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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

For Dreamers. A Temporary Reprieve

On Thursday, the Supreme Court stopped President Donald Trump from inflicting the devastation that candidate Trump had vowed to inflict on 700,000 young immigrants in this country.

This is a temporary reprieve, which makes this another reason why this year's presidential election is the most important one in our lifetime, no matter our age. Casting our vote is our last chance to stop the most dangerous man to inhabit the White House before he burns to the ground whatever remains of the American dream.

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My Mother The Essential Worker

On the eve of my junior year in high school, my mother returned to the job she'd held before she became pregnant with me, at age 19, and married my father, who was also 19.

At age 36, Janey Schultz was once again a nurse's aide at the public hospital in our small town of Ashtabula, Ohio.

Today, we would call her an essential worker.

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Shhh, White People — And Listen

One morning earlier this week, my friend Kate and I were walking through our Cleveland neighborhood when our conversation, conducted at a safe distance from each other, turned to the funeral of Tamir Rice.

Only Pastor Kate would think to remember my story from that day.

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Annie Glenn, American Hero

In 2012, Annie Glenn and I were doing what we so often did, which was to sit side-by-side in a quiet place offstage, waiting for our extroverted husbands to finish speaking to a crowd.

We had been close friends for six years by then. My husband, Sherrod Brown, was running for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Annie's husband — that's how I always introduced him, to his delight — was former senator and astronaut John Glenn, who often joined Sherrod on the campaign trail.

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The Wildflowers Still Will Bloom

My annual order of wildflower seeds arrived in the mail, and I've never been so eager to start something new — something beautiful and immune to the virus taking so much away.

I love reading aloud the names of the flowers that, in theory, will thrive here in northeast Ohio.

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After Three Years, Who Are We Now?

A week after Donald Trump was elected president, writer and scholar Sarah Kendzior, who had predicted in 2015 that he would win, wrote a public letter to the American public.

"My fellow Americans," it began. "I have a favor to ask you. ... I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured."

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Parenting Now

Earlier this week, our daughter Cait texted a photo capturing a moment of her juggling her job and her two young children at home.

At first, I noticed only Cait's hand on the laptop, but as I studied it I saw the reason for snapping the picture. Two-year-old Ela was wedged next to her, her tiny left hand wrapped around her mother's pinky as she typed.

"Working from home," Cait texted, followed by three broken heart emojis. It takes so little for working mothers to feel guilty for wanting more.

For just a moment, I wanted to respond by sending a prized photo from her childhood. In it, I am wearing an old robe and the stare of the sleep deprived as I write on my Smith Corona typewriter with 9-month-old Cait on my lap.

"I know how you feel," I wanted to write, but then I stopped.

I really don't know what this is like for parents like her. This is not my familiar.

All three of our daughters have full-time jobs and two young children at home. Our son has a 12-year-old boy, who is also now spending every hour at home. All of our kids have the spouses you pray for during their dating years. They, too, are working full time from home.

The difference between my generation's working-at-home days and theirs defies all attempts to quantify. We have no idea how long this period of self-quarantine will last for them, and their children.

In the 1980s and '90s, I pecked away at the typewriter and, even in my exhaustion, knew my days would not always be so simultaneously bountiful and hard. Soon enough, I could tell myself, Cait would join her brother, Andy, in school. I would miss her, but work would be easier. I'd have whole days for interviews and writing, and to forge my career.

Our grown kids, and millions of parents like them, see no end in sight. Not only are they trying to be good employees, but teachers for their children, too. Any parents hoping to replicate their children's day care or school experiences are setting themselves up for the battering ram of self-doubt. This is an impossible undertaking, and yet they are taking it on.

I would like to ban, for all time, those pretend perfectionists' social media posts of their well-dressed children learning like little Einsteins at dining room tables. "You lie!" I shouted just yesterday, which startled my husband. He is also working at home. That's another dynamic, for another column.

I told Cait I would never have had the patience she daily shows her children. She scoffed. "I'd be great at homeschooling other people's kids," she said. "My own kids? Oh, Mom."

This was less than an hour after she had finished a conference call and discovered little Ela crammed behind a stack of large boxes next to the TV.

"Mama," four-year-old Milo announced without the slightest whisper of contrition, "I trapped Ela like a fish. She can only have water."

Today, I held two Zoom video conferences with my Kent State students. They were stacked on the screen like celebrity stars of the old Hollywood Squares. I was surprised by my joy at the sight of their faces, the sounds of their voices. Like countless college students across the country, mine have had to overcome so many obstacles to stay in school. And there they were on my computer screen, survivors still.

As I explained to them today, we don't know when this crisis will end, but we can be sure it will change us. This pandemic found us in one place, and it will leave us somewhere else.

One more story about a grandchild, because I'd rather leave you smiling.

Recently, four-year-old Carolyn and her mother, our family's Elizabeth, were walking around the neighborhood when Carolyn passed a dog.

Carolyn loves dogs. She loves to pet them and hug them. She has been known to sing made-up songs to our older dog, Franklin.

This time, though, Carolyn knew she had to keep her distance.

"I can't pet that dog because I have to stay six feet away," she told her mother.

What a mournful pause.

"I wish my arms were six feet long."

I keep imagining that. Our arms malleable and strong as they reach for the people we miss most. We cup their faces. We wrap our arms around them. We do all the gentle things we would have done one more time had we only known what was coming.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "…and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, "The Daughters of Erietown," will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Not This Grandma

My, these aging men with their bright ideas.

First, it was the president, who has been openly contradicting medical experts with his pining for an early end to social distancing. This would threaten the lives of millions of Americans during the pandemic. Oh, well.

As he said, via tweet and at the microphone, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” Every time he says that, I can’t help feeling that women like me — over 60 and eternally over him — are on his checklist of things that can go.

It’s not sitting well, I have to tell you.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on the verge of 70, spelled it out for us in an interview on Fox.

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

He added: “I just think there are a lot of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that’s what we care about. … And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see.”

I don’t know who he’s looking at, but it sure isn’t this grandma to seven grandchildren. I would throw myself in front of a 137,000-pound Montana B-Train to save the life of a grandchild, but I will not risk a single hangnail to rescue corporate America.

Next up: Glenn Beck.

“Where do you stand?” he asked.

Nowhere near you, I answer.

“I’m in the danger zone,” he said on Blaze TV. “I’m right at the edge, I’m 56… So, I’m in the danger zone. I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.”

He added, because there’s always something else, “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.”

OK, Glenn.

I’m sorry these men hate their lives. I can’t name a single grandmother of my acquaintance who wants to throw away her life to save companies like Hobby Lobby, which has insisted on remaining open during this pandemic.

The craft company also told its managers to “make every effort to continue working the employees” while denying those same employees sick leave. Billionaire owner David Green is big on touting his right-wing version of Christianity, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wing of Christianity. She said this after Congress passed the stimulus package:

“I wish that every person in America would subscribe to the fact that science is an answer to our prayers so that we can get through this in a very positive way.”

She’s a grandmother, by the way, and what a fine example she is setting in not volunteering for the Trump-Patrick-Beck cliff leap.

Regular readers will notice that I’ve been quoting poetry a lot in the last few weeks, and wouldn’t you know it? I’ve got another poem. This excerpt is from the late poet Grace Paley’s “Here,” about an old woman watching her old man in the yard:

at last a woman

in the old style sitting

stout thighs apart under

a big skirt grandchild sliding

on off my lap a pleasant

summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard

he’s talking to the meter reader

he’s telling the world’s sad story

how electricity is oil or uranium

and so forth I tell my grandson

run over to your grandpa. ask him

to sit beside me for a minute.

I am suddenly exhausted by my desire

to kiss his sweet explaining lips

Mercy.

Silly old men can cling to whatever economy-themed fantasies make them feel useful in the world.

I’ve got other plans, if God’s up for it. I want my grandchildren to know that for them, Grandma lived.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

When This Ends, We’ll Have Decisions To Make

A favorite book I try never to be without is by the late Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue. It’s on my bedside table, on my Kindle and on the Kindle app on my phone.

One needn’t be Catholic (I’m not) or Irish (I am, but I try not to brag) to appreciate O’Donohue’s calm and reassuring presence on every page of his book To Bless the Space Between Us.

The book is divided into various sections, each one beginning with an essay that leads into a series of blessings. Under the section titled “Beginnings,” there are seven blessings, including “A Morning Offering,” “In Praise of Fire” and “For a New Home.” Eleven blessings are in the section titled “Desires,” including “For Freedom,” “For Eros” and “In Praise of Air.”

His poem, For the Family and Friends of a Suicide, gave me the words I couldn’t find on my own after my brother killed himself last July. An excerpt:

As your eyes strain to sift

This sudden wall of dark

And no one can say why

In such a forsaken, secret way

This death was sent for…

May one of the lovely hours

Of memory return

Like a field of ease

Among these graveled days.

May the Angel of Wisdom

Enter this ruin of absence

And guide your minds

To receive this bitter chalice

So that you do not damage yourselves

By attending only at the hungry altar

Of regret and anger and guilt.

Because this is so often my go-to book when I am searching for reasons why, I picked it up when Ohio started shutting down in efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. I seldom agree with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, but overall, he has been the strong leader we need right now, acting early to shut campuses and schools and countless other places for public gatherings.

If you are physically vulnerable in any way, because of age or medical conditions, or you love someone who is, it is easy to fall prey to the soul-sucking churning of worry and anxiety. Even the toughest among us have our weaker moments as we watch the news get worse and worse. This will get better, but when?

I confess to moments of feeling hollowed out by the need to isolate from friends, colleagues and family members. I miss my husband, who must be in Washington, in the Senate. I miss grandchildren, their scent and their voices, and their wide-eyed wonder, but their parents have rightfully made clear that we must stay away for our own good.

Seldom has doing the right thing for our physical health felt so wrong for our well-being.

Again, I turn to the poet O’Donohue:

You are in this time of the interim

Where everything seems withheld

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

But take heart, he writes.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

When this pandemic comes to an end, we will not be who we were at its beginning. This is extraordinary.

Most of us will survive, and we will have some decisions to make. Will we seek to be more connected? Will we see anew how much we needed one another all along? Will we repair some of the damage we have inflicted on others and on ourselves?

Again, John O’Donohue:

Cradle yourself like a child

Learning to trust what emerges,

So that gradually

You may come to know

That deep in the black hole

You will find the blue flower

That holds the mystical light

Which will illuminate in you

The glimmer of springtime.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Panic, If You Must, And Then Pivot

When is the last time someone told you to calm down, and it worked?

I’m not seeing a lot of raised hands.

Having someone tell us we’re overreacting is annoying and condescending. Infuriating, even. It makes you want to blind them with the whites of your eyes as you lean in menacingly close and yell, “No, you calm down,” preferably in public. (Or maybe that’s just me.) The point is that telling us not to feel what we’re feeling seldom works, and often makes it worse because now we’re angry, too, and that is not a good look on anyone.

I want you not to panic about the novel coronavirus, but I know telling you not to panic isn’t helpful. Too much is happening — and not happening — for us to pretend this is a normal March. You might be scared, and why not? Every news update feels like another cautionary tale.

Change is all around us. The NCAA announced that its basketball tournaments would go on but with no fans in the arenas. Even if you’ve never cared about the NCAA tournaments, it’s impossible to hear that and not think something big is happening. All around the country, concerts, conferences and sporting events are being canceled. So, avoid large gatherings for now.

The president of the United States continues to falsely downplay this health crisis. Fortunately, many state and local leaders are refusing to play along. They are helping us understand there are things we can do in this frightening time to protect ourselves and others. This is the America I love.

We can’t say this enough: Wash your hands regularly, and whenever possible, use soap and water. Public health experts tell us we should do this every time for at least 20 seconds. They recommend singing “Happy Birthday,” twice, before rinsing.

There are plenty of other songs, of course, and whichever one keeps you washing is the one you should be singing. In recent days, I’ve been belting out Ethel Merman’s Still Got My Health. Sing it with me:

The hip that I shake doesn’t make people stare,

But I got such health, what do I care?

The sight of my props never stops a thoroughfare,

But I still got my health, so what do I care?

No matter how often we wash our hands, we should not touch our faces, especially when we’re out in public. This sounds simple enough until you think of all the times you’ve pulled to a stop in traffic and watched the driver in the next lane excavating his nostrils.

That would never be you, I want to make clear, but do think about that guy’s hand touching the door handle you’re about to grab. As I explained to my last class of students before the campus closed down, your face is full of portals. I repeated this to them every 10 minutes or so, after providing another update on how many of them had just touched their eyes, their noses, their mouths. Once a mom…

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many elderly poll workers here in Ohio are opting not to work on Election Day. They are smart to avoid interacting with the public, as their immune systems aren’t as strong as they used to be.

Our secretary of state is calling for replacement workers for our March 17 primary election. Fortunately, Gov. Mike DeWine had asked that all colleges and universities close down and turn to online teaching for a few weeks. Suddenly, thousands of healthy young people are no longer attending classes. Perfect poll workers! What a great way for them to witness firsthand how democracy works and help voting be an efficient and fair process — and a safe one, too, if they remind voters to wash their hands after touching the voting machines.

That’s the other thing we can do right now: Be signs of hope.

Many hourly wage earners — such as clerks, cashiers, hospital aides and restaurant workers — have little or no paid sick leave. They are increasingly at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it because they cannot afford to stay home.

Those lucky enough to hunker down can advocate for people like them. Call and write your members of Congress, daily, and push them to take care of all Americans as we ride out this medical emergency. It’s an election year. Make them fear you.

We need one another. If we act like it, more of us are going to be OK.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

That Not-So-Super Tuesday

Last week, I sat on a stage in front of more than 200 women in Columbus, Ohio, and tried to answer a simple question.

I don't remember exactly how interviewer Angela Pace asked it, but I heard it this way: What do you want your granddaughters to remember about you?

To my embarrassment, my eyes teared up and my voice began to quiver.

It's been such a long three years.

We have seven grandchildren: four boys and three girls. I love them equally, as I made clear that day from the stage. But we were talking less than a week before Super Tuesday, when most political punditry had already congealed around two presumed front-runners, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Elizabeth Warren, the smart, talented, compassionate senator from Massachusetts, was already invisible, right before their eyes. Like millions of other women, I still see her and the hope she always brings with her. It's as bright and crystalline as hydrangeas in the dusk's light, glistening after a soft summer rain.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

My love for my grandchildren keeps my heart on the brink of combustion, but when I think of Jackie, Carolyn and Ela, ages five, four, and two, something else kicks in; I can't deny it. I'm old enough to know which dreams died but young enough to remember when I thought they defined who I — who we — would be.

I try never to lead with my injuries, but it's one thing to work hard to get over a disloyal love. A heart can heal, after all. It's something quite different when the betrayal never comes to an end.

Once again, it seems, we will have to wait at least another four years to see a woman sworn in as president of the United States.

"It's not because she's a woman," people tell me.

"It's because she's that woman," people tell me.

"It's because of Hillary's loss that it feels like a woman couldn't win," people tell me.

You can tell me and you can tell me and you can tell me — but let me tell you: There's not a lie I haven't heard about what a woman can and cannot do. At my age, every act of sexism and misogyny is an encore production.

Jessica Valenti, a brilliant feminist writer two decades younger than me, wrote this after Super Tuesday, for Medium:

"Even just supporting Warren has come with an unbearable amount of misogynist condescension. I'm tired of being told that I'm a single-issue voter because I care about a candidate's gender, even if it's not the only thing I care about. I'm over being made to feel as if representation for half the population isn't a necessary and radical political position. I don't appreciate being told that I'm either anti-revolution because I didn't support Bernie Sanders or unrealistic because I won't vote for Joe Biden. I especially resent the theory being bandied about that Warren somehow 'stole' votes from Sanders; it's nonsense."

If you had told me 20 years ago that we'd still be having this conversation about the limitations of women, the only thing I would have allowed you was a running start to get out of my way. Our daughters aren't much younger than Valenti, which might be why these words of hers took my breath away:

"Whoever the nominee is, their campaign is going to have to come to terms with the intense misogyny so many female voters have dealt with — and understand that it's an issue we care deeply about. And their supporters are going to have to let us be sad — depressed, even — that once again we're going to watch a race to leadership between old white men."

Will we vote for that nominee? Of course, we will, in droves. We love our country.

What do I want my granddaughters to remember about me?

All those little, big things. How much I loved them. How I kept a book of the smart and funny things they said. How I lined our walls with their photos, year after year.

Still, why did I cry?

Maybe it's because I don't take for granted that I will live long enough for them to have many memories of me.

Maybe it's because I hope that, in their toughest moments, long after I'm gone, my persistent opposition to this president's racism and misogyny will remind them that this is who we are, we women in this family.

Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe I cried because I, too, needed a moment to be sad, after all these years.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "…and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

…And His Activist Wife

At one point during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial last month, I ended up sitting in the family gallery next to Jane Sullivan Roberts, wife of Chief Justice Roberts.

Her husband was presiding over the trial. My husband, Sherrod Brown, was one of the 100 senators who would cast a vote in the final verdict.

Follow me, please, down the rabbit hole: This is not the first time I’ve disclosed my marriage of 16 years. Whenever my role as a columnist intersects with Sherrod’s job as a senator, I disclose our relationship. In 2007, Random House published my memoir …and His Lovely Wife. A whole book about my marriage!

Nevertheless, my marital status was a complete surprise to Donald Trump. Makes sense. I’m a woman, and I’m over 30.

Anyway.

In mid-February Paul Sperry, a conservative author and defender of all things Trump, tweeted:

“FYI: syndicated columnist Connie Schultz, who’s slammed Trump as ‘a chronic and unapologetic liar,’ is married to — surprise! — liberal Democrat and rabid Trump-hater Sen. Sherrod Brown.”

Who knew!

Four days later, at 1:21 a.m., the president of the United States tweeted:

“Nice conflict. Brown dropped out of presidential race FAST. Polled at ZERO!”

Sherrod never entered the presidential race, and both our doctor and pastor have confirmed my suspicion that he is not rabid. And he wouldn’t waste his time hating Trump. However, the Yankees?

Let’s move along.

Yes, I’ve said Trump is a chronic liar. As of last December, The Washington Post reported that Trump had made 15,413 false or misleading claims over 1,055 days. If this isn’t a chronic condition, then my asthma of 46 years is just a head cold.

I didn’t see Trump’s tweet about my marriage until I awakened from a night’s rest to alerts from fellow journalists tagging me like tattlers. I love my people.

I thanked Trump on Twitter for proving my point and pivoted to raising money for baby diapers for families living in poverty. In a single day on Twitter, we raised more than $10,000 for the National Diaper Bank Network.

The need is endless. You can donate here: https://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/ 

Where was I?

Oh, right: The Senate gallery, sitting next to Jane Sullivan Roberts during part of the impeachment trial.

On a brief break, we introduced ourselves to each other and I asked, “What do you think of all this?” I was referring to our witnessing history. She said it would be inappropriate to offer her opinion. I pressed; she demurred.

What a contrast to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and longtime right-wing activist. You may remember her for calling up Anita Hill in 2010 to extract an apology from Hill for accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991.

These days, according to multiple news reports, Ginni Thomas is fueling an effort to help the Trump White House ferret out people in the federal government who don’t like Trump. Good thing I don’t like cliches or we’d be talking about those fish in that barrel.

Thomas has a list of replacement employees, too. For example, The New York Times reported that, in 2019, two of Thomas’s preferred peeps were David A. Clarke, the former sheriff of Milwaukee County, whom she wanted to be in a homeland security role, and frequent Fox News guest Dan Bongino, for a counterterrorism post.

To refresh your memory about Clarke, here’s an excerpt from a 2019 Daily Beast story:

“While Clarke sought a White House position in 2017, he was sued by the family of an inmate who died of dehydration in his jail cell after being deprived of water for a week. The sheriff allegedly approved denying water to the man. He was also slapped with a lawsuit from a woman whose unborn child died while she was in his custody.

“And in June 2017, a jury awarded $6.7 million to a woman who alleged being raped multiple times by a guard in Sheriff Clarke’s Milwaukee County jail.

“That same year, Clarke was investigated by the FBI for allegedly abusing his authority when he ordered a subordinate to intimidate a fellow airline passenger who personally insulted the sheriff.”

Bongino is a former Secret Service agent and author, most recently of Exonerated: The Failed Takedown of President Donald Trump by the Swamp. A year earlier, he was the co-author of Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump. Ho-kay. Bye, Dan.

So, Mrs. Roberts, I barely knew ye, and for that I am truly grateful.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including ...and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

America’s Laziest Headline? ‘Democrats In Disarray’

The laziest and most common campaign story right now is a version of the following:

“The Democrats are in disarray!”

“The Democrats are failing to coalesce around a single candidate!”

“The Democrats are handing this election to the Republicans!”

Add a story or two about the Iowa caucus-trophe, capture a few screenshots of online bickering between candidates’ supporters and throw in a quote from a primary voter who didn’t make up her mind about how she was going to vote until she walked across the parking lot at her polling place — and ta-dah! You, too, could write a story to match these recent headlines.

Politico: Trump’s ‘dream scenario’ unfolds: Dem disarray ahead of 2020.

Reuters: Democrats in disarray ahead of New Hampshire.

Axios: Democratic disarray, dysfunction.

The Hill: Democrats in disarray: 2020 election at risk.

A question: When were Democrats not in disarray?

Democrats have always been the collective curly mop top next to the lacquered comb-over. They may swirl and twirl, but even after a heavy rain, they bounce back.

My earliest memory of Democratic politics in our house was the election of John F. Kennedy — a Catholic! I was too young to remember the campaign, but I was familiar with my working-class father’s protestant prejudice at an early age. He was likely one of those primary voters for Adlai Stevenson.

What I do remember is how Dad bragged later about voting for Kennedy in the general election. He ordered a framed presidential portrait of JFK and hung it next to Jesus on a wall in our living room. That Jack-and-Jesus wall was a mainstay of my childhood. If Jesus ever voted, Dad said, he’d be a Democrat.

Another question: What month is it?

February — months and months away from this primary’s end, and even more months from the general election.

You’d never know that from discussion threads on Democratic voters’ Facebook pages, but that’s who we’ve always been — only now we’ve got emojis.

Each of us brings our own biases and emotions to the selection of a presidential candidate, which is why the primary can feel so personal. Our person wins; we feel affirmed. Ours doesn’t; we feel rejected.

When was the last time rejection brought out the best in you?

And now, a word about our impeached president.

Less than a week after all but one Republican senator voted to acquit him on both counts of impeachment, Trump has started seeking his revenge.

At the National Prayer Breakfast, he mocked the faith of Sen. Mitt Romney, a devout Mormon who cited his faith in his decision to vote to convict Trump of abuse of power. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry, was fired from the White House, along with his twin brother. Now Trump is calling for disciplinary action against him.

Last Tuesday night, four of the federal prosecutors working on the obstruction and perjury case of Trump’s friend, Roger J. Stone Jr., withdrew from the case after the Justice Department overruled their recommendation that Stone be sentenced to prison for seven to nine years. One of the prosecutors resigned.

As usual, Trump brayed about this conquest on Twitter:

“Congratulations to Attorney General Bill Barr for taking charge of a case that was totally out of control and perhaps should not have even been brought. Evidence now clearly shows that the Mueller Scam was improperly brought & tainted. Even Bob Mueller lied to Congress!”

He went after the judge who will be deciding Stone’s fate: “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!”

He also posted a photo of him standing next to Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg on a golf course: “Mini Mike is a short ball (very) hitter. Tiny club head speed. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”

Meanwhile, the Republican senators who enabled this latest round of Trump’s menacing and possibly illegal behavior remain in hiding from America’s journalists.

But sure.

The Democrats are in disarray.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two nonfiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

What A State Of Our Union

Well, I’ve finally attended a Trump rally.

I thought I was showing up for Tuesday’s State of the Union address, but as soon as Donald Trump refused to shake House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand, it was clear that even basic protocol would elude this impeached president.

Trump’s leash of propriety, already threadbare, has snapped in two. After the spectacle of Tuesday night on the House floor, it’s clear his Republican enablers have decided to feed the beast.

I sat in the gallery, surrounded mostly by white male Trump voters. A handful of people nearest me were black, and silent. It is one thing to watch white men repeatedly stand and bellow in the gallery — another break with protocol — but it is something far worse when they act oblivious to the fellow Americans in their midst who have every reason to feel targeted by this presidency.

Soon upon his arrival in the House chamber, Republican members led Trump fans in a cheer of “four more years” — again, in a chamber of Congress — and their loudest applause was for Trump’s glee over cutting food assistance for Americans living in poverty. A close second was the thunderous reception for his racist attack on undocumented immigrants.

If you watched this on live television, or online, you likely found it disturbing. In person, it was soul-jarring.

Sitting in the room made me wish Democratic candidates’ most ardent supporters were there, too. Feeling that rising heat of hatred for the people for whom we fight would forge an unprecedented unity among progressives. We can advocate for our chosen candidate, but we should leave no doubt of who we will be come November. Unity is the only way we will end this dangerous presidency.

In another break with protocol, Trump bestowed the highest civilian honor the president of the United States can give an American citizen. On the spot, he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Not to 100-year-old retired Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, who was in attendance and is one of the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen. Instead, Trump had first lady Melania Trump drape the coveted medal around the neck of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, whose years of right-wing bigotry and misogyny provided the template for this presidency.

Recently, Limbaugh disclosed that he has stage four cancer. I don’t wish cancer on anyone, and that includes Limbaugh. This is a frightening time for him and those who love him, and we diminish ourselves if we are unwilling to acknowledge that.

Limbaugh’s brand of patriotism has brought him millions of followers and dollars as he sows their hatred and affirms their worst instincts. During Barack Obama’s first presidential race, for example, Limbaugh played on his radio show a song titled, “Barack the Magic Negro.” In 2012, after college student Sandra Fluke asked for Congress to require insurance coverage for contraceptives, Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute.” He mocked, verbally and physically, Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease.

This has been Limbaugh’s game for decades.

You can see why Trump likes him.

At the end of Trump’s version of the State of the Union, Pelosi ripped his speech in half, on camera.

My goodness, the outrage.

“Where’s the civility?” Republicans wailed. “What happened to House protocol?” right-wing pundits brayed.

“I wasn’t sure if she was ripping up the speech or ripping up the Constitution,” Vice President Mike Pence told Fox & Friends, proving what we’ve long suspected. If you have a spare pocket copy of the Constitution, you know where to send it.

Early Wednesday morning, CNN’s Brian Stelter tweeted this: “Trump has now tweeted/retweeted more about Pelosi’s reaction to his speech than about the content of his own speech. Four times more.”

As a friend told me years ago, “They don’t just push our buttons; they install them.” She was talking about children, but still, it resonates.

Tell you what. I am open to criticism of Pelosi’s ripping a completed speech as soon as Republicans stand against ripping children out of their parents’ arms at our border.

Their cheers Tuesday night made clear that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Won’t McConnell Let You Watch The Senators At Trial?

Even if you’ve been watching gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Senate’s impeachment trial, there’s little you’ve been able to see beyond Chief Justice John Roberts and individuals talking at a lectern in front of a slab of busy marble.

There’s no sight of the senators on the floor.

This is unusual, as there are usually multiple cameras in the chamber during Senate proceedings. Normally, you’d see democracy in action, but not this time, when democracy is at stake.

This is the Republican strategy, which is clear every time Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fails to explain why he thinks you, the American public, should not be able to see your senators during this historical moment.

If you could watch the senators’ conduct during these hours upon hours of testimony, you could decide for yourself which senators are taking seriously their oath to conduct themselves as close-mouthed, open-minded jurists and which ones made up their minds before they walked through the chamber doors.

As an example of the latter, we need look no further than McConnell. Two weeks before Christmas, he made his intentions clear:

“We have no choice but to take it up, but we’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.”

I’ll give McConnell this: He’s never pretended to want a fair trial. That’s how sure he is that you don’t care about our democracy.

During this trial, journalists are also more restricted, severely so. Normally, they can walk alongside your elected senators or catch them for an interview as soon as they leave the chamber. Not now. They are corralled into roped off areas and regularly warned to confine their movements, much like prisoners out on a day pass to clean up trash on the highway.

As the wife of a U.S. senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, I can sit in the family section of the senate gallery during the trial. I don’t have to stand in line with the general public, who is admitted a handful at a time but never to the point where all the seats are filled. I can also stay as long as I like, which has allowed me to watch as entire rows of Americans are summarily ordered to rise in unison and leave, even though many seats in the gallery remain empty.

I don’t blame the Capitol enforcers for this. They are some of the nicest public servants I know.

I was in the gallery for three hours last Thursday night, for another eight hours on Friday and for the morning session on Saturday. I couldn’t bring a pen and notebook, and, like everyone else, I had to surrender my cellphone and my smartwatch.

The printed back of the family pass lists behavioral rules, and sometimes we are verbally reminded of a few before we enter. No facial reactions are allowed. No hand gestures and no standing up except to leave. No leaning over the balcony edge to get a better view. No sleeping.

The testimony can be dry at times, but the view is fascinating.

Senators are supposed to remain on the floor when the trial is in session, also without phones or smartwatches. They are “commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment.” Let’s just say that particular rule is not being enforced. You would know that if you were allowed to watch your senators during this trial, but you’re not.

Some moments are seared into my memory. For example, when House managers played a video clip of Trump boasting, “I am the chosen one,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham looked around and chuckled like a proud parent. You couldn’t have known that, of course, because you couldn’t see it.

This was not all that surprising for Graham. Like McConnell, he made clear his intentions before the trial began: “I am clearly made up my mind. I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process.” A job is immediately easier when you decide not to do it.

From my perch of senate-gazing, it’s been interesting to watch how some members, most but not all of them Republicans, felt free to stroll off the floor when the House managers were presenting their case. Some of them made quite a show of ignoring the proceedings. One Republican senator sat for a while with an open Bible in his lap. As if that’s what Jesus would want him to do in this time of crisis.

That was my impression. I would love to know what you might have made of it, but you weren’t allowed to see that.

Wonder why.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

America Is Watching Trump’s Trial

It is my habit, and my ethical obligation, to disclose a fact of my marriage when failing to do so could mislead you or diminish your trust in me.

Circumstances and subject matter dictate when this is necessary. If I’m writing about our two rescue dogs, my husband’s profession is irrelevant in his utter devotion to them. Likewise, his job has nothing to do with my insistence that no husband should speak for his wife without her permission, and by “permission” I impose the strictest of boundaries. Saying, “Yes, Honey, go ahead and order the curry for me,” does not mean my husband may start any sentence with, “What my wife meant to say…”

Fortunately, like all good men, he understands the difference.

So do I.

When I am writing about President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate, I must disclose that my husband is one of the 100 jurors on the Senate floor. It is also necessary, in this most partisan time, to acknowledge that he is a Democrat.

I must include this disclosure every time I write about this proceeding. That leaves two options: I can never write about this historical moment in our country, or I can mention my husband, Sherrod Brown, every time I do.

You see my choice.

Plenty of journalists, including numerous columnists, are recounting for you what is happening right now in Senate chambers. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank caught my attention with this description of the president’s legal team in the first late-night round:

“They shouted. They spouted invective. They launched personal attacks against the impeachment managers. But they offered virtually nothing in defense of the president’s conduct, nor anything but a passing reference to Ukraine.

“‘These Articles of Impeachment … are not only ridiculous, they are dangerous to our republic,’ declared (lawyer Pat) Cipollone.

“‘It’s ridiculous,’ he added.

“‘It’s ridiculous! It’s ridiculous,’ he repeated, for those who may have missed the point.

“‘They’re here to steal two elections — it’s buried in the small print of their ridiculous articles of impeachment,’ he alleged.

“Cipollone closed with a request to ‘end this ridiculous charade.'”

It is challenging — let’s call it infuriating — to watch Republicans in Congress refuse to hold this president accountable, but is not surprising. They’ve been afraid of the bully-in-chief ever since he took office.

I have nothing to add to this play-by-play coverage, at least for now. What I do want to tell you is what happened the day before the Senate trial began, at a Costco in northeast Ohio.

We have shopped there often, and from experience, we know that not every customer is happy to see us. We support Costco because Costco supports its employees with a living wage and benefits, and this particular store is not nestled in a liberal bubble. On a number of occasions, some of the more conservative shoppers — almost always white men — have felt free to interrupt our shopping to make clear to Sherrod their unhappiness with him.

This is not a grievance. Our rule for our marriage: When we’re out in public, we belong to the public. Fellow Americans have a right to give us an earful.

On this particular Sunday, on the eve of the Senate impeachment trial, something different happened. We were approached by so many people that our time at the store was easily doubled. Every single person was kind.

Some said they were praying for Sherrod. Others thanked him for his service. A couple of people wanted to make clear that they may not always agree with Sherrod, but they “never voted for this.” I don’t know if they meant they hadn’t voted for Trump or that they regretted that they had. It doesn’t matter. I’ve shared my view on this before: We can’t ask people to change and then not give them the chance to.

I’m telling you what happened to us at Costco because it was clear that so many are paying attention. They are worried about where our country is headed and whether too much damage has already been done. They are the informed voters Trump fears most.

Our drive home felt lighter.

Around midnight on the first night of the trial, I posted on Facebook and Twitter that Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff was right: It seemed that Republicans were hoping that, by dragging this out into the wee hours of the mornings, most Americans were no longer watching.

Nearly a thousand responded, after midnight, and their message was virtually universal:

“I’m watching.”

And not just on the West Coast. They were watching in Ohio and Pennsylvania, in New Jersey and Maine, in Minnesota and Kansas. Many said that what they missed, they would watch on their DVRs. “Some of us have to work,” one person wrote, “but I watch when I can.”

Schedules were changed, bedtimes abandoned. It’s what a patriot does.

Republicans have done all they could to thwart a fair trial. At the end of it, they will have their say.

American voters will have the final word.

And they’ve been watching.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

What We Learned From That Sanders-Warren Spat

On Monday, singer John Legend, a star by any measure, tweeted his choice for president to his 13.2 million followers:

“I’ll be voting for Elizabeth Warren in the CA Democratic primary.”

Whoo-boy.

Soon after, Legend felt the need to add this:

“Some of you Bernie supporters do quite the disservice to your candidate, who seems to be a great human being. Try not to drive people away with your nastiness. I will happily vote for him if he wins the primary. Chill.”

I have loved John Legend for a long time. You see why.

His follow-up tweet resonates for a lot of us who are enduring another round of Bernie Sanders supporters who mistakenly view his candidacy as their excuse to act like the mirror image of Donald Trump’s extremists. This is not a good look, and it’s a tired rerun from 2016.

This is where I insert the “not all” statement in an attempt to thin the herd avalanching toward me. Of course, not all of Sanders’ supporters behave like this. I know a lot of his supporters who are thoughtful and respectful. If you’re one of them, this isn’t about you. Past experience compels me to add this: I struggle to understand how people can read something they swear doesn’t describe them and yet react as if it did.

We’ve seen a recent dust-up between Sanders and Elizabeth Warren over what he might or might not have said to her two years ago when they were discussing the 2020 presidential race. The early coverage had only allegations from their campaigns. Warren staff claimed Sanders told her a woman couldn’t win in 2020. His campaign staff denounced that as a lie. Soon enough, Sanders was ardently denying it, and Warren was confirming it had happened.

My husband is their Democratic colleague, and so I know both Sanders and Warren, and respect both of them, which only makes this harder, it seems. Fortunately, after a brief exchange about this on Tuesday’s debate stage, they seemed eager to move on. There’s a man in the White House to defeat, you understand.

This does not seem to be true of many of Sanders’ followers. Dare to express the slightest doubt about their candidate or, far worse, support someone else, and they will circle like vultures over roadkill. They can save their energy. We’ve been through this before, and their aggression is lost on women like me.

None of this is happening in a vacuum. There is a bigger discussion to have about why, in 2020, we’re still talking about the electability of a woman. Yet, so many want to derail it.

Some dismiss Sanders’ alleged comment as just an echo of the same conversations going on in Democratic circles around the country. Sure. Many feminists who’ve been my friends for decades have told me they worry a woman can’t win in 2020. This is fear speaking, and it’s laser-focused not on the candidates but on the history of the voting public. We talk it through and hash out the what-ifs. But a woman running for president surely hears this message differently. It feels personal because it is, and can we please not lose sight of this difference?

And, yes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016. Yet, she isn’t president, is she? Why do we have to keep explaining why this doesn’t feel like a victory for women?

Some have wanted to know why Warren didn’t mention the exchange with Sanders sooner. Where’ve we heard that before?

It piles up, this stuff that forces women to explain ourselves, over and over. And it never ends, which brings me to 22-year-old Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue.

She is one of the state’s youngest Capitol reporters. Recently, she approached the majority whip, Republican Sen. Peter Lucido, for an interview. He was standing with about 30 boys from his high school alma mater.

On Wednesday, she wrote about what happened next:

“As I turned to walk away, he asked, ‘You’ve heard of De La Salle, right?’

“I told him I hadn’t.

“‘It’s an all boys’ school,’ he told me. ‘You should hang around! You could have a lot of fun with these boys, or they could have a lot of fun with you.’

“The teenagers burst into an Old Boys’ Network-type of laughter, and I walked away knowing that I had been the punchline of their ‘locker room’ talk.

“Except it wasn’t the locker room; it was the Senate chamber. And this isn’t high school. It’s my career.”

Why am I bringing this up in a column that started with the ongoing debate over whether a woman can be president?

Please tell me you don’t wonder.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo Credit: AFGE