Austin Peterson’s Narrow Path to Becoming Missouri’s Next Senator

By Alan W. Cohen

Three days after Josh Hawley announced his bid for the Republican nomination for senator to oppose Claire McCaskill in the Trumpland known as Missouri, mainstream news organizations were already measuring his chances for victory in the general election. For more than a month after Austin Peterson announced his bid, those same news organizations claimed no one had emerged on the Republican side to challenge McCaskill. It was if he were never there, that he did not exist. And that is exactly where Mitch McConnell and the mainstream media want him.

Yet, Judge Roy Moore’s victory in Alabama gives Peterson hope. McConnell and his cohorts in the Establishment outspent Moore in their primary by more than ten to one, attempting to whitewash him as anti-Trump, while at the same time claiming their establishment clone, Luther Strange, was a Trump supporter. They didn’t fool the voters, and Moore won handily thanks to help of Mark Levin and his fellow conservatives. Alabama is much like Missouri in one respect. Donald Trump won the state by double digits. And, in its Republican primary, Alabamans continued a two-year wave of anti-establishment fervor in voting against Strange as much as they voted in favor of Moore. Of course, Moore, a highly controversial figure in his willingness to take a stand in federal government overreach, was a well-known public figure.

That is Austin Peterson’s first big problem. Name recognition. Yet, being known is not enough. It is what he is known for. Peterson not only needs to be viewed as a valid candidate, but as the anti-establishment candidate. Historically, Peterson is facing the same dilemma as the Founding Fathers. He is up against steep odds, facing a vastly organized and heavily financed machine bell bent on keeping him irrelevant.. Heck, a St. Louis County millionaire kingmaker selected Hawley as the establishment candidate in the public square at least a month before Hawley even formed a committee.

Peterson must draw on true Conservatives like Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and especially Steve Bannon. Yet, they have limited resources and are not going to waste their time and money on someone who cannot win. He must have develop a winning strategy. So here is my proposed gameplan for Austin Peterson:

  1. Go on the offensive against Hawley immediately. Unlike Strange, who was already a Senator, Hawley is not that well known himself, having won only one statewide election. Poll the Republican electorate and get a pulse on how the electorate feels about Hawley. I am willing to be that there is no opinion at all. Thus, the time will be ripe to paste him with the reputation of being the insider. Two years ago, former Democrat pollster Pat Caddell saw the anger of the electorate, and predicted Trump’s victory on Fox News on a weekly Sunday evening show on a regular basis. McConnell and the establishment still don’t get it. They are beholden to their donors and disdain their voters. Bob Corker spoke for all of them. They hate Donald Trump. When Josh Hawley took up the mantle of the establishment candidate, he could very well have doomed his candidacy. It is up to Peterson to attack this weakness, and, in doing so, create his own name recognition as the candidate willing to slay the lion.
  2. Be the Conservative. Peterson needs to paint himself as a combination of Missouri’s favorite Senators, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Paul is the smart one, the tactician that was the architect of President Trump’s new Obamacare cutbacks. Peterson is a brilliant scholar, but being brilliant is not enough. Missouri Republicans must view him as the savior, a Swamp drainer, a person they can truly trust to keep their promises. Missourians are very aware of pretenders like Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse and Bob Corker. Be Mike Lee. Be Ted Cruz. Be Rand Paul.
  3. Avoid the Libertarian Label. Even though Conservatives like Sean Hannity proclaim themselves as Libertarians, voters see it as a negative when it comes to politics. Two years ago, I attended the Libertarian Party statewide event in Columbia expecting to find hundreds of fellow thinkers, only to find a dozen attendees, most focusing on the legalization of marijuana.  That’s how Missourians see the Libertarian party. Peterson has already begun the process in establishing himself as anti-abortion. But that is not enough. Missourians are common sense Conservatives who care most about their pocketbook and their personal freedom.
  4. Be a Common Man. Missourians feel much like those Jews in Anatevka in Fiddler on the Roof.  When asked about a prayer for the Tsar, the rabbi thought and said: “God bless and keep the Tsar …. far away from us!” So, for Peterson, my advice is keep it simple. You are anti-government, especially anti-federal government. Be that person, not the esoteric thinker who wrote policy papers. We all know that you would best Josh Hawley in an IQ test. But Hawley is a great pretender, a man who was able to reach enough voters to obtain the Republican nomination for Attorney General in the last election. And, again while few people even know Josh Hawley, fewer know you. Thus, while Hawley has already donned the label of the establishment, you have time to go out among the people and be that common man. Sean Hannity likes to say that the last election was about the forgotten man. Be the savior. Listen to farmers and ranchers as well as city folk. Talk the talk. Listen and learn.
  5. Avoid Roy Blunt. Talk about your insiders. I met Roy Blunt’s father more than 35 years ago when I was a journalism student at Mizzou and he was campaigning in a highly Democrat district that was my beat. I followed his career closely, and then of his son. Greene County Republicans protect that name regardless of insider status. No doubt that he will endorse Josh Hawley and support his nomination. But Roy Blunt is not that popular outside of Greene County, and his coattails are highly suspect. Nevertheless, crossing him is a very bad idea. So the best choice is to ignore his existence.
  6. Take Advantage of the McCaskill plan. In 2006, Claire McCaskill rode the wave of Obama supporters to a narrow victory. In 2012, she was supposed to be done, a supporter of Obama, a left-wing extremist in a right leaning state. The Republican field was full of possible contenders and was Nixonest in her thinking, taking out all but the one that she wanted to run against, Todd Akin, an uncouth redneck who was susceptible to the attacks from her friends in the left-wing media. His comments on abortion and rape ended his bid, and he became the butt of jokes nationwide. As soon as  the donors chose Hawley, she went on the offensive against him. She will ignore you because she thinks, as the establishment does, that you have no chance. And there is little to gain by attacking her directly. Just focus on Congress and the establishment and how they don’t care about the common man, how Hawley will only be another crony. Missourian’s know that McCaskill and how her clan got rich on the taxpayer’s dime, how she is corrupt. Save that for the general.

So good luck Austin Peterson. I look forward to meeting you at the Student’s for Liberty conference on October 14.

Alan W. Cohen is a retired attorney and author. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and the Washington University (St. Louis) School of Law.  His books include (2017) Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce and (2015) America Solved: A New Family for the 21st Century.

Previous blogs:

How the Conservative/Libertarian Media Revolution Can Save America from McConnell and his Washington Cartel

Health Care Compromise: Exempt States with 6 or Fewer Insurers

Three Important Lessons I Learned From Mark Levin’s Rediscovering Americanism

Memo to Mark Levin: Article V Convention of States Has One Big Caveat


Trump Travel Ban Highlights Political Conflicts Inside American Judicial System

By Alan W. Cohen

During oral argument today, May 8, 2017, before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, one judge asked the ACLU attorney a basic question that pretty much goes like this: If Hillary Clinton had won and issued the identical order, would that order be constitutional. His answer was telling. Yes, of course it would. But this one is not because of comments made by Donald Trump during the election.

Huh? In my 25 years of law practice, and the multitude of oral arguments at the appellate level, this was a first. Judges are to interpret statutes as written, and, only if there is an ambiguity, do they go further to seek the intention of the legislature. Here was a law in place in the 1950s, used many times by many Presidents, including the second most liberal in history, Jimmy Carter, to ban certain foreigners from entering the country. That is the plain language of the statute. It gives the President not discretion, but absolute authority, to exclude entry from the United States he deems is a threat to national security. Period. There is nothing new here.

Yet, it’s not surprising that the judiciary does what it wants to do on an almost daily basis, each knowing that the legislature is pretty much powerless to stop them from interpreting laws however they wish because a higher court, not the elected officials who drafted the law, had the final say. That is our history. In our Mother Country, law was judge created, and opinions of judges were used as precedent, and ironically, permitted a final appeal in the House of Lords. In France, law was always statutory, and the judges were to follow that strict construction of the written language. America began as a judge driven law and gradually morphed into a statute driven law, all while giving to the judiciary the final say on how that law was to be interpreted.

While there are countless examples, nothing better explains it then the treatment of the Fourteenth Amendment. As Mr. Justice Hugo Black once wrote, Congress explicitly passed the Amendment to nullify an 1833 Supreme Court decision excluding state and local government from constitutional scrutiny as it pertained to fundamental rights. Under that ruling, states were free to establish religions, and violate the fundamental freedoms that had agreed to in their compact, those God-given rights to pursue happiness stated in the Declaration of Independence. But when the matter came before that same Supreme Court just a few years after the passage of the post-Civil War Amendments, the Court decided that no, it didn’t, that, despite its clear language stating otherwise, it was just and anti-slavery amendment. As a result of this judicial overreach, our nation endured almost a century of court authorized religious intolerance and racial bigotry, not to mention gender bias.

So when we complain about activist judges seeing everything through a prism of political party, why should we be surprised? That is how the ACLU could argue that if a Democrat issued the same order it would be valid, but since it’s a Republican, it’s not. That is why the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will almost assuredly strike down the ban, not for any legal reason, but because it was issued by a Republican. Based on today’s oral argument, despite that glaring admission from the ACLU attorney, this case can go either way. We just have to determine the political leanings of its court members. The law be damned.

Alan W. Cohen is a retired attorney, blogger and author. His new book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce is available at Amazon.

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New Copy of the Declaration of Independence Brings Out the Crazies

By Alan W. Cohen

There is no doubt that certain people in high places want to cast doubt on anything that is America, particularly our founding. But this latest pronouncement coming from two Harvard professors is over the top nuts.

You may have heard on the news that someone in Great Britain discovered a parchment document purported to be an original copy, meaning a true hand written copy of the Declaration of Independence. Assuming that it is a true document, and no one has explained how it could be a true document, what is different from the original? Are there passages different? No. Does the document contain different words? No. Did different people sign the document? No.

So what is the big deal? It turns out that the order of signatures are different. So what? We all know how the Declaration came to be. Continental Congress met and each colony voted. The Declaration went through the mill until all thirteen colonies voted to consent. So, now two Harvard professors are claiming that there is some special meaning to the order of the signatures. In the original, the signers were organized by their newly founded states. In this new copy, they are randomly signed. Before getting into the weeds of what that difference might signify, lets imagine that this document is authentic. How would it have come about? After signing the original, the Continental Congress needed to spread the word, and that required copies. Since no copy machines were then available, scribes copied the document by hand, and then asked the signers to redo their respective John Hancocks. Therefore, there was no purpose behind the order of signatures for the copies. The scribes probably had to chase down the signors, who just signed somewhere on the page.

But two Harvard professors have declared some hidden meaning behind this difference, that it must mean that federalism is a fiction. Alas, the Founders signed as one nation, not as a collection of states. And,  your point is? Doesn’t the Constitution begin We the People of the United States? Of course, it is from the people. The Declaration itself is about alienable rights and the pursuit of happiness, not of the states, but of the people who live in those states. Those same people divvied up authority between the federal and state governments, reserving those inalienable rights for themselves.  That is what we call federalism.

I am beginning to wonder what they are smoking at Harvard.

Alan W. Cohen is an author and blogger, retired from the practice of law after 25 years. His new book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce is available on Amazon.

Read Past Blogs:

I Have Come to Praise Bill O’Reilly, Not to Bury Him

Three Important Lessons I Learned from Georgetown Professor Randy Barnett

Easter Message: Why Religion is Vital to Maintaining Our Liberty

Can Millennials Save Marriage in America? Studies Say Yes.

Syria Bombing: Why History Trumps Libertarian Beliefs

With Gorsuch vote McCaskill Confirms She is Not Running for Re-election

Susan Rice and Unmasking: Where is the Democrats’ Moral Compass?

Is Hillary the Evil Genius Behind the Trump/Russia Scandal?

Journalistic Ethics is a Myth, Just Like in Any Other Business; Long Live Journalism

Shocker: Sanctuary Cities Now Claiming Federal Funding is an Entitlement

Hear Me Bernie Sanders: There is No Constitutional Right to Health Care

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Why Libertorian?




Three Important Lessons I Learned from Georgetown Professor Randy Barnett

By Alan W. Cohen

The one thing I learned while I was in college was that scholars are pretty much set in their ways, and are rarely open to new ideas, especially if those new ideas challenge their entire way of thinking. At 57, I was pretty set in my ways. I had attended a top journalism and law school, had practiced in my field for more than 25 years, writing and teaching seminars. I thought I knew it all, or at least had a firm grasp. I had just published my book, America Solved, my attempt to reverse the destructive federal  child support policies of the past fifty years.

That was almost a year ago. I had been a converted Democrat, and time had transformed me into a Libertarian, with Reason Magazine as my bible. That is where I learned about Randy Barnett and his new book, Our Republican Constitution, and it was in that book that I learned the three important lessons that would lead me to my book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce.

Lesson One: When in law school, I was taught that the source of fundamental rights was the Constitution. It made sense. We have First Amendment rights to free speech, etc. Yet, as are most Americans, I didn’t quite understand the source of those rights not specifically mentioned, especially the Right to Privacy. Practicing in family law, I relied on two of those rights not enumerated, the Right to Parent and the Right to Marry. I accepted those rights because the Supreme Court recognized them as fundamental, although I held on to the view of Mr. Justice Goldberg that those rights exist in the Ninth Amendment. Randy Barnett taught me, however, that the source of these rights lay not in the Constitution, but what was written in the Declaration of Independence. The People have inalienable rights. They transfer some authority to state government, where their elected servants administer their appointed duties for the public good. The People also transfer some to the federal government, i.e., the Constitution, to protect them from foreign intrusion. But since those rights are inalienable, the People lack the ability to transfer, or give up those rights, and thus any act of state or federal legislatures that violate those fundamental rights is void at is inception. Suddenly, it all made sense. The Bill of Rights does not confer rights. It defends them. Congress shall make no law …

Lesson Two:  Elections are based on majority rule, and it has been drilled into us that the view of that majority that should prevail.  We are constantly bombarded from the left and the right, each claiming that their view is correct because they represent the majority. What I learned from Randy Barnett, however, is it that the Constitution is not We the People as the majority, but We the People as a collection of  individuals. As an amateur historian, I recall the folly of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, based on a theory that one group of people could vote to enslave another.  The same question applies to those majority who would restrict the Right to Marry. In 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court made a finding that marriage in America began as a purely private affair, and then evolved. My book,  Private Vows, answers the question of how that happened. But I could not have accomplished that goal without this lesson that I learned from Randy Barnett. Since We the People is a collection of individuals endowed with inalienable rights, and since one of those rights is the Right to Marry, the People could not transfer to their elected representatives the authority to restrict that right. Therefore, state regulation of marriage and divorce is unconstitutional, as are federal laws that impact the Right to Parent.

Lesson Three: Whether it be the current state action to void the Trump Travel Ban or during the Civil Rights Era, where George Wallace and his fellow segregationists so argued, the idea of State’s Rights always intrigued me. Yet, Randy Barnett taught me that State’s Rights is a fiction. States don’t have rights. The Tenth Amendment recognizes that the people did not give complete authority to the federal government. Elected state officials have authority, and that authority is limited to what is specifically conferred. For Private Vows,  Barnett made me fully appreciate that the Tenth Amendment is not a source of authority for what the Supreme Court as recently as 2013 declared, that domestic relations was traditionally left to the states to regulate. Barnett taught me that tradition is not a Constitutional argument. We have to look to our Founding Documents.  Rather, the Declaration of Independence instructs us that the People have the inalienable right to marry, to parent, and to the Pursuit of Happiness. States do not have the authority to regulate marriage and divorce because the Constitution gives the the People’s elected servants no such authority, and any act to interfere in purely private acts is void at its inception.

Thank you Randy Barnett for teaching this old dog a new trick, and I will be forever grateful. You have given me a greater appreciation of the wisdom of our Founders than I thought possible. My personal goal is to share what I learned from you, and to broadcast it for the better of the people of the United States of America.

Alan W. Cohen is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and the Washington University (St. Louis) School of Law. Now a full-time author and blogger, he practiced Family Law in the St. Louis area for more than 25 years. His books are available on Amazon.

Syria Bombing: Why History Trumps Libertarian Beliefs

By Alan W. Cohen

Presidential adviser Steve Bannon once commented that we Libertarians do not live in the real world. And, from some of the commentary coming out of Cato and other outlets, I can see why he might believe that. More on that later in the week.

Just as we do not believe in the murder of those unfortunate souls that lay beneath those 59 Tomahawk missiles that struck that Syrian airfield Thursday evening, we Libertarians believe in the Constitution first and foremost. Yet, just as murder must be justified in times of war, we must look past our immediate regrets for the President taking unilateral action to send a message to the world.

In 1916, an infamous German chemist convinced himself and the Kaiser that he could end the bloody stalemate at the trenches with a new weapon. The gas attacks that followed were as horrid as they were ineffective, just as the inventor of the machine gun had believed a quarter century before. Yet, while millions of young men died on Flanders Field and all across Europe after blindly going over the wall, it was the gas attacks, not the machine gun that stuck in the world’s collective consciousness. Poison gas was banned by all civilized nations, and it remains so today, just as they have banned torture. Hitler employed poison gas in his Final Solution. It is the weapon of cowards and barbarians, not to be tolerated. Ever.

Thus, when President Trump had a visceral reaction to the pictures of children going through that unspeakable torture, it was understandable. Yet, history is bigger than that. Barrack Obama appeared to morph into Neville Chamberlain in his passive approach to hostile extremism, the Iran Deal being his biggest contribution to receding American power. Just as Chamberlain believed you could make a deal with the Devil, Obama, Susan Rice and John Kerry were convinced they could deal with his minions, and were equally naive. As late as this January, Obama and his acolytes were praising themselves for ridding Syria of chemical weapons.  This is the world that Donald Trump inherited.

Thus, while just as Christians and Jews must go against their religious teachings to wage war, Libertarians must recognize there is an exception to every rule. Evil exists.  It is the job of the President to protect us from that evil. If Trump’s message has a positive impact on protecting our liberty, then we can justify that limited military response. But Rand Paul is right. We must not tread further. Be wary of the war mongers, and remember our past mistakes. Like the Constitution, it is a very delicate balance.

Alan W. Cohen is a retired attorney and author. His most recent book, Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce is available on Amazon.

Memo to Austin Peterson: With Gorsuch vote is #FireClaire McCaskill Confirming She is Not Running for Re-election?

By Alan W. Cohen

How would you like to be the Democrat senator in a state that has a veto proof majority Republican legislature, a newly minted Republican governor, and voted for the Republican for President by a double-digit margin?

Welcome to the world of Missouri senator Claire McCaskill. In 2012, McCaskill trounced Republican Todd Akin 54.7 percent to 39.2 percent, while Romney won the state by a margin of 53.8 to 44.4 percent. In an article she penned for Politico in 2015, McCaskill explained how she, in Nixon-est fashion (Richard, not Jay), was able to manipulate the process to run against who she believed to be the weakest opponent:

“I began to consider whether it would be useful to help Akin spread his message, keeping in mind that he was the weakest fundraiser out of the three potential nominees.

Akin’s track record made him my ideal opponent. Many of his votes in Congress contradicted his claim of being a fiscal conservative. While he opposed President Barack Obama’s authority to raise the debt limit, during the Bush administration, in 2004, he had voted to raise the limit by $800 billion. A vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s stimulus efforts, in 2001 Akin had voted in favor of a $25 billion stimulus package that mostly benefited large corporations and the wealthy. And he was a big earmarker: in one fiscal year he sponsored or cosponsored $14 million worth of pork and once sought $3.3 million in a special appropriation for a highway near nine acres he owned and was planning to develop. While opposing spending money for child nutrition programs, veterans’ health benefits, and disaster relief, he repeatedly voted to raise his own salary.

His extreme positions on social issues and ridiculous public statements made him anathema to many independent voters. He sponsored an amendment that would define life as beginning at conception, thereby outlawing common forms of birth control. He voted against repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” legislation. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, he stood on the House floor and asked for God’s help in keeping the nation from “socialized medicine.””

That was the past. In 2012, voters continued to adore their Democrat governor, Jay Nixon, who balanced out the state legislature that was becoming increasingly Republican. McCaskill, who battled cancer in 2016, will have no such ally this time around. That is why her vote to support the filibuster of Judge Gorsuch was so telling. She could easily have joined Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another Democrat senator from a Trump loving state. Her vote would have been meaningless in the overall scheme. Yet, she chose to join with her Trump hating colleagues to shown disdain for a moderate, highly qualified candidate. And, its not like she is worried about getting “primary-ed.” There is no Democrat that would challenge her, regardless of her vote. Her seat is vital to the Democrats. And, thus, McCaskill doesn’t have to worry about funding.

So Claire McCaskill, facing an embarrassing defeat, must be planning on retiring, leaving the Democrats to draft the once popular Jay Nixon to take on an unknown Republican opponent in a very red state.

Alan W. Cohen practiced law in the St. Louis area for more than 25 years before retiring. He is the author of Private Vows: The Case for Ending State Regulation of Marriage and Divorce and America Solved: A New Family for the 21st Century. Both are available on Amazon.


Please email Alan W. Cohen directly at