DeconstructedFeb 23, 2022
Bill Shireman Believes We're All 'In This Together'
Bill Shireman, founder of In This Together, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss the divisive political environment within which we find ourselves... and what can be done about it. Mr. Shireman is an author, social entrepreneur, environmental policy innovator, and serial political activist. He is the President and Founder of Future 500, a non-profit that strives to build trust between companies, advocates, investors, and philanthropists to advance business for the common good... as well as the surrogate founder of BridgeUSA, a youth-led nonprofit organization that creates spaces on high school and college campuses for students to have an open discussion about political issues. He also ran in San Francisco’s most recent primary for District 17’s State Assembly seat... as a Republican... which means he is an eternal optimist.
Senator Brian Jones: Against the Odds but for the People
State Senator Brian Jones joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss California politics. Senator Jones represents the 38th District that covers the vast majority of San Diego County. He previously served six years in the State Assembly before being term-limited under California law and also served as a member of the Santee City Council both before and after his term in the State Assembly. He currently is the Vice Chair of three Senate committees and sits on four other committees as well as five Select committees. Senator Jones is also in the minority in California as a registered Republican.
In the California Senate, there is a supermajority of 31 Democratic Senators and only 9 Republicans. Perhaps he is used to fighting the odds as there was a supermajority of 60 Democrats versus 19 Republicans and 1 independent in the State Assembly. Yet, he continues to make progress.
Senator Jones talks about the camaraderie in the Senate. While the Parties often disagree on bills that are before them, he speculates that 70-85 percent of Democratic bills that pass do so with some level of Republican support. Of course, he notes that 100 percent of Republican bills that pass do so with Democratic support because, otherwise, the supermajority could quash anything tendered by his Party.
Last year six of Senator Jones’ bills passed and five were signed into law by Governor Newsom. Interestingly enough, the one that was vetoed by the Governor had the most union support and was sponsored by the SEIU. This year has been even better with nine bills being passed by the State Senate to make it to the Governor’s desk; two of which have been signed.
T.J. asks what tends to slow down or kill bills. Senator Jones explains that special interest groups are most frequently the cause. If a bill doesn’t fit their agenda, they try to suppress the legislation.
T.J. then brings up the Senator’s short videos called, Are You Kidding Me. The Senator explains the humorous origin of the videos and his commitment to not only exposing some of the dysfunctionality of what is happening at the State level but also potential solutions.
The two then engage in a discussion of the hidden taxes that often arise because of bills that make it through the process. Senator Jones raises the recently passed minimum wage law that requires food service workers to receive $22 per hour in wages as an example. He notes that the cost will undoubtedly be passed on to consumers. He also cites the surcharges that are included in every utility bill that go unnoticed by taxpayers as well as the $1 per gallon gasoline tax that the State collects. Coincidently, with regard to the latter, a rebate check will be sent to California motor vehicle owners just before the November election... except in the case of some active-duty military personnel.
Senator Jones is a strong environmentalist, but a realist as well. He talks about the ongoing movement to ban gas stoves in all new construction and the highly publicized mandate to only allow the sale of EV cars by 2035. He speculates that there will soon be a legislative attempt to move the EV mandate to an even earlier year.
The Senator cites that one of the problems is how California determines who is an “effective” legislator. He suggests that the parameters make little sense.
T.J. queries the Senator about crime (including the $950 theft allowance), homelessness, and California’s public education system... all of which are spiraling out of control. Senator Jones addresses each issue describing their cause and the possible solutions. Listen to hear his assessments and determine if they align with yours. If so, Senator Jones is up for re-election this year.
Are You Politically Ignorant, Rationally Ignorant, or Actually Informed?
Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University and the author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to examine the reality, scope, and impact of political ignorance. Professor Somin is a broadly published author and political commentator whose work has been featured by virtually every major media outlet both in print and on the air. His book provides a deep dive into the sad state of voting in the United States and what, if anything, can be done about it. For those of you who have worked hard to “Get Out the Vote,” this is an eye-opening interview that puts things in a proper perspective.
T.J. opens the conversation by joking that, while his guest has done extensive research on the subject of political ignorance, he could have saved time by simply “reading a few conflicting posts on social media.” Professor Somin describes social media as “just the tip of the iceberg” when it comes to political ignorance. In fact, he points out that many people who engage in political discussions on social media may have a deeper awareness of what is transpiring politically than the average voter. However, they may also be far more biased.
Professor Somin defines “political knowledge” and contrasts it with “political ignorance” to provide a clear line of demarcation. He then shares some frightening examples of just how politically ignorant the majority of voters may be. To add a little “icing to the cake,” he also shares what type of non-related events often dictate who wins a local or state election.
There are characteristics that increase the probability of someone casting a vote, but they have little to do with whether that vote will be even remotely “informed.” However, do not despair. Professor Somin explains why there is an argument to be made for “rational ignorance” (i.e., the potential to influence the outcome is not worth the investment in time). He also shares a theory that suggests that political ignorance is okay because voters can leverage shortcuts to gather a superficial level of understanding of the candidates and issues (a theory in which he does not believe).
T.J. thinks the second segment of this interview is one of the most important that has ever aired on Deconstructed. In it, Professor Somin makes a series of extremely important analogies that compare partisan voters to sports fans. From a love for their candidates and commitment to their Party’s positions to a dislike and, in some cases, an absolute hatred of anyone and everything related to the opposing Party. T.J. thinks every partisan voter should listen to this segment and do some soul searching to determine how well the fan analogy describes the way they feel and behave when it comes to political issues.
Professor Somin also examines the impact of opinion leaders in the media. He describes why they are held in high regard by their audiences but probably shouldn’t be. In effect, they are a source that satiates the confirmation bias of a particular Party’s “fans” but offer less in the way of legitimate insight.
Then, T.J. asks what can be done to overcome the impact of political ignorance. Professor Somin describes the power of “foot voting” (moving to a different local, state, or even national jurisdiction). He also cites the advantage of curbing the size of the federal government to heighten the value of foot voting.
In the closing moments, Professor Somin reviews the flawed “restriction of the franchise” method that some theorists support as well as an innovative approach involving paying voters to increase their knowledge that he finds to be worth considering.
If you’re smart, you will take the time to listen to this interesting conversation. If you’re not, feel free to just cast your vote... like the vast majority.
The Justice Party Spreads The Seeds of Grassroots Politics
Ross C. Anderson, known to most as “Rocky” Anderson, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about politics and the Justice Party. Mr. Anderson served consecutive terms as the 33rd mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, from 2000 to 2008. Upon leaving office, he founded High Road for Human Rights that now functions through the Justice Party, which he helped form in 2011. In 2012, Mr. Anderson served as that Party's presidential candidate, drawing attention to issues that the major Parties were ignoring.
Mr. Anderson, who had been a life-long Democrat, begins by describing why he left that Party. At one point, he had been a Democratic nominee for congressional district in Utah. His relationship with the Party began to unravel after he argued on behalf of same-sex marriage only to have 20 Democratic colleagues hold a joint press conference to distance themselves from his position. He describes his disappointment and what he believes needs to happen to affect real change.
TJ raises an issue both he and Mr. Anderson ran on in 2012 that remains a focal point for the Justice Party: systemic corruption. Mr. Anderson cites the corrupt campaign finances, which neither major Party is willing to address. He shares why he believes a movement, similar to the Civil Rights movement, will be required to force change in this area. He also addresses the favoritism the major Parties show toward the financial industry. He talks about various aspects that led to the economic collapse our country suffered in 2008... and how the financial institutes were afforded a bailout while the victims were left homeless.
The two then shift to a discussion about how the Justice Party is different from other Third Parties. Mr. Anderson describes how the Justice Party does not require a singular allegiance. You can join the Party and remain a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green or other Party member if you choose. He also describes that the Justice Party’s focus is on issues such as universal healthcare, a higher minimum wage, the end of government abuses such as warrantless surveillance, the end of presidential-made wars, and the end of financial corruption (as he previously addressed), just to name a few. It is all about organizing grassroots activism.
If the Justice Party were to run political candidates again, Mr. Anderson stresses that it would be to raise political awareness to get people on the same page, and then organizing and mobilizing them. He shares a fascinating example of a march that took place in Salt Lake City years ago; how it took place versus how it should have taken place. In his opinion, it’s not about voting for politicians until you elect someone who will do something; it’s about joining together to create a level of public pressure that will force the changes we need.
Mr. Anderson also says that, even if the Justice Party does run candidates, it will never allow them to serve as a “spoiler.” If it appears that certain candidates might split the vote in a meaningful way (i.e., Ralph Nader in 2000), they will be required to withdraw from the election.
TJ then raises a question about the student debt issue that is of a growing concern. Mr. Anderson talks about the underpinnings of the problem. He describes how federal legislation was passed that made student debt non-dischargeable in bankruptcy... and who voted for that change and benefited from it. What he reveals might shock you. He also describes what other countries are doing in the area of education.
Transparency International U.S. Shines a Light on Corruption
Scott Greytak, Director of Advocacy for Transparency International U.S., joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about that organization’s war on corruption. Transparency International U.S. (“TI U.S.”)is part of the world’s oldest and largest coalition against corruption with national chapters in more than 100 countries. Its purpose is to “give voices to victims and witnesses of corruption, and work with governments, businesses, and citizens to stop the abuse of entrusted power.”
Mr. Greytak describes the type of transnational corruption his organization addresses, which involves the use of public power for private gain. He cites the backstory behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine as an example. Defining that country as a kleptocracy, Mr. Greytak explains how Russia privatized many of its public industries and assets after the fall of the Soviet Union. This led to the creation of a class of billionaire oligarchs who profited by “pilfering from the Russian state.”
Then, Mr. Greytak talks about how the Russia-Ukraine conflict has places a spotlight on how the United States and other countries have been complicit in allowing Russian wealth to be taken from that country and placed in financial safe havens around the world and particularly in the West. He explains how TI U.S. is committed to exposing and shutting down the loopholes that have been exploited to move those funds (estimated to $300+ billion). When TI U.S. is able to accomplish its goals, it can identify where the money has gone, reclaim it for the people of the country that has been wronged, and to hold their leaders accountable for their transgressions.
T.J. notes that Transparency International also focuses on election integrity and asks what TI U.S. is doing in that regard. Mr. Greytak explains that the U.S. office supported the Freedom to Vote Act that unfortunately did not make it through the United States Senate. It is also supporting a conflict of interest bill that is directed at creating greater transparency of congressional members’ stock holdings, and it is working to boost whistleblower efforts that help expose corruption.
Mr. Greytak compliments some of the work that the media has done to create an awareness of what contributes to the kleptocracies that have arisen across the globe. He specifically talks about the Pandora Papers, an exposé created by hundreds of journalists across the world that examined the practice of moving and hiding enormous sums of money through various financial vehicles with the purpose of avoiding taxes, ownership visibility, etc. He describes those he calls “the enablers” of corruption, which includes U.S. accountants, lawyers, and corporate information agents who help the kleptocrats exploit loopholes that permit money laundering. They are rapidly becoming a target of TI U.S., and Mr. Greytak gives the example of two Russian kleptocrats who have recently been caught.
T.J. then raises the issue of government seizures. He asks if there is any audit trail to make sure that such seizures are not, in and of themselves, subject to corruption (i.e., Where exactly are those 185 foot yachts that we hear are being seized, going?). Mr. Greytak talks about the Global Magnitsky Act, which permits the freezing of assets and the revocation of visas. He points out that the United States has a strong body of law that protects against unjust seizures. He also notes that the Biden Administration is pressuring to accelerate the ability to apply such powers, but TI U.S. does not want to “cross the line” in a way that would lower the United States to the same type of behavior his organization is trying to prevent.
One Nation, Under Control, with Liberty and Reason for all
Brian Mistrot, Founder and President of One Nation Movement, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about his new political organization. Mr. Mistrot has an interesting background in politics. In 2015, he founded a political Party known as American Moderates. Then, he merged it with other established Parties from across the nation to form the Alliance Party, which is now the fifth largest political Party in the country. After serving as that Party’s National Chair until late 2019, he left to rally other activists to form One Nation Movement.
Mr. Mistrot is quick to point out that his new organization is not a Party, nor does it endorse candidates or other Parties. As a 501(c)(3) organization, it is precluded from doing so. Instead, it is an organization that tries to articulate issues, identify solutions, and direct them to the attention of an extremely limited target market.
The leadership team of One Nation Movement is composed of several nationally recognized conservative leaders. The movement targets the five-to-ten percent of registered, center-right Republicans who are believed to be “persuadable.” While this may seem like it has an innate bias, Mr. Mistrot explains why its focus is not. The organization’s goal is to address three primary issues: (1) Democracy (voting integrity); (2) Climate Change; and (3) the National Debt. Its premise is that these three issues impact everyone regardless of political affiliation, and there are rational solutions that merit better messaging.
Mr. Mistrot describes One Nation Movement’s position on each of these critical issues. His organization is not structured as a “think tank.” Instead, its messaging is crafted upon positions developed by partner organizations that offer expertise in these areas. The key, as he describes, is organizing a following with whom the solutions can be shared; the One Nation Army as he describes it. If One Nation Movement is correct, targeted voting blocks can be swayed to select better candidates and stances on the issues, which will create a better outcome for all Americans.
Mr. Mistrot debunks the thought that there was measurable fraud in the 2020 presidential election. One Nation Movement’s messaging tries to arm its “Army” with information that supports that. He gives several examples of how the election was challenged, how those challenges were tested, and what the results of those tests were.
He also addresses Climate Change using data from organizations such as NASA. One Nation Movement’s position is that there is no doubt that Climate Change is real and significantly affected by human behavior and global industrialization. Correspondingly, it delivers that message clearly to its target market.
While time did not permit a “deep dive” into National Debt, Mr. Mistrot touched upon the size of the challenge and the critical need to address it.
He also shared the organization’s nexus with The Lincoln Project and how One Nation Movement is designed to use the same approach and tool set that garnered success for that organization.
The interview provides a fresh perspective of a segment of conservative politics that does not default to extremes. Instead, One Nation Movement exclusively interacts with malleable voters who are open to innovative ideas and solutions. Given the normal approach of the Parties that panders to hyper-partisan positions whose success is measured by how loudly and angrily they can be argued, it will be interesting to see whether this organization can have a more fruitful impact
Front and Center with the Common Sense Party of California
Michael Maxsenti, co-host of the podcast Front and Center with Steve and Michael and an advisor to the new Common Sense Party of California, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about the podcast and the novel new party that is trying to shake things up in California. Mr. Maxsenti is a political activist who has been at the forefront of a number of initiatives designed to overcome the political divide. Along with his political interests, he also brings a strong business perspective having enjoyed a distinguished career prior to his involvement in the public sector.
Mr. Maxsenti begins by describing the purpose of Front and Center with Steve and Michael. He shares how the first nine shows focus on principles that can create unity without uniformity, unity with diversity, and an environment in which we can move from an age of separation to an age of reunion. He then describes how the show is now evolving into exploring political initiatives with people and organizations that are working toward similar goals. Tom Campbell, Founder and Chair of the Common Sense Party of California, became the podcast’s first guest with that shift in focus.
After discussing Mr. Campbell’s background, Mr. Maxsenti provides an overview of when and how the Common Sense Party of California came to be. He tells the story of how he became affiliated with the new Party and ties it to something he observed Elon Musk do to successfully disrupt markets as well as a Buckminster Fuller quote that inspired him. Listen to learn how those pieces fit together.
Mr. Maxsenti goes on to provide insight into why the Common Sense Party of California was formed, and how it centers around principles without requiring its members’ and candidates’ commitment to a specific orthodoxy. He explains why that is important and how the input of members will be instrumental in the party's direction.
When T.J. presses him on how it differs from other emerging and existing third parties, Mr. Maxsenti describes the party’s initial focus on California as opposed to the national stage. That allows the party to capitalize on certain structural differences that California offers such as term limitations and Top Two Primaries. He explains how those two elements in particular can jump start the party’s statewide impact in a way that can serve as a model for others.
T.J. then asks about the party’s candidate pool. Mr. Maxsenti describes the party’s focus on candidates who align with its principles even if they may not align with all of its members’ generally embraced positions. He also explains another major point of differentiation. The Common Sense Party of California will not only endorse its own candidates, but in races in which it doesn’t have its own candidate, it may endorse other candidates who reflect the party’s principles but may be running under the banner of another party. Learn why that may become a particularly important part of the party’s strategy.
Front and Center with Steve and Michael is a unique type of podcast, and the Common Sense Party of California certainly fits that same mold. There is much to discover about both. Listen to the show, and you will have an excellent starting point to evaluate whether they “speak to you” in a way that motivates you to get involved.
It’s Not A Nightmare If You ‘Wake Up to Politics’
Gabe Fleisher, the founder of Wake Up to Politics, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about delivering political news in a meaningful and unbiased way. Mr. Fleisher is a bit of a political prodigy who became interested in politics during the 2008 presidential campaign at the age of six. Three years later, as a more experienced aficionado of the space, he launched a newsletter that first reached an audience of one (his mother) but now starts the days of over 50,000 subscribers in every state and dozens of countries.
Wake Up to Politics is a quick and easy daily read that gives you all the essential facts you need to follow American politics… without any partisan bias or opinion. Mr. Fleisher (now a student at Georgetown University) explains how the newsletter is structured in segments that are designed to keep people informed of what is happening each day. He describes how it first addresses a single critical issue in slightly more depth, and then, provides insights into various policy issues before evolving into a glimpse of the day’s calendar for various political leaders. He ends the newsletter with a section called, “Before I Go,” which lightens the mood with a brief overview of something meant to bring a smile to his readers’ faces. The stories are all supported with links that allow interested individuals to easily seek additional details if they choose to do so.
T.J. mentions some of the political leaders that Mr. Fleisher has already interviewed (a diverse group that includes President Biden, Speaker Pelosi, Senator Cruz and Paul, and former Secretary of State Clinton) and asks him to share what those experiences were like. The two also discuss the time Mr. Fleisher “scooped” The New York Times and The New York Post on then-NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to run for President; a journalistic coup that also earned him an interview with the mayor.
T.J. then asks Mr. Fleisher to project what may be important stories in the areas of immigration, foreign policy, and the economy. The Administration’s announcement of discontinuing Title 42 tops the list with respect to immigration, the Russia/Ukraine conflict, China, North Korea’s missile testing, and the Iranian nuclear negotiations arise in the discussion of foreign affairs, and inflation looms large with regard to the economy.
Near the end, Mr. Fleisher shares how he thinks younger generations may view politics. He doesn’t pretend to speak for everyone but rather provides some insight into how “hate speech” regulations and censorship on social media platforms may impact political feelings.
Listen to hear what Mr. Fleisher has to say… and then, consider whether you would like to Wake Up to Politics.
Former Comptroller General David M. Walker Spends Time on the Economy
The Honorable David M. Walker joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss our country’s foreign and domestic economic challenges and President Biden’s proposed budget, and he certainly has the background to do it. For nearly ten years, Mr. Walker served as Comptroller General of the United States and head of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) under Presidents Clinton and Bush (43). In addition to serving these appointments for Democratic and Republican Administrations, he also received nominations from Presidents Reagan and Bush (41) for other appointments and was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate each time (as he was for Comptroller General).
The discussion begins with Mr. Walker commenting on recent revisions he made to his 2020 book, America in 2040: Still a Superpower? He shares why he thinks our Nation’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will accelerate the challenge that China presents. He also addresses why he predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine after the Winter Olympics (which came to pass) and his related concerns about China doing the same with regard to Taiwan.
For Those Who Like to ‘Tangle’ with Politics and Media Bias
Isaac Saul, the founder of Tangle, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about Tangle and media bias. Mr. Saul is an experienced political reporter and an accomplished journalist. In 2016, he was named by Yahoo News as one of the 16 people whose writing shaped the 2016 election, and in 2020, Forbes Magazine recognized him as one of the 1,000 “upstart entrepreneurs redefining the American dream.” His newsletter and podcast, Tangle, is an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported newsletter that provides balanced insights into major political issues in an effort to combat media bias.
Mr. Saul suggests that most political reporting today has a slant, lacks context, lacks transparency, and fails to answer fundamental questions that readers want to know. That paradigm drove him to create Tangle.
He describes Tangle and the format that separates it from the pack. It covers the biggest political news story of the day in a unique way – by providing a range of excellent sources from the Left, Right, and Center so that readers can form a more informed opinion. He also includes a section called “My Take” that allows him to provide his own, unfiltered thoughts on the issue not to convince, but to distill the facts in a less argumentative way.
Tangle’s uniqueness doesn’t stop there. It also has sections that answer readers’ questions, “A story that matters” that covers a major story that’s being drowned out by media clickbait, a “Numbers” section that shares the most interesting numeric data from the last 24 hours, and a feel-good story under “Have a nice day” to “wash it all down” as Mr. Saul likes to describe it – all in about a 10-15 minute “read” because he knows your time is valuable.
Does Mr. Saul occasionally make a mistake? Of course, but he posts corrections at the very top of the page on the very next day. When was the last time you saw a publication do that?
T.J. then begins asking questions about a particular article about media bias that Mr. Saul wrote. The two explore whether the media is as biased as people like to suggest and, if so, what impact it has.
Mr. Saul describes elements of bias that exist and what may have fostered them. Some are systemic and have been embedded in the field of journalism for years. However, some are far more recent and have been enflamed by our Nation’s expanding political divide. He provides a recent and disturbing example of how two of the most elite newspapers shaped the exact same story in ways that might make one suspect they were describing two different incidents on two different planets. It offers a glaring example of why single-source news can lead to wildly skewed thinking.
If you see value in responsible journalism, you will see value in Tangle. Listen to the interview and then visit the website to begin to experience what political journalism should be.
Migration: A way to escape government barriers inside and out
Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University, and the author of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, joins host T.J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to explore migration between cities, states, countries, and even within the private sector to escape government barriers, overreach, and oppression. Professor Somin is a broadly published author and political commentator whose work has been featured by virtually every major media outlet both in print and on the air. His new book dissects migration at every level and the value it can bring.
Mr. Somin provides a succinct definition of what he means by “foot voting,” which is essentially as it sounds: improving one’s ability to favorably impact his or her life by moving to a more promising location or investing in an outside service. In his opinion, the less restrictive the regulation of movement, the better.
It is an interesting discussion about a serious issue in today’s world, particularly as the refugee issue is about to explode because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As a side note: Professor Somin has “put his money where his mouth is” in a very positive way. He is donating fifty percent of the proceeds of his book sales to support a refugee fund. Pick up a copy if you would like to help the cause.
Deconstructing Nonpartisan Reform with NANR’s Exec. Director
Andy Moore, Executive Director of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers (NANR), joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss that organization’s progress toward attaining nonpartisan reform. Mr. Moore serves as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma, and he is also the founder of Let’s Fix This, which is focused upon building civic engagement and power for political reform.
Given Mr. Moore’s diverse educational background (BS in Psychology, Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Studies), T. J. asks what attracted him to the world of political reform. Mr. Moore references his natural interest in helping people and the shocking regulatory obstacles he observed his clients encounter when trying to access the public programs they needed. While trying to resolve the systemic issues, he witnessed a budgetary crisis in his state and questioning what caused it. When it became clear that the root cause was government dysfunction, he formed Let’s Fix This to get citizens more involved. It was through that organization that he began to work with NANR and ultimately became its Executive Director.
Mr. Moore describes NANR’s role as that of a trade association: a group that connects other reform organizations, leverages resources, and shares best practices. NANR does not try to promote itself or endorse any specific reform. Instead, it supports reform in the abstract and provides tools for the organizations (big and small) that are trying to achieve it.
T. J. asks for examples of the types of issues that NANR’s members are pursuing. Mr. Moore discusses the members’ interest in open elections that result in majority outcomes. He describes the challenges that close primaries present and how plurality voting often results in a choice between the lesser of two evils. NANR’s members are working to assure that independents have a say in primary elections and that alternative voting processes like Top 5 and Ranked Choice Voting be used to drive more representative results.
Mr. Moore also discuss election reforms that expand access to voting. He cites the need to assure that every eligible voter has an opportunity to cast their vote. While citing that some states are headed in a positive direction and others are not, he talks about specific elements that can contribute to a more accessible ballot box.
T. J. asks about gerrymandering, which has been prominently in the news. Mr. Moore describes what is transpiring and draws a distinction between what the politicians and Parties want versus what the people want.
The two then examine one of the more challenging issues that NANR members are pursuing: a potential constitutional amendment to drive campaign finance reform. For example, Mr. Moore speaks about an initiative that would override the United States Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United and thereby prevent corporate money from flowing into the political arena in a manner that can potentially disrupt election integrity. T. J. asks if there is a parallel concern over union donations since neither a corporation nor a union can ever accurately reflect every single employee’s or member’s position to which Mr. Moore gives an inspiring response.
If you have concerns over the current state of our Nation’s elections and how the process needs to be changed to expand access and protect its integrity, you need to listen to this show. Then, get involved
‘Toppling the Duopoly’ through practical political reforms
Shawn Griffiths, National Editor of the IVN Network and the host of Toppling the Duopoly, joins T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss voting rights, presidential debates, and electoral reform from a practical perspective. Beyond his responsibilities as IVN’s National Editor, he also is an election reform expert who collaborates with the leaders of related movements from across the nation.
After a brief discussion of some of the subjects and guest that have been featured on Toppling the Duopoly, Mr. Griffiths dives into the world of voter rights. He speaks about the recent attempts to pass the Voting Rights Act at the federal level and some of the inherent challenges of trying to affect comprehensive reform. Beyond the constitutional challenges, he explores why these issues are better left to the states to resolve.
T. J. asks about some of the more common and controversial issues that arise in any discussion of voting rights, including Voter ID and Early Voting initiatives. Mr. Griffiths explains how the former is often misunderstood and misrepresented. He cites the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform that reached a consensus on the need for Voter ID and how to address it back in 2005. Of course, those bipartisan recommendations have fallen by the wayside in favor of the hyper-partisan positions to which the parties cling today.
Mr. Griffiths also addresses T. J.’s question pertaining to Early Voting: “When is “early” too early?” The two discuss the pros and cons of Early Voting and the direction it has been heading.
Then, they explore the Republican Party’s recent consideration of requiring its presidential candidates to pledge not to participate in any debate hosted by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Mr. Griffiths provides background on the history of the CPD, how it came to be, and why the Republican Party’s action just might help correct what has become a dysfunctional system… or destroy it.
In the final segment of the show, Mr. Griffiths responds to a question about the Electoral College. Some people think it is fine just the way it is while others think it should be replaced by a direct democracy. Mr. Griffiths explains the pros and cons of both schools of thought and then offers a better approach.
Sit back and enjoy a balanced discussion based on Mr. Griffiths’ deep understanding of the issues surrounding election reform. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
Is ‘Democracy At Risk’? Joe Trippi Shares His Point of View
Renowned democratic strategist Joe Trippi joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to explore a variety of critical political issues. Mr. Trippi brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the show. He has worked on many Presidential, Gubernatorial, and United States House and Senate campaigns and has been a regular commentator on a wide variety of network news and opinion shows. He is currently the host of That Trippi Show and recently joined The Lincoln Project, which is usually cast as a conservative organization.
T.J. leads with a question about the upcoming midterm elections. Mr. Trippi warns against viewing 2022 “as a fight between Right versus Left or Republicans versus Democrats.” He believes that “democracy itself is on the ballot.” He cites his belief that former President Trump is leading an anti-democracy movement and that the traditional Republican Party no longer exists.
Mr. Trippi raises January 6th as an example of the authoritarian approach the former President and his followers will impose on our Nation. He argues that the Republicans in office have been obstructionist to the current Administration. T.J. asks what the distinction is between “obstructionist” tactics and “the Resistance,” and Mr. Trippi responds.
Mr. Trippi also comments that some Republicans hold that “violence may be needed,” which he says is indicative of the threat that Party’s victory would present not only in 2022 but in 2024 as well. T.J. suggests that part of the challenge for independents is that they heard the mantra that “violence may be needed” from the other side of the aisle to justify actions that occurred during the 574 riots in 2021. Mr. Trippi suggests that the threat to democracy is the distinction.
The two then move into a discussion on voter rights. Mr. Trippi shares his view of what might be a reasonable approach to the issue. Some of his suggestions align with his Party’s narrative, but others are reflective of a less partisan approach. He offers interesting positions on same-day registration and Voter ID laws that are worth consideration.
Mr. Trippi provides an interesting example of what may have transpired if then-President Obama had taken action to block the 2016 presidential results. T.J. teases that everyone already knows that Russian interference stole the 2016 election.
The two then discuss the recent challenge to the filibuster. Mr. Trippi argues that all bets are off because, while it worked when there were two ideological Parties, that time has passed. The Republican Party has ceased to exist and given way to a Trump-led group of followers. Mr. Trippi’s position is that Voting Rights cannot be held hostage, so the filibuster must be suspended. T.J. references 2005, when the roles were reversed in a 50/50 Senate with Vice President Dick Cheney commanding the tie-breaking vote and then-Senator Biden excoriating Republicans for suggesting that the filibuster be suspended. He suggests that political flip-flopping disturbs many well-informed independents.
It is fascinating to hear two knowledgeable individuals have a civil discussion about some of today’s most emotionally charged political issues. Sometimes they agree and sometimes they don’t, but they remain completely respectful throughout… just when you thought that was a lost art. Listen to the show to renew your belief that it still is possible.
If You’re Interest In All Sides of an Issue, ‘AllSides’ Is A Good Place to Start
John Gable, co-founder and CEO of AllSides.com and AllSidesForSchools.org, joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss the importance of learning how to reach a factual conclusion rather than a partisan one. In a world in which biased representations often carry the day, these two organizations strive to expose their audiences to a range of opinions.
Mr. Gable begins the discussion with a reflection upon his upbringing as a Republican in the blue state of Kentucky (as it is now and was at the time). Transitioning from his early work with political candidates and organizations, he describes what he experienced migrating to the world of technology in the liberal epicenter of the West Coast. He describes the very few differences he had with his co-workers as compared to what he noticed they had in common. Within that context, he offers another interesting insight into the contrast he saw between San Francisco and a city in Mississippi where he once worked. It may not be what you might guess.
Then, Mr. Gable explains how the idea for AllSides originated. Its premise is that the way society gets its news and information affects the world around us. He suggests that news, social media, and even search results have dramatically changed in the last several years, becoming so narrowly filtered, biased, and personalized that we are becoming less informed and less tolerant of different people and ideas. AllSides was created to present a broader range of views to help us learn to resist any attempts to manipulate our beliefs.
When T.J. asks how AllSides works, Mr. Gable provides an overview of how AllSides literally presents “all sides” of an issue. He describes how his team continually evaluates media sources to determine where they lie on the political spectrum and ultimately assigns a “Media Bias Rating” to each source (i.e., Left / Lean Left / Center / Lean Right / Right). He then explains how they select sources on the Left, Right, and Center for every critical issue. There is no attempt to sway AllSides’ audience one way or the other – simply an effort to expose readers to different points of view to broaden their perspectives.
AllSides even assigns ratings to “fact checking” organizations because, yes, they also exhibit biases. It becomes painfully apparent that “facts” often have little to do with the “checking” these entities provide.
Mr. Gable also discusses the wide range of tools that AllSides offers including “Talks” and a fascinating approach called “Mismatch.” The latter tool leads to a discussion of the unique tools that are available with the affiliate organization AllSides for Schools. That program reaches out to institutes from Middle Schools to Colleges. Mr. Gable shares some of the curricula and practice skill instructions that are available to help bridge the gaps that exist in our education system with respect to understanding fundamental civics, the ability to engage in civil discussions, and the capacity to exercise critical thinking.
T.J. says AllSides is a “go to” website that should be on everyone’s short-list of political resources. If you are serious about arriving at your own informed decision rather than just accepting what the Party or media outlet of your choice decides for you, AllSides is an excellent source with which to begin.
Protests, Rallies, and Insurrections: A Day in the Life of Washington, D.C.
John Daniel Hull, IV, founder and partner of the D.C. law firm of Hull McQuire PC, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to share his political experiences and observations from inside the Beltway. Mr. Hull is a distinguished attorney who, as a Democrat, served as a Legislative Assistant to a congressional Republican before beginning his career as a litigating attorney.
In recent years, his political affiliation has shifted to a more conservative point of view, and he explains what drove his change of heart. He cites the tenor of the media in Washington, D.C. and how it has impacted the way with which events and individuals are often portrayed.
Mr. Hull describes the similarities and differences he personally observed in the Black Lives Matter protests he attended as well as the January 6th rally that served as a precursor to the insurrection at the Capitol later that day. His observations of the attendees and some of the groups that drove the behavior of the crowds are quite interesting in each case. As a former journalist, his “takeaways” are quite compelling.
Then, Mr. Hull does a “deep dive” into “free speech” differentiating the actual element of that phrase and its misplaced use. T.J. quizzes him on “freedom of the press” as well, and he dissects that issue as well.
From Antifa to the Proud Boys, Mr. Hull has had an opportunity to directly observe the behaviors of both and the aftermaths of their actions. He describes what the media reported relative to the facts versus the impact of any partisan spin on national perspectives. Learn how an actual observer evaluates the actions he saw, the people he met, and the way each was presented to the public. Some may be in complete alignment with what you might suspect. Others may stun you with what the genuine details reveal… particularly with respect to the law.
Leave your political biases at the door and enter the world of someone who lives in D.C. and regularly experiences history as it occurs. Then, ask why this isn’t what you may have read or seen from either side of the aisle.
Pledge: ‘I Will Listen First to Understand’
Pearce Godwin, founder and CEO of the Listen First Project and the #ListenFirst Coalition, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss what is driving the political divide and how to fix it. After working for the United States Senate and serving as a national political consultant for presidential and statewide campaigns, Mr. Godwin traveled to Africa with a relief organization to gain a fresh perspective. On a late-night bus trip between Uganda and Kenya, he reflected upon the political vitriol that was transpiring in the United States in contrast to the “incredible relational wealth” he experienced in the incredibly impoverished countries he had been visiting. It was then that he jotted down a few notes on what ultimately evolved into the Listen First movement.
Mr. Godwin’s intuitive sense is that political opponents have far more in common than they might admit. He describes how he settled on the concept of seeking out those who are different from him and to “listen first” before he formed his opinion. He shares how that simple phrase spawned a coalition that now features nearly 400 organizations that are trying to improve our political environment.
Mr. Godwin talks about the mission of the Listen First Project and the principles that drive the initiative. He says the organization is predicated on the belief that “every person has dignity” and should be welcomed with appreciation, curiosity, empathy, and grace. Mr. Godwin also thinks that diversity can be America’s greatest strength if it isn’t used as a political weapon to separate us.
Then, T.J. explores some of the compelling polling data that is listed on the Listen First website. The two discuss what Mr. Godwin calls the “toxic polarization” of America.
Poll results indicate that 87% of Americans believe political polarization is a threat to the country, 66% see the opposing party as a serious threat to the U.S., 42% see the opposing party as “downright evil,” 20% say many members of the other side “lack the traits to be considered fully human,” and 15% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats say the country would be better off if large numbers of opposing partisans “just died.” Think about that.
The polls also give insight into why we have become so politically jaded. They reveal that 77% have few, and 41% have no friends from the other side. Correspondingly, 62% say the political climate prevents them from saying what they believe. So much for free speech.
The good news, according to Mr. Godwin, is that an overwhelming percentage of Americans recognize the need to reduce divisiveness and that there is more common ground among the American people than the news media and political leaders portray.
T.J. asks what people can do to begin to make a difference. Mr. Godwin responds by describing various programs that Listen First offers to bring people of dissimilar backgrounds and beliefs together to learn from one another. Many of the programs have already reached thousands of concerned citizens. Mr. Godwin shares the organization’s vision for soon reaching millions.
“Listen” to learn more about what this movement is doing and how you can become involved. The first step is to go to the website and sign the pledge: “I will listen first to understand.” If you have the courage to commit to that simple step, you will be well on your way to making a difference.
Is The Constitution In Crisis… Or Did It Create One?
Jeanne Sheehan Zaino, Ph.D., joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss the structural challenges of the Constitution that have contributed to the growing political stalemate in our Nation’s capital. Dr. Sheehan Zaino is a Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Iona College and a regular contributor to Bloomberg Television and Radio. She is also the author of several books, including her latest, American Democracy in Crisis: The Case for Rethinking Madisonian Government, which is the basis of the interview.
In Dr. Sheehan Zaino’s assessment, the Framers of the Constitution tipped the scales dramatically toward protecting Liberty as opposed to creating a responsive, effective, and accountable form of government. She discusses the reason for that emphasis and the success it has enjoyed throughout our Nation’s history. However, she also suggests that the effort to avoid tyranny has led to an impasse among our elected officials. No one has enough power to make things happen, and as a result, minority interests are overrepresented, and the will of the majority is suppressed.
Dr. Sheehan Zaino shares her view of how government structure under the Constitution contributes to the quagmire that exists in Washington, D.C. She says, “It’s hard to be responsive to the majority when you can’t form a majority,” and emphasizes that the Constitution was designed to prevent a concentration of power. In fact, its balance of power inhibits the ability to move quickly on critical issues, including those on which the majority of Americans agree (e.g., immigration reform, gun reform, etc.).
T.J. asks whether the issue is only structural or if elected officials also bear responsibility. Dr. Sheehan Zaino responds by acknowledging the personal element but underscores the fact that barriers erected by the structure of our system are critical components. In fact, she opines that the structure itself impedes voters’ ability to hold elected officials accountable. She also emphasizes how often “things only get done” in periods of crisis.
In terms of effectiveness and efficiency, T.J. cites Singapore as an example of a highly efficient and effective government but one that is devoid of a Twenty-Second Amendment. As such, it was ruled for 31 straight years by an authoritarian Prime Minister who curbed a wide number of freedoms and imposed harsh punishments for serious non-conformance. T.J. poses the question, “To what degree should we be willing to give up Liberty in return for a more responsive, effective and accountable government.” Dr. Sheehan Zaino, who is also a pollster, says she would love to conduct that poll as her next project is focused on comparing autocracy to democracy.
The two also discuss the role the Parties play. From a political science perspective, Dr. Sheehan Zaino submits that responsible Parties should be part of the solution. Of course, “responsible” is the operative word. Whether the major Parties qualify in that regard is up for question.
Dr. Sheehan Zaino also reviews the two alternatives within Article V (Amendment) that could be used to address some of the structural issues and the challenges to executing either of them. She also discusses some of the extra-constitutional means that exist (e.g., the filibuster) as well as some specific solutions that should be considered.
This is an extremely interesting and important interview. It provides a point of reference and a point of view that will challenge your thinking. Listen and learn.
Hon. David M. Walker delivers a ‘State of the Economy’ interview
The Honorable David M. Walker joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss a myriad of issues that are impacting the United States’ economy. Mr. Walker is the former Comptroller General of the United States and CEO of the United States Government Accountability Office under Presidents Clinton and Bush (43). Most recently, he served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Economics at the United States Naval Academy. Having worked for presidents of both major parties, Mr. Walker is positioned to provide a nonpartisan assessment of what our nation is doing right and what it is doing wrong with respect to the economy.
The discussion begins with the debt ceiling. What is the potential impact of the debt ceiling, which has become a recurring crisis? Should there even be a debt ceiling, or is there a more intelligent way to address the challenge? Mr. Walker clarifies the issue and offers insight into what could be done to address it in a rational way if our federally elected officials were willing to surrender using it as a political pawn. He also highlights the significant difference between our nation’s funded and unfunded liabilities and provides an example at just how much “debt” each of us technically carries in that regard.
Mr. Walker also examines our interest rate vulnerability and the potential inflationary spiral of the multi-trillion-dollar bills that are pending in the Legislative Branch. He shares his perspective of the pros and cons of the Infrastructure Bill and the Spending Bill that are coming up for votes.
Then, the conversation turns to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Walker talks about the way the vaccination issue has been managed and offers insights into the actual statistics. He also offers suggestions for what might be a more equitable approach that would benefit everyone.
Finally, T.J. asks about Afghanistan within the context of the SIGAR Reports that have been generated by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. While the Special Inspector General was not a direct report to the Government Accountability Office during Mr. Walker’s tenure as CEO, he did have visibility to the reports from 2003 to 2008. He reveals the disconnect between the initial mission in Afghanistan versus the untenable mission into which it evolved. He also evaluates the orchestration of the recent evacuation, including underreported elements such as the “pallets of cash” that were left behind. He also suggests the United States’ international failures predate Afghanistan (beginning with Iraq).
Listen to Mr. Walker’s candid, inside assessment of our nation’s economic challenges: those that occur naturally… and those that the Government manufacturers on our behalf.
(Note: This interview was prerecorded. Prior to publication, Congress may have acted on some of the issues that were discussed.)
Civil Engagement: The Bridge Alliance, Citizen Connect, and The Fulcrum
David Nevins, co-founder and chair of the Bridge Alliance, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss the Bridge Alliance and two of its most ambitious new initiatives: Citizen Connect and The Fulcrum. Mr. Nevins is a very successful businessperson who has always been interested in leadership. That latter passion attracted him to the world of politics, which often fell short in that area.
He recognized the need to bring people together and became a strong advocate for closing the political divide. This led to his co-founding of the Bridge Alliance (along with Debilyn Molineaux) that now represents a coalition of nearly 100 organizations.
Mr. Nevins shares his view of the Five Principles of the Bridge Alliance and the critical role they play in shaping a more diverse and participatory form of political exploration. He describes why the Bridge Alliance was formed and how it has helped fuel the growth of its members.
Then, Mr. Nevins describes one of the Bridge Alliance’s more recent initiatives: Citizen Connect, a non-partisan platform that helps Americans find the civic organizations and events that matter most to them. This unique organization welcomes people from across the political spectrum and helps them find organizations and events that offer a path forward that is consistent with their priorities. Mr. Nevins explains how this portal is designed to make civic engagement as easy, painless, and rewarding as possible for those who participate.
Finally, T.J. asks about the Bridge Alliance’s latest project: The Fulcrum. Mr. Nevins portrays its original role as a platform where insiders and outsiders to politics can become more informed and also meet, talk, and act to improve democracy in a real-world way. From an editorial standpoint, The Fulcrum tries to remove personal bias from its reporting and provide a range of perspectives. It is committed to the challenging job of verifying the accuracy and credibility of all of the information it receives and shares. However, The Fulcrum is in the process of even expanding its role.
Mr. Nevins reveals the emergence of The New Fulcrum that will incorporate elements of pop culture, including all of the arts (e.g., music, theatre, poetry, dance, etc.). While politics can be divisive, the arts will add an element that brings people together naturally. Mr. Nevins suggests that the arts can also bring people together in ways that words cannot.
Joy and hope are often cast aside in the world of political reform. That will no longer be the case if The New Fulcrum has anything to say about it. Listen to the advice and guidance that Mr. Nevins and his initiatives are offering to see if there is an opportunity for you to participate in moving our Nation forward in a way that aligns with your values and interests. Enjoy the conversation.
Candidate John Cox: Why the CA Recall Should Matter to Independents
John Cox, Republican candidate for Governor of California, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss the importance of the upcoming gubernatorial recall vote in California. Mr. Cox was the Republican nominee and runner-up for governor in 2018. He now is involved in a two-step process in pursuit of that same office: (1) Will the current governor, Gavin Newsom, be recalled; and (2) If so, will Mr. Cox be able to defeat the other 45 candidates running for Governor?
Mr. Cox provides the reasons he believes the current governor should be recalled, including numerous socioeconomic conditions that he believes have seriously deteriorated under Governor Newsom’s leadership. He also articulates why he believes he is the best candidate to replace the current governor and why he is best equipped to manage the fifth largest economy in the world.
Mr. Cox describes his background as the child of a single mother who worked his way through college and built a highly successful career as a businessman and entrepreneur. He explains how his humble beginnings, work ethic, and business experience equip him to solve the myriad of problems that define today’s California. He believes that most of the state’s challenges are managerially based as opposed to politically based.
T.J. queries him on California’s business environment, level of taxation, homelessness issue, and educational challenges, and Mr. Cox responds in detail with respect to what is wrong and how he would fix it. T.J. also asks about serious public safety issues such as crime, COVID-19, and natural disasters such as wildfires and droughts. Again, Mr. Cox speaks to each issue and candidly shares what he believes needs to be done to successfully address each of them.
The two also discuss Mr. Cox’s positions on California’s “Sanctuary State” status, immigration in general, whether to fund or defund the police, and the challenges presented by climate change. Again, Mr. Cox responds directly to each question.
The interview provides interesting insights into the recall process as well as the complexities of managing a state the size of California. As an aside, all of the leading candidates, including Governor Newsom, were invited to appear on Deconstructed to address the concerns of independents. Only Mr. Cox accepted the challenge. Listen to become a more informed voter. Then, decide for yourself.
Do You Approve of Approval Voting?
Aaron Hamlin, Executive Director and Co-Founder of The Center for Election Science, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss Approval Voting as an alternative to traditional Plurality Voting and the emerging Ranked Choice Voting system. Mr. Hamlin is a strong proponent of Approval Voting and offers research conducted by the Center along with examples of how it has fared in real world applications.
Mr. Hamlin is an attorney with two additional graduate degrees in the social sciences. He became interested in electoral systems in college when he recognized that his peers were voting on a basis of a candidate’s probability of winning rather than for the candidate whom they truly preferred. He has become an expert in the field and has appeared on national shows and written for major publications while seeking to improve our electoral process.
Mr. Hamlin compares and contrasts Plurality Voting and Ranked Choice Voting with Approval Voting, which expands choices over Plurality Voting while not requiring the diligence of assigning a specific ranking to each candidate as is essential to the Ranked Choice approach. He discusses critical issues such as the simplicity of Approval Voting, ballot spoilage, the risk of ties, and the potential for tactical exploitation; all of which he believes favors Approval Voting. Mr. Hamlin also assesses the impact on Third Parties and alternative candidates, including the visibility that Approval Voting provides and the clarity it reflects in its results.
T.J. asks about voter satisfaction, and Mr. Hamlin weighs in with the feedback that was received from Approval Voting races conducted in Fargo, North Dakota, and St. Louis, Missouri, in recent years. He also shares the results of one of the studies The Center for Election Science conducted with respect to the 2016 presidential election, and the results are extremely interesting.
Listen to the show to become more informed about this lesser-known alternative to Plurality and Ranked Choice Voting. Then, decide for yourself which one you favor.
Teachers’ Union Needs Remedial Classes in Free Speech and Math
Michael Allman and Ty Humes join T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss their experiences serving on the San Dieguito Union High School District’s Board of Trustees. Mr. Allman is an elected Trustee while Mr. Humes was unanimously approved to serve as a provisional appointee to complete the term of a Trustee who had resigned. Within months of the start of their service, both were challenged by the San Dieguito Faculty Association (a.k.a. the Teachers’ Union) – Mr. Allman by recall and Mr. Humes by removal and a call for a special election. It appears that both men had the audacity to cast independent votes that did not align with the Teachers’ Union’s wishes.
While disappointing, their stories are not unique within California school districts. In fact, Mr. Humes was appointed to replace another Trustee who resigned “for personal reasons” after being threatened with a recall by the Teachers’ Union just as Mr. Allman has been. In addition, the Superintendent of Schools resigned during Mr. Humes' first meeting and another elected Trustee is being investigated by the Union to determine whether she meets the district’s residency requirements (after being in office since 2014).
The removal of Mr. Humes was positioned as “procedurally based.” The Teachers’ Union supposedly opposed him because he had not been duly elected by the people even though provisional appointments have been the entire county’s standard operating procedure for years. Mr. Humes describes the vetting process that was taken by the board and the unanimity with which it selected him from among seven candidates. During his brief tenure, he was the first Black member to ever serve on the board of the wealthy and predominantly White school district. He observes the irony of the district’s posting of BLM posters while having no problem with dismissing its first Black Trustee on procedural grounds.
Conversely, Mr. Allman was duly elected by the people. His recall is based on violating the district’s Code of Conduct for purportedly disparaging others during board meetings and on social media. Given a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court about a school district’s right to control speech, one must wonder just how offensive the Teachers’ Union finds Mr. Allman’s selection of words (see MAHANOY AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT v. B. L., a minor, by and through her father, LEVY, ET AL.). Mr. Allman describes what he has said and why he has said it. He also provides evidence of why his voting record may be the real reason for the attempted recall.
The two gentlemen also discuss the “math” issue that hovers in the background. The San Dieguito Union High School District is approximately $14 million in debt. Both men have senior executive experience and think that the district would be best served by pursuing a path of fiscal responsibility. The special election and recall process the Teachers’ Union is pursuing will cost $600,000-$1,000,000+ in funds the district could have applied to teachers’ salaries, student supplies, etc.
In the final segment, Mr. Allman and Mr. Humes share their positions on some of the more critical challenges confronting the district such as the pandemic-related issues (i.e., online vs. in class education; whether masks should be required, etc.). Listen to the discussion and decide whether the best interests of the students and parents are being protected or whether other political interests are carrying the day.
(Note: This program was prerecorded on July 26, 2021. It references CDC mask guidelines that were in place at the time. Those guidelines changed on July 27, 2021, and may change again in the future.)
Is The United States’ Economic Policy Mortgaging Our Future?
Laurence Kotlikoff, a Professor of Economics at Boston University, joins T. J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to examine the past and present economic policies of our Nation. Dr. Kotlikoff is the author of 18 books on economics and is an active columnist for a myriad of publications including Bloomberg, The Economist, the Financial Times, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. He is extremely knowledgeable in the area of political economics having run for president in 2012 and 2016 as well as having testified before Congress on nearly 20 occasions.
Dr. Kotlikoff shares his opinion of what the Trump Administration did right, and what it did wrong with regard to its economic policy. He also provides the insight into what positive changes the Biden Administration has made, and what changes might result in more adverse consequences.
T. J. asks about the impact of the pandemic, and Dr. Kotlikoff responds in great detail. He praises the Trump Administration for its role in accelerating the development of COVID-19 vaccines as well as the Biden Administration for its role in successfully orchestrating the distribution of those vaccines. Then, he does a deep dive into the influence the pandemic and its associated political decisions have had on the economy. He shares his well-informed opinion about the fundament ways in which businesses and educational institutes will have to change, the different recovery paths that are facing displaced workers (at-home versus on-site), and the challenge of providing for the unemployed while not disincentivizing them to re-engage in the job market.
Dr. Kotlikoff discusses the initial efficacy of providing a stimulus checks as well as the future threat that may be posed by continuing down that path. T. J. asks him to address the burgeoning national debt, and Dr. Kotlikoff shares his perspective of how the recovery should be funded as opposed to the way that is being suggested. He also warns of the burden that is being shifted to future generations and why that may not be sustainable.
The two also explore how to improve the healthcare system, what to do about student debt, and whether raising the federal minimum wage makes sense at this time. Even the 15 percent minimum corporate tax proposed at the most recent G7 Summit is dissected.
As the pièce de résistance of the interview, T. J. queries his old friend about Modern Monetary Theory. Dr. Kotlikoff’s answer is a “must hear” moment. Listen and learn.
With Major Parties in Power, ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’
Michael O'Neil, U.S. Communications Manager for the Green Party, joins T.J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss the Party’s past, present, and future. Mr. O’Neil has over 15 years of political communications experience and has served the Green Party in a variety of capacities for the past 12 years, including roles as Assistant to the Campaign Manager for Dr. Jill Stein’s 2016 presidential campaign and co-manager of that campaign's Brooklyn, NY Office. He also performed significant roles for the Party in its 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial campaigns in New York as Downstate Coordinator and Campaign Manager, respectively.
Mr. O’Neil discusses the Green Parties “10 Key Values” with T. J. and provides insight into why each is so vital. He emphasizes why it is critical to for the Party to take a grassroots approach and why our social, political, and economic institutions need to be decentralized if we are to make progress.
Then, Mr. O’Neil dissects HR1, the Democrat’s self-named “For the People Act.” He mentions some of the important elements contained within that bill, but he also reveals the “poison pill” the Democrats included in it to emasculate Third Parties in an attempt to prevent them from being able to compete. It seems as though the major Parties like to compete, but only with each other.
T. J. asks Mr. O’Neil his opinion of the Biden Administration’s position on climate issues within the context of its proposed infrastructure plan, and Mr. O’Neil breaks it down. He offers an amusing description of how Republics and Democrats differ when it comes to climate and rains on both of their parades.
Mr. O’Neil also talks about the recent primary in New York City, which utilized Rank Choice Voting (RCV). He explains why RCV and proportional representation can change the political landscape, empower voters, and attract a new range of talent to run for office.
Then, T. J. queries him on the future of the Green Party. Mr. O’Neil identifies where the Party is heading, names some of its brightest stars, and talks about the focus of the Green Party’s upcoming Annual National Meeting.
If you have any preconceived impressions of the Green Party, this interview sets the record straight. You will learn what the Green Party genuinely believes and why, and you’ll learn about how the major Parties do their best to suppress it along with any other emerging threats to their power. Enjoy the interview and the education.
Native Americans: Perhaps Our Most Oppressed Minority
Jeff Rasley, a committed philanthropist and social activist, joins T. J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss his new book, America’s Existential Crisis: Our Inherited Obligation to Native Nations. Mr. Rasley, the author of 11 books, describes how he was drawn to examine the plight of Native Americans through two unique family ties as well as a visit to the Black Hills.
Mr. Rasley’s ancestry includes a relative who was in command of K Troop for the 7th Cavalry the day it participated in the Battle of Wounded Knee – one of the largest massacres in our Nation’s military history. Meanwhile, his great, great-grandfather was establishing a warm relationship with the Potawatomi tribe, who presented him with a beautiful, beaded vest in gratitude for his helping them survive a particularly harsh winter. This paradox led Mr. Rasley to explore the challenges Native Americans have experienced since that time. He even visited the Black Hills and Wounded Knee to gain a personal perspective, and what he saw was alarming.
What makes his book (and this interview) special is that Mr. Rasley doesn’t just summarize what Native Americans have suffered, he offers solutions. He believes empathy isn’t enough and that a better approach might be “gratitude tinged with regret” to acknowledge and address how we all have benefitted at the expense of Native Americans.
Mr. Rasley discusses the concept of unjust enrichment as a basis for asserting a claim and how U.S. Courts have supported the enforceability of treaties that have been broken in the past. He also describes an approach to resolve past wrongs through principles of cultural sensitivity that he developed to help the residents of Basa (a remote village in Nepal) solve critical infrastructure issues that government efforts had failed to improve. He knows that the past cannot be changed, but he offers hope to improve the future.
While Mr. Rasley recommends the formation of a Victims’ Compensation Fund of some kind, he falls short of fully endorsing reparations. T. J. concludes the interview by reviewing elements of the Native American story that might stand in the way of a reparations argument while joining Mr. Rasley in his hope that we find a way to treat Native Americans with respect and ensure that they are provided with the equal opportunities they have been denied in the past.
Many minorities have suffered inequities in the past. Native Americans may very well be at the top of that list. Listen to the interview to learn more.
Recently Confirmed USPS Governor, Amber McReynolds, Discusses the Mail and In-Home Voting
United States Postal Service Governor Amber McReynolds joins T. J. O’Hara to discuss the challenges of the Postal Service, its role in facilitating in-home voting, and the 2020 election in general. As a former Director of Elections for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and the CEO of the National Vote at Home Institute, Ms. McReynolds is one of our Nation’s leading experts on election policy and administration. She now turns her sights on restoring the USPS to its former level of excellence.
Ms. McReynolds was nominated by President Biden to become an independent member of the Board of Governors of the United States Postal Service. She describes the vetting process that led to her confirmation by the United States Senate on May 13th of this year.
Ms. McReynolds talks openly about the unique challenges the Postal Service currently faces and what she intends to do to address them. She also explains the critical role the USPS played in the 2020 elections as voting was driven toward mail-in ballots due to the pandemic, a trend that will continue to grow as in-home voting becomes increasingly popular.
T. J. questions Ms. McReynolds on her observations about the 2020 elections, both the good and the bad. She talks about the incredible dedication of poll workers under the most difficult of circumstances and encourages everyone to consider working for the polls at some point in their lives.
Ms. McReynolds also offers her views on the assaults on the election system that began to form in advance of November 3rd and continue thereafter. She shares her views of the danger of conspiracy theories, disinformation, and misinformation that readily appears on social media and the impact it has on democracy. T. J. provides an example that suggests that the abuse is not restricted to a single Party but rather represents a tactic that is disturbingly employed by both. Ms. McReynolds agrees and discusses what must happen to correct the problem.
If you have always wondered what a nomination and confirmation process is like for one of the most prestige positions in any President’s Administration, Ms. McReynolds provides a glimpse into that world. If you care about election access and integrity, Ms. McReynolds addresses that as well. Enjoy the interview and gain real insight into what makes our system work.
The People’s Party: Trying to Break Away from ‘the PAC’
Nick Brana, Founder and National Coordinator of the Movement for a People’s Party, joins T. J. O’Hara, host of Deconstructed, to discuss the organization’s evolving platform and the progress it is making. The movement seeks to create a major new progressive populist political party in the United States.
Mr. Brana talks about the genesis of the movement and its ties to frustrations that began to arise during Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign; a campaign for which he served as its National Political Outreach Coordinator. He describes the imbalance that continues to exist between Party-favored candidates versus more revolutionary candidates like Senator Sanders.
Mr. Brana also discusses the potential new Party’s commitment to driving “big money” out of politics and representing the will of the people. He talks about populist polling that reflects a strong preference in favor of providing a living wage, universal healthcare, free education (pre-school through college), and access to housing for all as well as an emphasis on addressing the issue of Climate Change. He acknowledges the incredible waste of taxpayer funds that currently exists (at the hands of both major Parties) and how a recovery of those funds, along with increased corporate and private taxes and the elimination of loopholes, can fund the movement’s progressive agenda.
T. J. asks probing questions about how the potential new Party will differentiate itself from other Third Parties and Mr. Brana responds. T. J. also asks about whether the People’s Party has the ability to scale to a point of becoming a competitive alternative in the near-term as well as whether the Party may threaten to fracture the base of the Democratic Party. Mr. Brana offers his opinion on both counts.
Will the People’s Party become a viable alternative to the current duopoly? Can it attract a large enough percentage of independent voters to supplement its base, which has roots in a subset of the Democratic Party? Listen to hear what Mr. Brana has to say, and then, decide for yourself.
Georgia’s New Election Law: Reasonable or Racist?
Shawn Griffiths joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss Georgia’s controversial new election law. Mr. Griffiths is a nationally recognized expert in political reform and voting rights and the host of Toppling the Duopoly, a show that follows the historic movement to give power to all voters, including at the ballot box and in the court room. He is also the editor of the IVN Network where, over the past nine years, he’s covered and published breaking news stories related to reform movements across the country that are focused on creating a better electoral and political landscape for voters
Mr. Griffiths brings well-reasoned insight to the debate about Georgia’s SB 202 (formally titled, the Election Integrity Act of 2021). Contrary to most journalistic coverage, he bases his opinions on having actually read the 98-page bill. He also reviews the starting point for the legislative action, which provides an important context, and he distinguishes between the national narrative and the actual language of the bill as it applies to the state.
Additionally, Mr. Griffiths addresses a wide range of changes within SB 202, including a variety of issues associated with absentee voting, early voting, and the State Election Board. He provides his perspective with respect to whether these changes impact voting rights and election integrity, and if so, how. He also provides an assessment of whether there is any disparate impact on any segment of Georgia’s voter base.
Then, Mr. Griffiths examines the pros and cons of the corporate response that has drawn so much attention (Major League Baseball, Delta Airlines, Coca Cola, etc.). He and T. J. also discuss the impact of the national narrative, including President Biden’s reference to SB 202 as “Jim Crow 2.0 on steroids.” Listen to learn whether bill is best characterized as “reasonable,” “racist” or something in between based purely on the facts.
Critical Thinking and Critical Conversations: Real Political Leadership
County Commissioner Mark Jerrell joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss the challenges elected officials face as they try to expand voter participation, address social issues, and deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two also explore what true political leadership requires and how critical conversations need be entertained to address complex issues like race.
Mr. Jerrell currently represents District 4 on the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners in North Carolina. He is a former Executive Committee member of the Black Political Caucus for which he chaired the Get out the Vote and Legislative committees and co-chaired the Economic Development committee. He also is the former host of Hipolitix, a unique pop culture and political show on which T. J. was a guest numerous times during his 2012 presidential campaign.
Mr. Jerrell talks about the barriers that confront underrepresented voters and his efforts to help them become more actively engaged. Just as that community began to expand its participation in the political process, he notes how it was particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Small businesses were crippled, the issues of affordable housing and homelessness grew, mental health concerns increased, and even the ability to deliver online classes presented problems as many families lacked the necessary Internet connectivity. The Commissioner discusses the delicate balance that is required to address these obstacles and how important it is to think through the solutions to avoid creating new problems.
Mr. Jerrell reveals his approach that leads with data rather than emotion or partisan preferences. However, he points out how critical it is to incorporate empathy in crafting solutions because, ultimately, every solution touches the lives of real people.
T. J. explores a myriad of other issues with Mr. Jerrell that challenge citizens across the country, and the Commissioner shares his thoughts on how to solve them. Listen to the show to learn how the Commissioner has addressed these challenges and how they might help your city and state as well.
Parallels Between the 1918 and COVID-19 Pandemics Are Nothing to Sneeze At
Kenneth C. Davis joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to talk about his book, More Deadly Than War: The Hidden History of the Spanish Flu and the First World War. Mr. Davis is a renowned author and historian whose books are well-researched and extremely informative. His book does a deep dive into the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed more people than World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined at a time when the world was already in turmoil.
Mr. Davis provides insights into how incredibly deadly the “Spanish Flu” was… and how it had nothing to do with Spain. He explains the limitations of science at the time and the global issues that exacerbated the spread of the virus. If you think COVID-19 is a challenge, consider trying to address it in the middle of a world war without even a basic understanding of what a virus actually is.
T. J. and Mr. Davis talk about the remarkable parallels between the last pandemic to sweep through the United States and the current one. Many of the same preventive measures still apply. Mr. Davis discusses the advantages we have today with respect to the available science, the number of doctors, nurses, and hospitals we now enjoy, and the superior communication capabilities we have to enlighten the public. Correspondingly, he exposes the fact that we have also made many of the same mistakes.
One of the more crippling similarities is the exposure of both viruses to political manipulation. Propaganda entered into the equation in 1918 to keep the money flowing to support the war effort. While we are thankfully not experiencing a global war at this time, we did experience the current pandemic during a presidential election cycle. Listen to the interview and form your own conclusions about how COVID-19 may have been exploited for political purposes.
What May Happen if We “Level the Playing Field” in Politics?
Alexandra Shapiro, J.D., and Peter Ackerman, Ph.D. join T. J. O’Hara, the host of Deconstructed, to discuss the incredible imbalance in our Nation’s presidential election that makes it almost impossible for independent and Third-Party candidates to gain any traction with their campaigns.
Ms. Shapiro is a partner and co-founder of Shapiro Arato Bach and has the distinction of being one of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s first clerks. She has served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York and has represented Dr. Ackerman’s interests in a variety of lawsuits against the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on behalf of organizations he has founded to combat the major Parties’ stranglehold on the presidency.
Dr. Ackerman’s pursuit of fairness within presidential and other elections is legendary. He served on the Board of Unity08 to fund independent candidates and then founded and chaired Americans Elect, whose mission was to stage a national online convention to select a nonpartisan ticket for the 2012 presidential election that would be on the ballot in all 50 states. The rules of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), run by Democrat and Republican operatives, effectively destroyed Americans Elect effort to provide a viable alternative by preventing that organization’s ultimate ticket from being included in the presidential debates.
Dr. Ackerman and Ms. Shapiro discuss a number of lawsuits they have pursued against the FEC on behalf of Unity08 and Level the Playing Field (an organization that Dr. Ackerman formed after the demise of Americans Elect) and the uphill battle they have encountered when taking on that agency. The FEC has authorized the CPD to establish the rules of the presidential debates, but the CPD has created rules that essentially bar competition. Listen to learn just how unfair those rules have become and how they are protected to maintain the dominance of the Democrat and Republican Parties.
Dr. Ackerman also discusses Ranked Choice Voting as a critical element to overcoming the duopoly that maintains the status quo in favor of itself. He founded the Chamberlain Project with Cara McCormick, who helped lead the successful Ranked Choice Voting campaign in Maine. Dr. Ackerman discusses why he thinks Ranked Choice Voting may be the key to creating elections that may begin to change the hyper-partisan nature of our government.
The discussion is enlightening and presents a ray of hope for a better political future. Listen to learn how the system has been engineered to provide a limited choice to the people but a consistent source of power for the two major Parties. You will also learn how hard people like Ms. Shapiro and Dr. Ackerman are fighting on your behalf.
‘Unequal’ Justice: Discriminating Against Discrimination
Suja A. Thomas joins host T. J. O’Hara on Deconstructed to discuss employment discrimination law in the United States. She is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois with a research focus on civil procedure, employment law, and the proper utilization of juries. Professor Thomas has published a plethora of scholarly articles and is co-author of “Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law” and the author of another book.
While we can celebrate the election of the first Black, subcontinental Asian, female Vice President, our Nation still struggles with discrimination based on a variety of suspect categories. One would think that employment discrimination law would be well-settled and a foundation upon which to build a better society. One would be wrong.
Professor Thomas provides an overview of Title VII (which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on race, sex, color, national origin, and religion), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act and how those laws are supposed to protect us against employment discrimination. Then, she discusses the harsh reality of how difficult it is to even make it to trial let alone survive post-trial motions and appeals.
Professor Thomas begins by sharing a disturbing example of sexual harassment that almost no one could refuse to acknowledge. Unfortunately, the courts use a framework approach that dismisses a majority of cases before they can even make it to trial. T. J.’s guest shares some of the doctrines and inferences that are used to spare the courts the necessity of giving aggrieved individuals their “day in court.”
This interview isn’t meant to be “good news.” It’s meant to be “reality.” Learn what has happened to employment discrimination law over the years… and what needs to be done to repair it.