals. By utilizing “carried interest,” they can reinvest profits back into their respective entities vs. paying ordinary income tax on short-term capital gains. Real estate investors often use 1031 exchanges to roll proceeds from property sales into new physical assets thereby shielding their gains from income tax. At TQC, we do not begrudge those individuals for utilizing the existing tax code to lower their tax bill; any rational person would do so. That said, “carried interest,” 1031 exchanges and other unquestionably regressive loopholes in the tax code should be closed. Without debate, these loopholes disproportionality help wealthier Americans. Very few middle-class and working poor Americans benefit from these carve outs. We believe that is unfair to all Americans.
We support the introduction of term limits for members of the U.S. Congress & U.S Senators. Politics is the second oldest profession in the world. Unfortunately, it shares many properties with the oldest profession in the world. Too many politicians on both sides of the aisle allocate too much of their human capital selling themselves rather than performing the tasks and achieving the results they were elected to do. Instead, they often draft and vote for legislation that serves little purpose but to afford themselves a higher probability of getting re-elected while selling out the majority of the people they were voted into office to represent. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization. Certain Democratic and Republican lawmakers do put the American public before themselves; sadly, they are in the minority. Term limits are a simple, sensible idea that will better align politicians' intentions with the will of the people who voted them into office.
Before delving into the abortion issue, we think its prudent to remind our readers that at TQC, our platform is dedicated to promoting the ideals and tenets of the sensible center, where compromise is often discovered. While this sometimes involves highlighting and discussing some uncomfortable hypocrisies, it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries.
Prima facie, few issues are more divisive in the American collective than the debate over abortion. According to a recent Gallup poll, United States citizens are essentially split between pro-choice and pro-life camps. Indeed, 48% of adult Americans consider themselves “pro-choice,” while 48% define themselves as “pro-life” (4% of Americans claimed they had “no opinion”). Interestingly, and perhaps surprisingly to people who reside on the east and west coasts, the dividing line was also just about equal between genders. 48% of women identify as pro-choice and 49% of men said they were "pro-life." One can certainly parse through a litany of data to unearth underlying trends regarding the number of overall abortions, when during gestation those procedures took place, where they took place, and more, but the bottom line is that ~1/2 of Americans support a woman’s right to choose, and ~1/2 do not.
At the Quintessential Centrist, we feel abortion - under most circumstances - is morally wrong (not for religious reasons), but we are “pro-choice,” with the following caveats:
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion without any restrictions in the 1st trimester of pregnancy.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 2nd trimester only if the woman’s life is in danger or if tests reveal the fetus is afflicted with a congenital defect or other grave ailment. We believe, however, that the standard established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision – that abortion is legal until a fetus reaches viability outside the womb (typically @ ~24 weeks) – must be followed. Therefore, even though we respectfully disagree with the tenet set by the Supreme Court in its landmark 1973 Roe decision (and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992) and generally do not support abortion in the 2nd trimester, we think abortion must remain available and accessible based on the aforementioned set of valid reasons. With the advancement of medical technology and breakthroughs in research, most genetic defects can usually be detected in the first trimester. But there are cases where certain afflictions are not discovered until later. Bringing a severely handicapped person into this world and sacrificing so much to care for them is one of the ultimate forms of altruism. We don’t think ordinary (or exceptional) people should be required to do something exceptional.
• We support a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in the 3rd trimester if and only if the woman’s life is in danger and she cannot be induced nor have an emergency caesarian-section. In the 3rd trimester, a baby can usually be delivered and an abortion should not be necessary. To be clear, there are certainly exceptional cases where a woman's life is in danger and the aforementioned alternatives are not feasible. In this case, we would support a late term procedure.
In short, we think unfettered abortion access is wrong and sensible restrictions should be in place. And, aside from a few specific carve-outs, there are cases late in the gestation period where it is and should remain illegal. Moreover, adopting (excuse the pun) a blindly pro-life stance without exceptions is incorrect. More significantly, denying a woman the right to have an abortion if certain conditions are met under Roe v Wade and reaffirmed in Planned Parenthood v Casey, is a civil rights violation.
Now let's take a deeper dive into Americans' views. Although opinion polls show the nation is evenly split between the pro-choice and pro-life camps, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that despite the rage and vitriol surrounding the topic, many Americans actually do have centrist points of view surrounding abortion.:
“Whether you’re in jail for three days, three weeks, three months or three years, it’s an accelerator of human misery,” said Jonathan Lippman, the former chief judge of New York State’s highest court and currently the chairman of an independent commission on criminal justice reform. “You come out a changed human being.” -
At The Quintessential Centrist, our view is that under most circumstances, cash bail should be abolished. Reason being, it is one of, if not, the most explicit example of legal discrimination currently being practiced in America. The use of cash bail is categorically unfair and a blatant violation of theof the 14th amendment, because it directly discriminates against poor people. A compelling argument can also be made that cash bail indirectly discriminates against blacks and other minorities that represent a disproportionate number of subjects in the criminal justice system. Before further delving into why cash bail is unfair, it is helpful to first have a basic understanding of how the “system” functions.
The Process of Entering the “System”
To navigate each individual states’ particular laws pertaining to jail and bail is a granular, fiendishly complex undertaking. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus our attention on New York City.
Let us consider a common misdemeanor, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the 7th degree (NYS penal code 220.03(a)), which until late 2018 included marijuana. Police stop you and allegedly find you in the process of a criminal act. They have 3 choices:
a. Let you go.
b. Give you a Desk Appearance Ticket (“DAT”), which means you are free to go home but must return to court in approximately 6 weeks to be arraigned before a judge. Generally, DAT’s are given to first-time offenders for petty larcenies, traffic and vehicular crimes or violations like disorderly conduct; and occasionally, for a nonviolent felony like grand larceny.
c. Cuff you and bring you back to the police precinct to write up the arrest report, check for any previous arrests etc., electronically scan your fingerprint and retina, take your “mug shot,” and place you in a cell until you’re ready to “get booked” at Central Bookings. At a minimum, you will spend at least one night in jail – detained and monitored by the Department of Corrections.
Central Bookings: This is a basement-level area with multiple jail cells (covered in wall scratching’s of graffiti with gang symbols and cries for help alike). This is where Dept. of Corrections first steps in, but you are still technically under the custody of the NYPD.
If you cannot afford a lawyer, a court-appointed public defender (either Legal Aid Society or one of the borough specific agencies) will be assigned to you.
In Manhattan, the prosecutors in arraignments are typically first-year attorneys, fresh out of law school. They read the allegations against you aloud. The “offer” they recommend to the judge is generally predetermined by a superior who read the police complaint – one of a couple hundred – overnight in a dark cubicle and decided this offer based on the highest level “charge” written by the arresting officer.
In the past week, we reviewed the Annual Student Medical Form provided by a New York City private school to parents on behalf of their children prior to the commencement of the academic school year. We neither have access nor would we disclose student’s personal information; and have decided not to disclose the name of the school because the majority of students are minors. Along with the standard space for name, address, phone numbers, etc., part of the form contained the following options:
• Sex Assigned At Birth: Male / Female / Intersex
• Gender Identity: Girl / Boy / Trans Boy / Trans Girl / Non-Binary / Genderfluid / Other
• Students Affirming Pronouns: SheHer / HeHim / TheirThem / Other
Meanwhile at Columbia University, incoming students are encouraged to input their personal information into Columbia Health’s portal. In addition to ensuring that students have been inoculated (no sure thing given the misinformation spread by misinformed), reported their appropriate personal/family medical history and so forth, Columbia provides students space where they can “identify and edit their gender identity.” The options are as follows:
• Female (cisgender)
• Female (transgender/female identified/MTF)
• Gender fluid
• Gender nonconforming
• Male (cisgender)
• Male (transgender/male identified/FTM)
• I identify as follows
Columbia prefaces this section of the form with the following statement: “Should these terms be unfamiliar, please note that the ‘female cisgender’ means female is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are female identified; ‘male cisgender’ means male is the gender you were assigned at birth and you are male identified.”
We appreciate the clarity, but it came woefully short for this author, who graduated university barely twenty years ago. Before reading this form, the author had never even heard of Agender, Bigender, Nonbinary, or Pangender. Apparently, neither had Microsoft Word, the most commonly used word processing program in the world. When first typed out, many of these terms were underlined in red, and had to be manually added to Word’s dictionary.
Does the fact that an elite private school offers parents a choice of the affirming pronoun in addition to “she/her” and “he/him,” a “their/them” option and that Columbia University, an Ivy League institution that attracts some of the brightest minds from all over the world, had to put a disclaimer in its own health form regarding how to explain the gender choices they provided, indicate that the inclusivity pendulum has swung a bit too far left?
Regarding Sex Assigned at Birth, we found the choices Male, Female & Intersex to be unremarkable. While the overwhelming majority of people are born male or female,have borne out that depending on the criteria used, between .005% and 1.7% of people are indeed borne intersex. In the United States, ~3.75 million babies are born each year. Even using the conservative .005% data point would still translate into approximately 18,750 intersex babies born each year. The aforementioned private school was correct to include Intersex as a choice.
Every election cycle lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle often campaign on vague platitudes, pretending to be change agents who will finally catalyze transformative action on a range of issues like:
“Making the American dream accessible again.”
“Providing opportunities to all Americans.”
"Ensuring our children don’t bear the burden of our profligacy.”
"Supporting middle class wage growth.”
"Making education affordable.”
"Lowering the cost of healthcare.”
"Preserving the planet and protecting our resources.”
And so on...
Aside from a shrinking minority of centrists in Washington who actually work to build consensus across party lines, Republicans and Democrats have their own distinctive ideas about how to facilitate these grand plans. Unfortunately, the only consistent aspect of all these respective ideas is that they are overly grandiose, lack important details, economically unviable and politically dead on arrival. So in the run up to election day, we are promised the same things we hear in every election cycle but rarely, if ever, witness any substantive action once lawmakers are voted in to (or out of) office.
What if we told you there was a simple way to translate these grand intentions into reality with a politically sensible approach that would be agreeable across party lines? There is. And it cost nothing.
Democrats and Republicans can and should work together to repeal unnecessary and prohibitively expensive occupational licensing laws. When being licensed is in the public's interest, reciprocity agreements between states should be enacted. Lawmakers should also eliminate arbitrary education requirements for most trades. In doing so, they would actually endorse the economic and fiscal pillars that underpin conservative arguments while also appealing to progressive and egalitarian causes underpin liberal viewpoints.
In the 1950’s, very few (~5%) professional occupations required a license at the state level. Today ~30% of all professional occupations require some sort of license across the 50 states in the union. The result: a complex, grossly inefficient web of inconsistent state and local laws pertaining to professional licensing. Aprepared by the Obama Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers & Department of Labor highlighted the fact that “over 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one state, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 states – suggesting that many of these requirements may not be necessary."
In the majority of states, a person must have a high school diploma or a GED to become a barber. This arbitrary requirement is absurd, unnecessary and discriminatory. Why would earning a high school diploma (or GED) make anybody more (or less) qualified to cut somebody’s hair? Solving basic algebra won’t render someone more qualified to eradicate a split end or sculpt a mohawk. There is no causal relationship to suggest this. This onerous requirement merely prevents somebody from practicing a trade and earning a decent wage.
Barbers aren’t likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon. Pursuing a career as a barber ostensibly allows those who are seeking to make an honest living to do so. Prohibiting someone from becoming a barber because they lack a degree is senseless and discriminates against people who lack the aforementioned academic credentials.
On October 8th, 2017 the former senior senator from Tennessee Bob Corker, “It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.” True as that might be, at The Quintessential Centrist, we cannot help but point out the irony in this tweet. For in the state of Tennessee, “ hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training ‘on the theory and practice of shampooing,’ at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition." But here is the kicker: no facility in the state currently even offers a course in 'shampoo tech.' Effectively, their only options would be "a) to go through the more rigorous and expensive process (1,500 hours and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition) of obtaining a cosmetology license, or b) to wash hair illegally…(and) face up to six months in prison and a $500 criminal fine, or a $1,000 civil penalty…” Apparently, the adult day care business is flourishing quite nicely in the Volunteer state.
On September 11th, lawmakers in California passed a bill that requires most companies to classify contract workers as full time employees. The law is slated to take effect January 1, 2020. When it does, per the parameters of the legislation, Uber and Lyft drivers will be deemed employees with a minimum wage guarantee, workers compensation, sick leave and unemployment benefits. The bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), stated that, “it will help workers, not Wall Street and their get-rich-quick IPOs.”
At TQC, while we are not sure which companies Ms. Gonzalez is referencing – Uber was founded in 2009 and didn’t go public until 2019 and the timeline was similar for Lyft - we have no reason to believe that she is being insincere in her effort to help drivers. Unfortunately, what Ms. Gonzalez and CA Governor Gavin Newsom (D), who lobbied intensely in favor of the bill, do not seem to comprehend or want to concede, is that the vast majority of Uber and Lyft drivers ply their trade on a part time basis, by choice. Many drivers have other full-time jobs and drive occasionally for extra money. Some drivers are students looking to earn pocket money between classes or study hall. Other drivers juggle multiple responsibilities and pick up a shift or two during a little downtime. A retiree might even get behind the wheel to stay active and engaged with his or her community.
The minimum wage guarantees embedded in the Golden State’s legislation ring hallow. While the majority of Uber and Lyft drivers in CA do not work full time via standard 8 or 10-hour shifts, the vast majority of those drivers that do already earn considerably more than minimum wage.
The legislative changes to be enacted in CA will probably have a deleterious effect on drivers and consumers alike. The most important benefit Uber and Lyft offer drivers is flexibility. Their respective platforms allow drivers to work when they want, where they want and for as long (or short) as they want and not on a rigid schedule dictated by management. If drivers become fulltime employees as mandated by California law, the aforementioned ancillary benefits will cease to exist, the appeal of working as a driver will decrease and the cost of ride will increase. Said Lyft communications director:
“Only ‘a small fraction’ of Lyft’s roughly 325,000 drivers in California will keep working if the law takes effect. Some experts reckon ride fares could rise by as much as 30%.”
On October 27, President Trump announced that U.S. Special Forces, at his behest, carried out a heroic raid in northern Syria that resulted in the death of one of the most savage terrorist leaders to date. As U.S. troops closed in, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, detonated his suicide vest taking three of his presumed-children with him. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. had also taken out al-Baghdadi's likely successor, Abu Hasan al-Muhajir.
At The Quintessential Centrist, we have often been critical of our Commander in Chief. His judgment is often lacking; his behavior, unbecoming and sometimes downright embarrassing. However, the aforementioned events deserve the heartiest of applause.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
Since ISIS declared its caliphate in 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi commandeered over at least 140 terrorist attacks in nearly 30 countries in addition to those carried out daily in Iraq and Syria. He was as vicious as he was dangerous. Notorious for brutally torturing his victims, including fellow Muslims, al-Baghdadi was responsible for the genocide of Yazidis and Christians. His cruelty included forcing these groups into sexual slavery. He ordered mass beheadings of many others including foreign journalists and aid workers from the U.S., the U.K. and Japan. He burned a Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. The list goes on.
The ISIS leader's reign of terror extended to Western targets inspiring the Paris, Nice, Orlando and Manchester terror attacks to name but a few. He inspired countless smaller, yet equally horrific lone-wolf attacks globally in the forms of shootings, slashings and car ramming incidents. Al-Baghdadi left hundreds of thousands of Yazidis, Christians, and Muslims a “heads” he wins “tails” they lose choice: join him and his barbaric comrades or flee their respective homelands and become refugees.
The point cannot be overstated: the world has much to rejoice at the demise of al-Baghdadi. Unfortunately, the authoritative Washington Post chose to eulogize the barbaric terrorist with a headline that read: “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.”
As if Mr. Baghdadi were merely a university professor and dean of a famous seminary who just happened to succumb to a long battle with cancer. The "obituary" went on to read that "when al-Baghdadi first rose as a leader of ISIS, he was a relatively unheard of 'austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing.’"
2019 was the first full year for The Quintessential Centrist (TQC). We would like to thank all of our readers for playing an integral role in our growing platform, an online forum that incorporates ideas and values across the ideological spectrum.
TQC is a work in progress. We have certainly made mistakes and have done our best to remedy and learn from them. Your constructive criticism helps us better accomplish our objective: to offer readers ideas that blend news, analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political and social gamut.
Over the course of 2019, we analyzed and opined on a broad array of topics related to politics, current events, culture, finance, technology, national security, health and wellness, international and domestic affairs, the arts, and more. In total, we penned 47 articles. What did we get right? Where did we come up short? Which articles elicited the most positive, negative, and impassioned responses etc.?
Whenever we received an approximately equal amount of critique from the left and right, our take was that we had fulfilled our objective of promoting the ideals and tenets of the center. We were extremely pleased with results of. Many staunch conservatives accused us of being closeted liberals. An overwhelming number of liberals accused us of being a mouthpiece for the right. Hence, our piece on gun control was “on target.” Perhaps not so surprisingly, , proved catalytic for similar responses from both sides. This reassured us that we split the goalposts down the middle on that always controversial issue. We also received equally representative takeaways from , , , , , and .
Our title would suggest that the subject of this week’s piece is former President John F. Kennedy. It is not. The subjects of our 67th issue are former Supreme Court justice, Anthony Kennedy and an important U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision pertaining to the state of Wisconsin’s democratic primary.
While the judges who sit on the U.S. Supreme Court are brilliant legal scholars and accomplished professionals, they like many individuals have a particularly difficult time separating their legal opinions from their own prejudices. Presently, conservatives hold a one seat majority on the Supreme Court. (It is disheartening that we even need to preface this point; judges are expected to be apolitical.) Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh & Clarence Thomas represent the conservative block. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor lean left. Consequently, many important decisions are rendered 5-4, across political lines.
Last week, yet another 5-4 decision was delivered, this time around voting technicalities in the state of Wisconsin. Unless somebody is a legal junkie or political hack deeply intertwined in the nuances of specific states’ voting laws, it would be an afterthought. Unsurprisingly, it went unnoticed in most of the country. However, the case was critical. And is a microcosm of why we desperately need centrist, open minded justices, especially on the Supreme Court.
In plain English, devoid of legal jargon and other overly technical terms, the following is what transpired in Wisconsin: During the state primary, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sought to extend the time that ballots could be postmarked / mailed-in beyond the state’s constitutionally mandated April 7th deadline. The crux of their argument was that voters should not have to risk heading to the polls during the apex of the coronavirus epidemic.
(Crucially worth noting is Republicans generally prefer a lower voter turnout, as it tends to help them in elections. Conversely, Democrats prefer a higher turnout at the polls. The reasons for which go well beyond the scope of this post.)
A district court granted the DNC relief; ballots could be postmarked by April 13th. Unsurprisingly, the Republican National Committee (RNC) sued to block the extension. The SCOTUS took up the case. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the man who succeeded Anthony Kennedy, penned the majority’s 5-4 decision across political lines, in favor of the RNC. To that end, voters in the state of Wisconsin who did not postmark a ballot by April 7th were forced to go to the polls despite the heightened risk of communicating and or becoming infected with COVID-19.
“…when James Madison penned the 2nd Amendment, machine guns, military grade assault rifles & bump stocks – which effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons - did not exist. Hence, we must apply common sense and rationality when applying text written in 1791 to the present.” – TQC
The United States is facing an ideological chasm. We have collectively lost the ability to empathize with anyone other than “our own.” Few issues are more indicative of this and divisive than, the debate about guns in America. The sensible middle where compromise is often discovered has been relegated to irrelevance.
Nobody at The Quintessential Centrist is a gun owner nor do we hunt, shoot skeet, or targets for practice. We do not have any reason to carry weapons for self-defense, though after publishing this article, we might. To have a better appreciation for the plight of gun owners, we interviewed a sampling of them. Some were city dwellers who carried handguns primarily for self-defense and / or target practice. Others were long gun (shotgun / rifle) owners whose primary use was for hunting wild game. We also talked to people who thought guns should be outlawed.
Most gun owners do actually support thoughtful regulation and consistent licensing procedures regarding the purchase, sale and usage of firearms; this was the most surprising thing we garnered from our due diligence . Many are in a moral quagmire, stuck between what they support – thoughtful rules and regulation – and the legitimate worry that any new law that curbs gun rights will set off a cascade of ever more restrictive legislation; with the end game being an outright ban on private firearm ownership.
A minority of staunch gun rights advocates are incorrigible and unwilling to entertain even the most benign ideas pertaining to gun control. This includes weapons that have no practical purpose other than for illicit activities. Most in this camp argue that any new law put in place that regulates and imposes common sense restrictions on gun ownership is a non-starter. Like-minded individuals rebuff any constructive criticism or pushback by labeling their critics “elitists” and other terms purposefully so universal that anybody who wants to, can easily identify with them.
Unsurprisingly, the most ardent, uncompromising pro-gun activists live in rural and sparsely populated suburban areas. In our view, many in this group are neither sensitive enough nor do not properly consider that most violent crimes where a firearm is used are committed in cities. Moreover, that many city dwellers live in fear of violent crime, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks with semi-automatic weapons that can cause large-scale casualties.
Certain anti-gun activists are equally as unreasonable. They refuse to consider anything but a blanket ban on both the sale and possession of all firearms. Arguments are usually general, lack substance and buoyed by misguided statements such as “just get rid of guns” or “there should be no guns.” Many supporters of blanket gun bans are members of the far-left, who claim they are the voice of openness and inclusivity. They argue for social freedoms and ideas - but too often only those ideas that are commensurate with their own - while dismissing their critics as backwards, regressive and even intellectually inferior.
On Monday, May 25th George Floyd – an unarmed black man – was unjustly killed in a brutal example of excessive police force. Mr. Floyd died from asphyxiation after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes – the last two of which Mr. Floyd appeared to be unconscious - while he was on the ground, face down, and handcuffed. The suspected crime: trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase a sandwich. During the ordeal, two other officers, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, also subdued Mr. Floyd. A fourth officer, Tou Thao, secured the perimeter of the scene. Mr. Floyd was not resisting arrest. During the disturbing ordeal, he cried out that he “could not breathe.” George Floyd died at the scene. He was 46 years old.
As of this post, Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Officers Thao, Lane and Kueng were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. All four men are currently in custody.
Before We Opine
George Floyd’s unjust death ignited worldwide protests denouncing police brutality, racism, and other related injustices that blacks in America have suffered and continue to experience. In a short, powerful timeframe, America has reached another important inflection point regarding civil rights.
Unsurprisingly, we’ve witnessed seemingly every major corporation in America, celebrities, athletes, politicians, perhaps even your friends on Facebook etc., dare we say wannabees, who have never paid much attention to social justice, post statements of solidarity and support for black Americans and the nationwide protests (of course, some companies and many people have been active before the fact and consistently so, we are not referring to them). Indeed, we found some “protestors,” particularly a cohort of white ones, were simply doing what is trendy or cool in the moment. They might hold up a sign that reads “black lives matter” and snap a selfie for Instagram, but have little if any understanding, nor curiosity, of what many black people are tired of and frustrated about.
The first and most important part of our due diligence for this week’s post was to make it our objective to engage, listen, and learn. To better understand and appreciate beyond the obvious reason(s), why so many black Americans feel disenfranchised.
Of course, not every black American is the same, has the same experiences, or thinks similarly - (assuming as much would be biased in its own right). That said, an overriding theme that many (legitimate) protestors on the street are trying to convey is: Black Americans are exhausted. Worn-out from the pain, frustration and sense of hopelessness they feel from being disproportionately profiled by law enforcement, subjected to a criminal justice system that is not colorblind, which is unto itself a catalyst that perpetuates a negative feedback loop: arrested, jailed, convicted, sentenced, compromised employment opportunities, lower median income, gutted communities, “food desserts” but liquor stores abound, lack of access to healthcare, lower revenue streams from property tax to support education, etc., that while not impossible, is exceedingly difficult to break.
It’s A Beautiful Day…In Some Neighborhoods
Unfortunately, the experience of George Floyd was not an isolated incident. While racism in America is in a (very) slow non-linear decline, it clearly exists, particularly as it relates to policing. George Floyd’s saga happened to have been videotaped. But we must bear in mind that for every George Floyd, there are thousands of other victims of police misconduct of whom we will never be aware.
In 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took legal action against the state of Michigan for working with Saint Vincent Catholic Charities (SVCC). The ACLU sued the state because SVCC, a faith-based Christian organization that works to match suitable foster and adoptive parents with children who are desperately in need of a stable home, refuses to consider prospective LGBTQ guardians. This year, The Wolverine state capitulated and agreed to stop funding SVCC and related religious organizations.
At TQC, we believe that prospective LGBTQ parents should be able to foster and adopt children. However, our position is that the ACLU’s litigation is wrong. The true subjects of “discrimination” in this case are not prospective LGBTQ parents. Orphaned children or those who have been placed in foster care remain among America’s most vulnerable demographic, more so than the prospective LGBTQ parents that the SVCC and others like it are refusing to engage. These children desperately need to be placed in stable households. The ACLU’s lawsuit neuters an effective agent working on their behalf to facilitate this.
Unfortunately, this case is just a microcosm of a growing trend in America; similar lawsuits have been brought against faith-based organizations throughout the United States for identical forms of “discrimination.”
Even if the ACLU’s case is not overturned, it is worth noting that it won’t materially impact adoption rates in more liberal, secular parts of America. In these states, there are many nonreligious organizations with a mandate to connect children in need with willing guardians, irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation. (A few Christian organizations do in fact place children in nontraditional homes.) We support this as it makes sense: LGBTQ parents are disproportionately willing to foster and adopt children when compared to their heterosexual peers. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, “of the 114,000 same-sex couples raising children in America, 25% of them are bringing up adopted or fostered ones, compared with 3% of heterosexual couples with children.”