Above all else, I love to think.
With over seven years' experience on electoral campaigns, at nonprofits, in public policy, and conducting political research, I've developed novel ways of approaching many of the most pressing philosophical problems of our age.
In the past, I've worked as a spokesperson on a presidential campaign, legislative advisor to a member of the Colorado State House of Representatives, media strategist for a grassroots advocacy organization, and more.
At present, I'm a senior at American University in Washington, D.C., pursuing a double degree in Law and Society and Journalism. My research interests include social theory, the philosophy of law, legislative standing, the medicalization of deviant behavior, and the role the media play in shaping popular perception of law and government.
I was born and raised in Colorado and, although I'm currently living in Northwest D.C., I'm proud to say that my 1985 Honda CB650 still bears Colorado license plates.
"John Skyler McKinley has served the State of Colorado faithfully and distinguished himself as a positive example to the youth of Colorado.
His civic contributions include assisting members of the Colorado General Assembly, extensive work for Colorado non-profits, and bringing new voices into the political conversation through pioneering work in new media.
Mr. McKinley has demonstrated extraordinary leadership for his age by leading important election efforts, even before he himself was of voting age.
The members of the Colorado House of Representatives hereby express our gratitude to J. Skyler McKinley for his service to the state of Colorado and wish his many years of continued success."
-- The Sixty-seventh Colorado General Assembly,
May 10, 2010
The American University, Washington, D.C.
School of Public Affairs: Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society (Concentration in the Humanities)
School of Communication: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (Concentration in Print and Digital)
2010 -- Present (3.98 GPA)
American University Undergraduate Law Review: Senior Editor (Jun 2012 -- Present)
American University School of Communication: Dean Search Committee (Sept 2011 -- Apr 2012)
State of Colorado: Notary Public (Commissioned May 2011)
New Media Strategist
Great Education Colorado
Denver, CO Jul 2009 -- Sept 2010
Colorado State House of Representatives
Denver, CO Jan 2009 -- May 2010
Project New America
Denver, CO May -- Sept 2011, 2012 & 2013
Stan Garnett for Attorney General
Denver, CO May -- Aug 2010
Jason Bane for Jefferson County Commissioner
Jefferson County, CO May -- Nov 2008
National Media Director
Mike Gravel for President 2008
Nationwide Jan 2007 -- May 2008
Deputy Campaign Manager
Bob Murphy for Lakewood Mayor
Lakewood, CO Jan -- Nov 2007
Kerr v. Hickenlooper, on the docket in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, is fascinating in both its political and jurisprudential explorations of republican principles, federalism, and direct democracy. Its smattering of thirty-three named plaintiffs -- including Colorado legislators, municipal officeholders, and citizens -- ask a federal question in alleging that the 1992 TABOR amendment to the Colorado Constitution violates the United States Constitution's Article IV, Section 4 "Guarantee Clause" because it "deprives the state and its citizens of effective representative democracy, contrary to a Republican Form of Government." A "Republican Form of Government," the plaintiffs argue, can only be attained if the Colorado General Assembly preserves the power to tax and raise revenue -- a power stripped from the legislature when voters approved TABOR and arrogated that authority to themselves.
No matter how fascinating the constitutional inquiries behind this case may be, those inquiries will never be fleshed out -- or even discussed -- if the Kerr plaintiffs lack standing to pursue a remedy in court. The American doctrine of standing is best distilled as "whether a plaintiff is the right person to bring a given issue before the court." Indeed, because Article III of the United States Constitution confines the courts solely to the examination of cases or controversies, standing is of paramount importance in assuring that the judiciary resolves "a personal injury that is particularized...and concrete." The positive implications of this restriction, and as a result, contemporary standing regime, seem rather obvious: To be effective, the judiciary must be able to resolve a specific injury for the injured party. Otherwise, what stops the courts from examining "philosophical disputes, beauty contests, or questions of foreign policy?" The initial question in Kerr v. Hickenlooper, then, centers not on TABOR or the Guarantee Clause, but rather on whether or not the plaintiffs have standing to seek remedy in the courts.
In their complaint, the Kerr plaintiffs first contend that standing is established because they are all "citizens of the State of Colorado and have rights protectable under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution...including the right to a Republican Form of Government and therewith to a legislative branch with the power to tax." This particular argument is doomed from the outset, especially in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife (1992). Writing for the majority in that case, Justice Scalia took special care to stress that the Court has "consistently held that a plaintiff raising only a generally available grievance about government -- claiming only harm to his and every citizen's interest in proper application of the Constitution and laws, and seeking relief that no more directly and tangibly benefits him than it does the public at large -- does not state an Article III case or controversy." It is impossible to misread Scalia's univocal proscription on general citizen standing, especially as it applies to this case. While plaintiffs as "citizens of the State of Colorado" may indeed have an interest in an purse-empowered legislature, that interest is patently not justiciable -- it is nothing more than a "generally available grievance about government" and therefore cannot confer standing. If the Kerr plaintiffs relied solely on their credentials as Colorado and United States citizens to gain access to the courts, there is no question that their case, however compelling, would be summarily dismissed.
It is absolutely critical to note, of course, that the Kerr who lends his last name to this case is an elected member of the Colorado General Assembly, serving in the House of Representatives since 2006. Representative Kerr is joined by 16 other elected officials, three of whom are also sitting members of the General Assembly. By virtue of their elected titles, Plaintiffs maintain that they have a special "direct and specific interest in securing to themselves...the legislative core functions of taxation and appropriation." Holding office, Plaintiffs argue, confers standing in this case because TABOR has caused particularized and concrete injury to their otherwise Constitutionally assured abilities as policymakers. It is because lawmakers alone can "claim to be...directly or significantly aggrieved by TABOR," that the question central to justiciability in Kerr v. Hickenlooper must be broadly restructured: Do legislators have standing to challenge laws through the judiciary?
At the core of Karl Marx's seminal socio-economic theory is one simple observation: Modern capitalism has created a class conflict between two groups -- the bourgeoisie, empowered by its control over the market and means of production, and the powerless proletariat, oppressed and exploited by the bourgeoisie in an effort to acquire capital. In their own social observations, both Frantz Fanon and Simone de Beauvoir set forth a parallel dichotomy between an oppressor class and an oppressed class. Indeed, all three theorists observe class struggles in which those oppressed are defined by their relationship to the oppressor.
In his writings, Karl Marx takes special care to stress that there is a common thread running throughout the entirety of human history. Every era of society can be characterized by the class struggles contained therein. For Marx, these struggles are the result of natural human inclinations: the individual will organize into groups with other individuals. Under capitalism and Modern Industry, these groups become classes -- and social and political structures form -- in relation to production. The class which controls the means of material production, then, is also politically empowered to establish and enforce its particular ideologies upon the class which does not. Under capitalism and the money system, Marx believes, simple economics are responsible for the splintering of society into two distinct classes: the property owners and the propertyless workers over whom they exert economic and idealogical control. The interests of these two classes are diametrically opposed -- the property owner must exploit the labour of the worker class in order to turn a profit. Capitalism only serves to benefit the oppressing class at the expense of the oppressed class.
Because the oppressed worker does not own the product of his labor, Marx believes, the laborer is estranged and alienated from his work. Labor is only alien to the laborer, however, because the product of that labor is in fact owned by somebody else, the oppressive capitalist. In fact, Marx contends, the laborer's estrangement from his labor spawns from the fact that he is only able to define himself in relation to the "other" man who owns the property over which he toils. Perversely, the oppressed and estranged proletarian is entirely dependent on his oppressor in order to live, for he can only survive if he works and can only work if he allows himself to be subjugated by the bourgeoisie. So too, however, is the bourgeoisie reliant on the proletariat for its own success and for the very survival of the market system: labor is a commodity critical to the production of goods, and as a result, critical to the advancement of bourgeoisie interests. The bourgeoisie, then, creates, sustains, and subjugates the proletariat in order to thrive in the marketplace.
Marx also observes that the oppressed class, by the very nature of its oppression, is subject to the idealogical will of its oppressor. Indeed, because the bourgeoisie is able to exert economic control over the proletariat -- because, of course, the proletarian depends on wages to survive -- the bourgeoisie is also empowered to institute political and social policies that advance bourgeois interests. These policies do not stand to benefit the oppressed class. Rather, culture, tradition, and the law are designed by the bourgeoisie in order to extend the power and success of the bourgeoisie and the bourgeoisie alone. In short, barring a revolution, the proletariat's lack of economic power will always result in its wholesale exploitation and subjugation by the bourgeoisie. Under capitalism, then, and indeed under any society marked by class antagonisms, Marx believes the oppressor will continue its reign of oppression until revolution shifts the social order.
Emblazoned atop the right hand column of the Los Angeles Times' September 24th edition, the headline introducing correspondent Paul West's report on early voting in the 2012 campaign offers readers a telling glimpse through the lens with which the paper analyzes the election: "Chase is on for the early voters." The piece, which runs the entire above-the-fold length of the paper's front page, makes no mention of the issues driving Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to seek the presidency. It makes no mention of "policy problems, leadership traits, policy debates" or anything else that voters value when choosing their next president. Instead, the entire story's take is dripping with the "game" schema, advancing the journalistic belief that "politics is a strategic game." Voters' ability in many battleground states to cast ballots early, West writes, is "altering the calculus of the presidential campaigns." A quote from a Republican spokesman confirms this strategic shift, noting that ballot-chasing has become "a campaign within a campaign." His counterpart within the Obama camp agrees, stressing the importance for Democratic supporters to vote early so that resources can be "focused more efficiently on election day." West also includes commentary from an expert, Paul Gronke of the Early Voting Information Center, who notes that early voting has created a "danger period for candidates...three to four days before the election" when a campaign should be rounding up early, mail ballots which have yet to be cast.
In Out of Order, Thomas Patterson bemoans just how prominent the "game" schema has become in modern political reporting. A candidate's every action on the campaign trail, he writes, is interpreted by the press in accordance with how it will ultimately affect his or her shot at the White House. Policy papers, campaign speeches, and public appearances are important not because they paint a broader picture of a candidate's profile as a whole, but rather because of their day-to-day and minute-to-minute implications for the race at-large. West's article, then, carries this schema to an extreme: The game itself, not the statements, actions, and decisions which ostensibly affect the game, is now the story. Under the "governing" schema with which voters evaluate the candidates, it makes no difference whether or not "Republicans have stepped up their early voting game." Nor are voters influenced by the fact that "early voting could mute the boost from a positive event." West, however, wasn't motivated to write a story about campaign ballot-chasing in order to better inform the electorate about either candidate. Rather, early voting strategy is novel because it's a dramatic development which will ultimately set the stage for future campaign coverage. For the media, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are locked in an almost-cinematic struggle to seize the reins of government. That early voting has altered their respective strategies is important to the press only because it affects the arena in which that battle plays out.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with West's piece on its own. Although early voting won't impact how voters feel about either candidate, it has shifted the nature of political campaigning in America. That's notable enough to warrant media coverage, perhaps even the front-page ink it was awarded in the Los Angeles Times. At issue, then, is the fact that West's game-centered story represented the majority of coverage the Times allotted to the presidential campaign in its Monday edition. West's article occupied not only premium front-page real estate, but also a full page spread on A7. There was little else in the entire newspaper in the way of campaign reporting, aside from an AA2 story headlined "Romney, Obama duel in separate interviews aired on '60 minutes.'" While that piece touched upon each candidate's positions on issues relating to domestic and foreign policy, it focused primarily on the strategy guiding those positions. The entirety of the Times' print campaign coverage on Monday, then, was developed with use of the "game" schema. It doesn't end there. The Los Angeles Times published 89 stories -- both in print and online -- about the presidential campaign between September 17th and September 24th. Of those, only 15 discussed the candidates and their positions without also making reference to attendant strategic implications. Of the remaining 74, 15 stories assigned game-centered importance to each candidate's political profile -- a piece about Romney's take on domestic energy production, for example, began with a strategic reference, "Mitt Romney will try to regain his footing in the presidential campaign this week by highlighting specific proposals..." A whopping 59 stories made no mention of the "larger interests [the candidates] represent" or "the broader political forces that shape the campaign." Instead, the Times published explorations of how much money Mitt Romney raised at a Beverly Hills fundraiser, Hank Aaron's endorsement of Barack Obama, Paul Ryan's bill of health, and more. Indeed, in a week's worth of campaign coverage, only 17% of Times political stories featured information that voters, through interpretation with the "governing" schema, can use to inform their opinions about either candidate. That's testament to both Patterson's prescience and the fact that political coverage has changed dramatically since he wrote Out of Order 20 years ago. For the media, governing is on its death bed. Long live the game.