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Why So-Called Tough Guys Are Always Punching Down

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The late great stand-up, actor and occasional philosopher George Carlin was known to cross the lines of what polite society would call good taste, but he himself drew a few lines when it came to his theory of funny.

Asked by Larry King in 1990 about popular bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Carlin, while defending Clay's right to say whatever, said, "His targets are underdogs. And comedy has traditionally picked on people in power, people who abuse their power." Clay's core audience, Carlin said, were "young white males" threatened by Clay's targets, assertive women and immigrants among them.

Rule-breaker Eddie Murphy came to look back on his younger self, the brash young man dressed in leather, and cringe, especially at his jokes about women and relationships, he told The New York Times in 2019. "I was a young guy processing a broken heart, you know, kind of an …" — well, you get the idea.

In today's cruel world, it's not just comedians punching down, reaching for the "easy" joke, setting new and low standards, though a few still revel in their ability to shock (see Michael Che and his approving nods to vile remarks about the sexual abuse of young female athletes).

Many who should know better have given up seeking a more perfect union, one that welcomes all. They see advantage in aggression and, unlike Murphy, don't feel one bit embarrassed when reflecting on their words and actions.

In fact, the "punching" is the point, and it's always aimed squarely at those perceived as less powerful, from poor and disabled Americans who want to vote without jumping through unnecessary hoops and facing intimidation from poll watchers to transgender children eager to play sports to Black and brown students who would like their role in the country's history to be taught without accommodation for those too fragile to hear the truth.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recent, threatening words involved actual hitting, in this case the speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency, Nancy Pelosi. At a Republican fundraiser in Nashville, Tennessee over the weekend, when presented with an oversize gavel, McCarthy said: "I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It will be hard not to hit her with it." According to audio, the crowd of about 1,400 laughed.

McCarthy can almost taste the speakership, with voting restrictions in the states and new gerrymandered districts being teed up, and the Supreme Court and a Senate stalled on voting legislation helping to clear the way. He's already referring to Pelosi as a lame duck. For him and his followers, the angry rhetoric isn't something to be ashamed of; it's dessert, a way to rile up the base and rake in the cash.

While not approving of the violent January 6 insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol, McCarthy tried to block an investigation of the attack and said he ignored the testimony of brutalized police officers before the select committee that's proceeding without him. McCarthy seems to have forgotten his reported initial pleas to then-President Donald Trump to rein in his supporters that day.

Does he remember or care, as he's piling on, that the rioters particularly targeted Pelosi, defiled her office and called out "Where's Nancy?" in their best impression of Jack Nicholson's demented howl in The Shining?

The trickle-down effect that Republican politicians are so fond of when it comes to justifying tax cuts for the wealthy is certainly true when it comes to this style of "tough guy" posturing, as January 6 proved, though you can bet those rioters would not have been so free employing their weaponized flagpoles and bear spray if they were confronting each officer one-on-one.

The same goes for the bullies who don't need masks, but want to fight businesses trying to safely staff and operate their shops and restaurants, or the anti-vaxxers who show little concern for children too young to get vaccinated or neighbors who because of age or medical complications are at risk.

It's predictable that the tough guys and gals, so anxious to pick a fight — verbal and otherwise — offer a tsunami of excuses when called to account. That's usually the case with bullies.

The January 6 lawbreakers are blaming Trump, QAnon and the heat of the moment; some Republicans unbelievably blame Pelosi herself for the violence that targeted her. Professional comic Che says he was hacked, and amateur comic McCarthy claims he was "obviously joking" when he taunted the speaker.

I'd respect them all a lot more if they'd just own their perfidy. Instead, they do their damage with a wink before backing off, managing to look both mean and weak.

When I spoke with House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn last week on my Equal Time podcast, he didn't have the time or desire to insult anyone. As someone who in the 1960s was in the middle of the fight for the Voting Rights Act, he would rather talk about the current battle to protect the rights promised in that landmark legislation — and to save democracy itself.

Convincing those who don't believe it's their fight won't be easy. But Clyburn has the optimism of someone who, in the face of real danger, helped take on the segregated South. In "punching up" at a system designed to hold "powerless" Americans down, he and all those who changed history showed a toughness that a gavel-toting McCarthy and company can only dream about.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer, and was national correspondent for Politics Daily. She is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Statues Come Down While Barriers To Truth Are Erected

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

In Charlottesville, Va., where a Unite the Right gathering of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Lost Cause devotees and other angry history deniers left destruction and death in their path in 2017, there was a different scene this past weekend.

The city removed statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, memorials to those who fought on the losing side of a Civil War to maintain the brutal and murderous institution of slavery. They were erected as monuments to white supremacy, not in the 1860s but the 1920s, a Jim Crow threat to Black citizens to "know their place."

Now, as then, there are those opposed to this bit of progress, with arguments that removing the stone idols would mean erasing history, which is ridiculous since that history will never disappear from books, museums and tall tales handed down by the "never forget" brigade.

Ironically, many of these same folks would be only too glad to forget what really happened, during that bloody Civil War and in the 100 years after — the ingenious laws and policies that continue to reverberate through everything from health care to housing.

As part of the plan, they've come up with a fear-based campaign to, you got it, erase any part of American history that deals with racism and the ways it was intentionally embedded in American institutions. And predictably, this battle in a war that has never ended is actually gaining momentum that Republican politicians hope to ride to electoral victory.

The Ultimate Snowflakes

They could not do it without the cooperation of aggrieved parents fighting against something they haven't even tried to understand.

I really wish that instead of tying themselves into contradictory knots, these troops standing in the way of the truth — the ultimate snowflakes trying to "cancel" facts — would come clean and just admit that it's not history they're opposed to, it's any reckoning that gets in the way of their myths.

The version of history they love is what's been spoon-fed to many generations until fairly recently — propaganda in the name of patriotism. The concern "for the children" expressed in tear-stained testimony at school board meetings from Loudoun County, Va., to Chandler, Ariz., only extends to certain kids, their own. It leaves out the Black, brown, Asian American and Native American children who have suffered through and been traumatized by a white-washed tableau that either villainizes or disappears American heroes who always have been stalwart fighters for an inclusive and welcoming society, also known as America as it supposedly aspires to be.

There is no more absurd example than in Tennessee, where parents from "Moms for Liberty" don't want children to learn about what six-year-old Ruby Bridges endured when she integrated her New Orleans elementary school in 1960. The image of young Ruby immortalized by quintessential American artist Norman Rockwell depicts her daily walk surrounded by federal marshals. To get an education, her body and soul had to survive angry white parents, faces twisted, who greeted her with jeers, who threatened to poison her, who, when a child her age should have been playing with baby dolls, held up a coffin carrying a Black one so Ruby could get the message.

So, white children of today are too fragile to merely read about the dangerous racism a 6-year-old faced not that long ago? Do their parents realize they are still trying to bar Ruby Bridges from school?

A complaint is that Ruby's story needs more whites in shining armor.

Well, there were a few, including Barbara Henry, a white teacher from Massachusetts, who did the job she was paid to do for the year Ruby was in a class all her own. And there are the parents who eventually sent their children back to get an education, in more ways than one.

The star of her story, though, is Ruby, someone any child should admire. She never cried or whimpered, said federal marshal Charles Burks. "She just marched along like a little soldier." A former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, wrote her a letter.

An argument brought up again and again in these curriculum fights is that teaching stories like Ruby's causes children of color to think of themselves as victims. The opposite is true. Ruby, at 66, is still an activist, as well as a wife and mother. Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story, her book that parents are so afraid of, teaches lessons of resilience and strength that transcend color. The message she continues to share: "I tell children to be kind to each other."

Oh, the horror!

Beyond The Classroom

Children wrongly taught that America was and has always been perfect, presumably grow into the fragile flowers that Sen. Tom Cotton believes need protecting when they enter the military. In the manner of the thought police in Russia or China, the Arkansas Republican is trying to get an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy fired for teaching about systemic racism that shaped all-American institutions, like the military.

Does Cotton not know that African Americans fought for the right to fight and die for a country that enslaved them, discriminated against them, segregated them into separate units until 1948?

Was Cotton not taught of the Japanese Americans who fought in World War II — including in one of the most decorated regiments in the country's history — while family members back home were herded into internment camps, suspect only because of their race and ethnicity?

That made their sacrifice more patriotic, with their numbers in service still strong. Though they lack representation at the top, about 43 percent of the 1.3 million men and women on active duty in the United States military are people of color.

People of color in America know, have always known about, injustice, just as six-year-old Ruby learned. Being clear-eyed about how the country falls short of its ideals only hardens the determination to right those wrongs.

And, in truth, it's not just students of color whose lives continue to be affected by systemic racism. In a Texas school, a white teacher gave white students permission to use the "N-word." In California, a high school basketball team had its title taken away for throwing tortillas at members of the opposing, predominantly Latino team at a postgame "celebration."

All children, as well as adults who should know better, have learned only too well lessons about the country's power divide, about who counts and who does not.

When you hide history, a price will be paid. Esther Bejarano knew. The Auschwitz survivor, who used the power of music to fight anti-Semitism and racism in postwar Germany, died recently at the age of 96. She used to tell the young people: "You're not guilty of what happened back then. But you become guilty if you refuse to listen to what happened."

When I study the pictures of those everyday Americans spewing hate at a 6-year-old and then the faces of angry parents and politicians, so insistent on burying the truth, my wish is that they listen, then look in a mirror.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Why America’s Cultural Education Needs A Truth Upgrade

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

When I visited Monticello, the home of America's third president, Thomas Jefferson, it was certainly impressive. But there was so much information shared by the friendly tour guide about the great man's genius that a lot was left out about just who was making the Virginia plantation turn a profit. Who was building the furniture and brewing the beer? Who was doing the planting?

When I asked the kindly woman for more details on the lived experiences of the enslaved men, women, and children at Monticello, her attitude grew decidedly chilly. And when I asked about Sally Hemings, who bore Jefferson's children, beginning when she was a young teen and Jefferson was in his 40s, well, the docent's face lost what little color it had and her rehearsed spiel descended into an unintelligible word salad. Then she changed the subject.

Blessedly, if I were to visit Monticello today, there is an exhibit devoted to Hemings, acknowledging the woman, known in Jefferson's time but disappeared or downplayed by histories, at least until historian Annette Gordon-Reed's books and other scholarship fueled conversations that DNA testing confirmed.

It wasn't just embarrassed guides at Monticello that misled for so long. Anyone relying on other cultural interpretations would have been clueless. In 2000, I wrote about a CBS offering, Sally Hemings: An American Scandal, which portrayed the relationship between a man of power and privilege and the woman he owned as straight out of a romance novel, complete with swelling chords and actor Sam Neill as Jefferson in a Fabio-style wig, locks blowing in a wind machine-generated breeze.

Disturbing, if a ratings grabber.

History, what is taught in the classroom, is vital if we are to understand the present. Right now, the country is embroiled in a contentious discussion over how much truth about systemic racism to allow in classrooms, with, unfortunately, little consideration of how and why promoting "fairy tale" history can damage schoolchildren of all ages and races.

But education extends past hours sitting at a school-room desk. Let's face it, a lot of folks absorb what we see on TV or in the movies as kind of true. We half-listen to a museum guide without questioning the motives of the people who crafted monuments and museums that shape memories of the dead.

Whitewashed images

There is a reason why many Americans believed that only "white guys" with crew cuts had the "right stuff" before "Hidden Figures" told the story of the Black women who fueled the space race. Though that film took some liberties, mathematician Katherine Johnson was able to get her flowers in public and in person before she died last year. She no doubt provided inspiration for African American schoolchildren previously discouraged from pursuing science and math careers, children who never saw themselves represented in whitewashed celluloid images.

I employ cultural references in my columns because a classic film or a summer song that everyone can hum is shorthand for shared community when so much else is polarized.

But there are dangers when you rely on those touchstones. In the phrase "based on a true story" tagged on to all those fictionalized tales, "based on" is doing a lot of heavy lifting. And predictably, just as in our history books, people of color are too often left out.

To be clear, no creator is compelled to cover all the bases when embarking on a project. The saying that people who are dissatisfied should stop complaining and make their own is fair, up to a point, since access and funds are definitely not available to everyone with an innovative idea.

But with gag orders being placed on teachers trying to lead students toward a complete and nuanced conversation about American history, the stories we tell — on big and small screens, in exhibitions — gain in importance.

Sometimes, the distortion is frivolous, as when the fractured timeline of "Back to the Future" had Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly inspiring Chuck Berry's signature rock and roll guitar riff. I laughed and cringed. It was a comedy.

Sometimes, though, it's serious, as in the case of 1988's "Mississippi Burning." Director Alan Parker used the excuse of creative license when he made heroes out of agents in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, charged with investigating racist violence in the South in the 1960s, and relegated Black civil rights heroes and their allies to background characters. In reality, Hoover seemed more interested in snooping on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s private life than racial justice. But Parker's vision won prizes.

Why does it matter?

Think of the enduring view of the post-Civil War West, set for generations by a public raised on the films of John Wayne, who is so revered he has an airport that bears his name. (And if you worship "The Duke," check out his 1971 Playboy interview laced with bigoted stereotypes about Black folks and Native Americans; his steadfast belief in "white supremacy" is pretty terrible.) For years, with a few notable exceptions, Westerns erased the tales of Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans, except in stereotypical roles. Only in recent years have more folks learned, often through Hollywood, of the exploits of Nat (or Nate) Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, rodeo pioneer and actor Bill Pickett, and law enforcement officer Bass Reeves, whose stories had more drama than most.

America just commemorated the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, which many only learned of when HBO's "Watchmen" recreated it. Life became art became life.

Changing The Narrative

Because the stories we tell become the world we live in, a diverse group of creators is building a new and necessary legacy, with expected pushback and criticism from those who think the discredited versions of history and the art that reinforced it were just fine.

Politicians already know how much culture shapes the narrative of America that people hold in their heads and hearts, which is why it's called a culture "war." In Texas — of course, Texas — there's a new battle of the Alamo, actually a law designed to entrench in education and at landmarks a sanitized myth epitomized by Wayne's 1960 "The Alamo," a myth that omits the role that protecting slavery played in the battle and the state's history.

In Washington, D.C., post-pandemic visitors may experience a new view of who deserves honors. The House voted this week to remove from display in the Capitol the bust of the late Chief Justice Roger B. Taney — who authored the infamous Dred Scott decision that held Black people were not U.S. citizens — along with statues and busts of Confederates and white supremacists. Taney would be replaced by Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court justice. We'll see how the proposal fares in the Senate.

And when, years after my Monticello experience, I visited Montpelier, the plantation home of James Madison, the fourth U.S. president and Jefferson's slave-holding neighbor, archaeologists and volunteers were excavating bones, beads, shards of pottery, anything to discover a fuller picture of life there. It's been reported that found near a slave dwelling was a pipe bowl, ironically bearing the word "Liberty."

No "fairy tale" could be more poignant for Americans hooked on a good story.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Churches Are Challenged As Political Polarization Deepens

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Most religious traditions follow a set of commandments, perhaps written down in a holy book. They differ in the particulars, but the sentiment can be boiled down to what's called the "Golden Rule" — treat others as one would want to be treated.

You don't need to subscribe to any faith; just strive to live with honor in a civilized society. But apparently, even that's too much for some folks who have other priorities.

This week, the welcome mat was out at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. "Join us at the Nashville Music City Center for four full days of equipping, and inspiration," the invitation read. But that cheery message, and the words of Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, that it's "a time for Southern Baptists to come together and celebrate how God is moving in and through our convention and churches," belied internal turmoil.

The SBC surprised some Tuesday when it elected Ed Litton as its president. In a close vote, Litton, who is seen as someone more interested in reconciliation than retribution, defeated Mike Stone, the candidate of those wanting to move the organization even further to the right. But in some ways, Litton's selection is only buying time for a denomination that is still divided over issues of racism and sexism.

Several of the SBC's signature leaders are walking to the exit doors, and they are not going quietly.

In a leaked letter, Russell Moore, who left his position as head of the denomination's public policy arm, accused leaders of disparaging and bullying victims of sexual abuse and failing to properly investigate their claims. Moore, who is white, had also described racist behavior he witnessed within the convention, followed by, he says, threats.

Beth Moore, the popular Bible study teacher and author (no relation to Russell), had long been at odds with many in the SBC over her criticism of Donald Trump's comments about women. The organization's handling of abuse accusations and its pattern of not listening to the women and girls who made them led her to declare this year that she was "no longer a Southern Baptist."

Two Black pastors ended their church's affiliation with the convention late last year after the leaders of six SBC seminaries released a statement that said"affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message."

One of the two pastors, Charlie Edward Dates, the senior pastor at Chicago's Progressive Baptist Church, wrote in an op-ed for Religion News Service: "When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? … How did they, who in 2020 still don't have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?"

Though it is the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the SBC has been losing members, so perhaps the election of Litton was an attempt to slow the debate and the exodus. If only many of its members had thought long and hard before throwing their lot in with Trump, who demands absolute devotion. Isn't there something in the Ten Commandments about that?

A Catholic Chasm

My own Catholic faith also is facing a headline-making reckoning.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its virtual meeting this week, had scheduled a vote on whether to permit its Committee on Doctrine to draft a document "to help Catholics understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives." Those spiritual words, from Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, the USCCB president, couch the intentions of a leading figure among the conservative cohort that would deny the second Catholic president, Joe Biden, the sacrament of the Eucharist because of his support for abortion rights.

The right to an abortion may be legal in the U.S., for now, but it is also a sin for Catholics.

That, of course, is true for Pope Francis. But he has warned conservative American bishops to avoid prioritizing an issue that has become a political litmus test. For Francis, it's complicated, though many U.S. bishops disagree. So much for all Catholics being controlled by this pope, with whom conservative Catholics have been feuding since he arrived at the Vatican.

A recent petition, organized by Faithful America and signed by 21,000 people, accused the bishops of weaponizing the Eucharist, and in a letter the group thanked the more than 60 bishops who opposed the USCCB vote. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is archbishop of Washington, was one of them. So the president is in no danger of being turned away at a D.C. altar.

It's not a new debate, though John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, had to prove with words and actions that he would not let faith dictate his politics. Another famous Catholic politician, Mario Cuomo, had much to say on the subject, as he did on most everything.

In 1984, at the University of Notre Dame, no less, Cuomo, who died in 2015, said: "Better than any law or rule or threat of punishment would be the moving strength of our own good example, demonstrating our lack of hypocrisy, proving the beauty and worth of our instruction. We must work to find ways to avoid abortions without otherwise violating our faith. We should provide funds and opportunity for young women to bring their child to term, knowing both of them will be taken care of if that is necessary; we should teach our young men better than we do now their responsibilities in creating and caring for human life."

That would satisfy few today. As places of worship have reopened post-pandemic, the political divide in America has followed worshippers through the doors.

Misplaced Priorities

Would now be the time to act on other items on Pope Francis' agenda — climate change, migrants, poverty, racial justice and how to ease the grief of those who lost someone or something in this harrowing year?

What about the voting restrictions proposed in Texas that take special aim at Black churchgoers, with limits on Sunday voting, and seniors, who depend on these organized voting drives? And this is in a state that plunged its residents into endless crises during a freeze.

What about disabled voters, who worry these laws being enacted across the country limit access, preventing them from exercising their rights as Americans?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose faith informed and inspired civil rights activism, once chided fellow ministers for failing to see the injustices in front of them. He might have a few relevant words.

As would the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who this week traveled to West Virginia to deliver a message to that state's Democratic senator, Joe Manchin — about voting rights and the minimum wage, poverty and power.

It was personal and political, and delivered with passion, as if on command.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Senate’s Report On Jan. 6 Is Only The Beginning


Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The details are scary, but not surprising to some of us.

Capitol Police intelligence officers had warnings as early as December 21 of what was going to happen on January 6 at the Capitol: Pro-Trump protesters were planning to "bring guns" and other weapons to confront the police — the "blue" that conservatives swear they "back." Lawmakers were in danger of being trapped and harmed while doing the job they were elected to do, certifying the election of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (though quite a few Republicans shamefully failed even that routine task post-insurrection). Conspirators giddily shared maps and discussed entry points.

And nothing.

A few Capitol Police command officers did get some information, which they failed to share widely. According to the department's statement: "Neither the USCP, nor the FBI, U.S. Secret Service, Metropolitan Police or our other law enforcement partners knew thousands of rioters were planning to attack the U.S. Capitol. The known intelligence simply didn't support that conclusion."

Known intelligence? Anyone paying attention to the social media bragging of self-styled "militia" members, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, red-state secession groupies, white supremacists and their ilk could have figured it out. Those swept up in QAnon delusions and Donald Trump's "big lie" of a stolen election excitedly posted travel plans and loving photos of weaponry, all shiny and ready for action. The dry run of a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a woman was killed, happened in 2017 — and that was over a statue. And just last year, armed Michigan militia members swarmed a state capital and plotted to kidnap a governor.

In preparation for the insurrection, Trump himself issued a pretty vivid invitation, one of several: "Big protest in D.C. on January 6th," he tweeted on December 19. "Be there, will be wild!"

No wonder rank-and-file officers felt betrayed.

An Appalling Failure

Any patriotic American, one who believes in democracy and sane leadership and the U.S. Constitution, should read the joint report from the Senate Rules and Administration and the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees and be appalled at the intelligence and communications failures that led to loss of life, more than a hundred serious injuries and lasting trauma, and at the Confederate flags and racial slurs hurled at law enforcement putting their own lives on the line.

For an American who happens to be a minority, too much looks familiar — the lack of serious accountability for too many perpetrators, the encouragement by irresponsible leaders who see political advantage in stoking resentment, the effort to say, "Nothing to see here," which means a repeat as sure as night follows day.

Sadly predictable was the planning revealed in a January 5 internal document obtained by CQ Roll Call. Despite all the evidence that members of a mob would be, at Trump's urging, marching on the Capitol to prevent electoral votes from being counted, despite a January 3 warning that "Congress itself is the target," the Civil Disturbance Unit of the Capitol Police viewed counterprotesters as the major threat.

It recalls the civil rights protests of the 1960s, when peaceful protesters were considered the "agitators" and were treated accordingly and brutally, while the jeering and violent white crowds got a pass from law enforcement. Heck, my brother was arrested — twice — for sitting in at whites-only diners. Back then, J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was the protesters' enemy. Today's FBI director, Christopher Wray, testified this year that his agency had not seen "any evidence of anarchist violent extremists or people subscribing to antifa in connection with the 6th" and has warned that white supremacist violence is the top domestic terror threat.

But old habits die hard. Envisioning and preparing for the dangers of a predominantly white crowd carrying weapons while seeking to "cancel" Black and brown voters from Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia by any means necessary is still a reach for a lot of people in power, especially those who agree with the rioters' cause.

We know what the mob can do.

And still, not much. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the leaders of the Rules Committee, are expected to propose legislation to give Capitol Police the power to summon the National Guard and to increase the department's funding.

But Republicans in Congress have blocked a bipartisan commission to answer the questions that remain, paralyzed by the fact that Trump, and more than a few of their own members, might be implicated on paper. The word "insurrection" is nowhere to be seen in the report, which showed little interest in the role of white supremacist groups, many of whose members see Jan. 6 not as a loss but as an opening salvo.

Doing The Mob's Work

Using the "big lie" to do in state legislatures what the pro-Trump mob could not, Republicans are using their clout to make it harder for certain Americans to vote — minorities, the poor, students, the disabled, those who work long shifts and can't wait for hours in line, those who depend on same-day registration and drop boxes. And when those American voters do manage to overcome every obstacle, a partisan observer can harass them, and an appointed official can declare their ballots null and void.

For those arrested for taking part in an insurrection, let's just say the loudest proponents of taking personal responsibility are spewing excuses that make "the dog ate my homework" look credible. They were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or brainwashed by internet conspiracies. Or they were just following the orders of "Dear Leader."

Jacob Chansley, the so-called QAnon Shaman, prominently pictured roaming the Capitol on January 6, had his mommy defending him and repeating election fraud lies. Does she also cut up the organic food he insisted on being served in jail into little pieces before feeding him by hand?

They feel protected, and why not? They have American history and a political party on their side, ready to put a treasonous insurrection in the rearview mirror. So many don't think what happened on Jan. 6 will touch them. Worse, many sympathize with those who see a more inclusive America as a threat.

With Trump on his vengeance tour spreading that message, aided and abetted by GOP politicians willing to look the other way, expect the worst.

Minorities and their civil rights may be the first in jeopardy. But don't be fooled. Those bent on violently undermining democracy won't stop there. They never do.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Was The Insurrection Just Another Day In America?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Is America getting a thirst for blood?

It's a question I ask after hearing too many Republicans dismiss the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob trying to halt the counting of American citizens' votes as a "normal tourist visit," in the words of Georgia Rep. Andrew S. Clyde, the same Clyde seen — mouth open and terrified — helping to barricade the besieged doors that day.

When I was a Baltimore schoolgirl, we often visited Washington, D.C., to tour the monuments. It was an easy and informative field trip, barely an hour away by bus. Now kids can occasionally be unruly, and the nuns had to raise their voices once or twice. But I don't recall ever erecting gallows on the Capitol lawn, breaking windows or pummeling police officers with batons and their own shields. In fact, I'm sure it would have made the front pages if a bunch of Black grade schoolers from St. Pius V Elementary ventured a foot beyond the velvet ropes, let alone desecrated the beautiful marble floors of a government building by using them as a toilet.

Have things changed that much for Clyde and all the others asking Americans and the world not to believe their lying eyes?

The list includes Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who said it "didn't look like an armed insurrection to me" and insisted he had no fear of the mob shouting "Hang Mike Pence" because they weren't, you know, Black Lives Matter protesters.

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) called the rioters "peaceful patriots" and derided law enforcement tracking them down.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said on the House floor that "the people that breached the Capitol on January 6 are being abused," with the cognitive dissonance that has become her trademark.

They are all taking their cues from the former president and current leader of the GOP, Donald Trump, who has described January 6 as a veritable love fest, with insurrectionists "hugging and kissing the police and the guards."

That's an awful lot of gaslighting — not the word that immediately comes to mind but one I believe those nuns would prefer I use.

A Different Time

On 9/11, the world saw the planes hit the buildings. But there were still so many questions: Who planned it? How did security fail? What needed to be done so it could never happen again? There was an immediate call for a bipartisan, independent commission, just as there was after January 6. But 20 years ago, perhaps because it was a foreign enemy, leaders of both parties could agree and make it happen.

Now the monster is inside the house. And the horrific thing is, a lot of folks love this monster.

It's only logical for Republicans who once castigated Trump for sending his amped-up crowd on the march and refusing to quickly step in to halt the chaos to now back away from any reflection, even though the commission rules were negotiated in part by one of their own, New York Rep. John Katko. The House members who fell in line and most Senate Republicans would rather downplay a stunning act of domestic terrorism that tried to bring down democracy, and instead concentrate on consolidating power in elections to come. The 2022 midterms are approaching, and there is so much on the party's plate — so many voting restrictions to enact and 2020 results to audit, over and over again.

What scares me most, though, is the realization that all that obfuscation and all the excuses that GOP leaders such as Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell are offering for opposition to the commission are not really necessary. For way too many Americans, the violence is the cost of doing business, if the business is maintaining a government of the (right) people, by the (right) people, for the (right) people, to grotesquely twist the words of famous Republican Abraham Lincoln.

Greene has been rewarded for her belligerence — be it the creepy and years-long stalking of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), or her confronting a teen survivor of a school shooting. The donations roll in to this representative without a committee assignment, who seems to spend most of her time in a calculated state of rage, the "angry white woman" of nightmares.

An American Perspectives Survey from January found that more than 1 in 3 Americans (36 percent) agreed with the statement: "The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it." That's a minority, to be sure, but still too close for comfort. A majority of Republicans (56 percent) supported the use of force, with independents at 35 percent and Democrats at 22 percent.

Nearly 3 in 10 Americans (29 percent) completely or somewhat agreed with the statement: "If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves even if it requires taking violent actions." According to the survey: "The use of violence finds somewhat more support among Republicans than Democrats, although most Republicans oppose it. Roughly four in 10 (39 percent) Republicans support Americans taking violent actions if elected leaders fail to act. … Thirty-one percent of independents and 17 percent of Democrats also support taking violent actions if elected leaders do not defend the country."

And They're Armed

When you link those numbers with the fact that a majority of Republicans believe the "big lie" that the 2020 election was stolen, that's a frightening number of aggrieved Americans, and a lot of them carry guns. Remember, in Trump we had a president who rather than disavow a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, trolled her with insults before, during, and after the plan was revealed.

More states are following the example of Texas, primed to enact a law that permits Texans to carry handguns without license or training, making it easier to shoot to kill than vote in the state, one that saw a massacre by a racist hunting Mexican Americans in El Paso.

It doesn't escape my notice that while the predominantly white crowd of Capitol rioters wanted to disqualify the votes of American citizens in cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Detroit — voters who looked like me — they worshipped Second Amendment protections that often don't extend to African Americans, to Philando Castile, a Minnesotan with a permit he was shot reaching for, or Tamir Rice and John Crawford, shot immediately by law enforcement in the open-carry state of Ohio while they were holding guns that weren't real.

In none of these cases did the usually vocal NRA spin a good-guy-with-a-gun narrative.

Inequality, delusions of a country slipping away, and armed citizens willing to do something about it equals a true recipe for violent disaster.

We've been here before. As a reminder of just how incendiary it can get, note that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when white citizens, abetted and assisted by law enforcement, torched and bombed "Black Wall Street," the homes and businesses of Black Oklahomans, and murdered hundreds of their fellow Tulsans. It happened because a lot of "ordinary" Americans were OK with it, and hid evidence of the crime.

It's not just that an insurrection is being "disappeared." It's that my fellow Americans, especially the ones who lead, apparently think it was just another day in America.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Smearing An Eminently Qualified Black Woman Is Business As Usual

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

She has been endorsed by many law enforcement groups, including the National Association of Police Organizations, yet she was accused of being anti-police. Baseless innuendo thrown her way has been refuted by support from the National Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League, and dozens of other local, state, and national Jewish organizations. She's been tagged as "extreme," which only makes sense if being an advocate for an equitable society qualifies.

The nomination of Kristen Clarke, President Joe Biden's choice to serve as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice, barely made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Panelists split 11-11 along party lines, and then on Tuesday, the full Senate voted 50-48 to discharge the nomination from the committee, setting up a final floor vote.

Is anyone surprised at the roadblocks this nomination has faced?

Clarke, a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, is a Black woman and president and executive director (now on leave) of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — and that may be the problem. The fight for "civil rights" for all, or even truthfully teaching about the struggle that made the fight necessary, has become controversial in some quarters, especially the Republican congressional caucuses.

Women of color have had a particularly tough time before the Senate Judiciary Committee with those who won't let the facts get in the way of partisan pushback. Vanita Gupta, despite her experience and endorsements, was attacked at her hearing before her eventual confirmation as associate attorney general. And then it was Clarke's turn.

The Usual Suspects

Some of it was comical, as when Sen. John Cornyn, took Clarke's satirical college writings criticizing the racism of The Bell Curve as literal. Some of it was just bullying, the well-trod territory of Cornyn's Texas partner, Sen. Ted Cruz, who insisted that a Newsweek column, in which Clarke agreed with Biden's call for more police funding, said the opposite.

Usually, presidents get the benefit of the doubt when choosing their teams. President Donald Trump certainly did, despite questionable qualifications for a host of them. His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, not only had no education experience, she also barely hid her contempt for the public schools neither she nor any of her children attended. But the majority of Republicans approved of her, and her prioritizing of Christian and charter schools.

Fellow Texan and former governor of the state Rick Perry got Cruz's vote for secretary of energy, the department he forgot he wanted to eliminate during his infamous "oops" moment at a presidential debate in 2011. Perry also admitted he had to play catch-up on what the department actually did.

You can't make this stuff up.

Hypocrisy is not exactly new to Washington. Recently, Republican lawmakers were falling all over themselves to speechify the honoring of law enforcement during National Police Week. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, in a floor speech, recognized officers "willing to risk their own lives to protect others" and warned that "demonization of law enforcement will have lasting consequences, and it will ultimately make all of us less safe." This, as members of his GOP are resisting calls to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and downplaying injuries suffered by officers protecting those lawmakers' hides.

A Familiar Refrain

Most every Black person gets a certain bit of oft-repeated parental advice: "You have to work twice as hard to get half as far." It's resulted in a lot of overworking achievers (too close for comfort right here), and a lot of stuffed résumés. But even if you follow it to the letter, as Clarke did when she earned a scholarship to an elite prep school that took her far from her Brooklyn home and on to positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, you might get smeared when you dare to be excellent while Black, and use that excellence to make life better for all Americans.

Many Black female leaders, allies and organizations have supported Clarke, who would be the first Black woman to hold the post, and she would certainly be a needed change from the previous administration. Business leaders, perhaps less timid after finding their voice on other issues, have signaled their approval. The Biden Justice Department, under new leadership, has tried to rebuild its mission after the Trump team seemed bound and determined to make a mockery of its name.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, who did pass muster this time at his Senate confirmation after then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to consider his Supreme Court nomination by President Barack Obama, is settling in with a full agenda. Garland has announced that the DOJ is reinstating consent decrees to reign in rogue police departments and going after white supremacists that Trump's own FBI director deemed the No. 1 domestic terror threat.

It's a big job that the likes of Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, not only ignored but subverted. In Clarke, the department would get a professional who has seen unequal treatment in her work and up close.

As Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and another Black woman who is about the country's unfinished business, told theGrio: "Those who oppose her confirmation are actually opposed to the confirmation of a real civil rights advocate to run the Civil Right Division. They don't really oppose Kristen — they oppose robust civil rights enforcement."

In her own remarks before the Judiciary Committee, Clarke made her mission clear by quoting the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, under whose leadership the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund was founded: "'Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.' I've tried to do just that at every step of my career."

If only her opponents could say the same.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Students Don’t Need The Disney Version Of Our History

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

The White House issued a proclamation last week, of the sort that most presidents have issued about historical events that deserve commemorating, but that were missing, for the most part, during the Trump reign.

This one marked the 60th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides, on May 4, 1961, when traveling on a bus meant risking your life, if you were with an integrated group, sitting in a spot of your choice. Those southbound heroes were willing to face beatings and the unknown at the hands of fellow citizens intent on stopping progress by any means necessary. Angry and afraid, the violent white supremacist mobs refused to acknowledge the humanity of African Americans or the validity of any law that looked forward not back.

It's the reality — and not the myth of uncomplicated greatness the country has told the world and itself for far too long.

And it's not always pretty.

For that reason, many Republicans want to "cancel" it, to use a word today's conservatives have been misusing with reckless abandon. They'd like to erase the history and the essential lessons that reveal so much about how and why America is so divided and its systems — of health care, housing, education, and more — so inequitable in 2021.

Why? Because for all the chest-thumping toughness so many Americans brag about, apparently white students are too fragile to hear the truth, or see the pictures on prized postcards that treated lynchings as entertainment for the whole family, an indictment of more than a few rogue racists.

Black students, of course, subject to disproportionate school suspensions, stereotypical assumptions from teachers, and keen scrutiny by law enforcement on their way to and from, and sometimes in, the classroom, know all too well that the problems they face stretch back 400 years and more. But the laws being passed and pushed in states across the country — no surprise — don't have them in mind.

Alternate Reality

For those making and debating these rules, in states such as Idaho, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas, creating an alternate reality, a version that resembles a Disneyfied diorama, is fine even if it is false, as long as it accommodates white feelings and gives in to white fears.

How will these laws be enforced? Government monitors? Would a fine be imposed if a teacher steps over some vague line? Well, yes, in Arizona, the penalty could be $5,000. If a curious student asks a question, will the teacher no longer be allowed to answer?

The late Rep. John Lewis, brave and persistent, who endured brutal beatings as a consequence of his civil rights activism —including his part in the Freedom Rides — would seem to be someone America's students could look up to. But I'm doubtful his march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965 would make it past the curriculum censors since his attackers were agents of the state, enforcing unjust laws that prevented African Americans from voting, from living a free life.

Can you imagine? Students might make a connection between those troopers and Derek Chauvin, a murderer in a uniform, and want to learn about the racist history of policing in America. Plus, calling that day "Bloody Sunday" just wouldn't do.

It's no coincidence that the defenders of a white-washed version of history are in many cases the same legislators rushing through laws that criminalize the protesters who are the spiritual sons and daughters of Lewis.

Do these arbiters of education think that if students don't learn about Jim Crow, they won't see anything shameful about "Jim Crow 2.0" laws that restrict voting rights and harken back to post-Reconstruction rules enacted to crush the progress of those who, once unshackled, achieved elective office and thrived?

It's clear from the twisted views of America's past held by many of the staunchest defenders of the anti-history movement that a more inclusive curriculum is overdue, and they should sign up for a makeup class.

Get the dunce cap ready for Martha Huckabay, president of the Women's Republican Club of New Orleans, who defended Louisiana GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo's words on teaching about the "good" parts of enslaving men, women, and children and offered choice thoughts of her own. Huckabay opined that slavery resulted in "hard working ethics" and that "many of the slaves loved their masters, and their masters loved them, and took very good care of them, and their families." Was she talking about the torture, the rape, or the selling of children away from moms and dads?

Tennessee Republican state Rep. Justin Lafferty somehow interpreted the three-fifths compromise in the original Constitution, which counted the enslaved as three-fifths of a human being, as a step toward ending slavery.

Colorado GOP state Rep. Ron Hanks said the three-fifths compromise "was not impugning anybody's humanity" — after he made a lynching joke. His Republican colleague, state Rep. Richard Holtorf, called another colleague the racist stereotype "Buckwheat," and insisted it had nothing — nothing — to do with race.

CNN contributor Rick Santorum has tried and failed miserably to explain his comments that "we birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes we have Native Americans, but candidly there isn't much Native American culture in American culture." Why, when he was a senator from Pennsylvania, could Santorum not be bothered to stroll to the National Museum of the American Indian? Was he too lazy or just incurious, either way not an example for school kids of any age?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has weighed in on the debate. He seems fine with teaching the words of America's founding documents — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution. Does he want to stop there, leaving out how, when and why the country failed to live up to the lofty principles in those documents until forced to by true patriots? He has said the year 1619, when the first enslaved Africans arrived in colonial Virginia, means little to him. Considering his slave-owning ancestors benefited from trading and "owning" human beings and, presumably, passed the wealth on to family members, you'd think McConnell would be a little more "woke."

History Repeats

"The past is never dead. It's not even past," wrote William Faulkner. The depressing proof can be seen in the tiki-torch-carrying white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia., chanting, "Jews will not replace us!" You have to wonder if avowed neo-Nazi James Fields Jr., serving life in prison for the killing of Heather Heyer, would even be charged under new laws that give a pass and winking approval to drivers who mow down protesters blocking a roadway?

Just months ago, on January 6, violent, hate-filled mobs — cousins in crime to those who greeted the Freedom Riders — stormed the U.S. Capitol, attacking police with the same weapons of batons and bats, hoisting Confederate flags, erecting gallows, hunting for lawmakers and endangering democracy itself.

South Carolina, where Lewis was viciously attacked and left in a pool of blood at the Rock Hill stop of the original Freedom Rides, on Monday officially observed Confederate Memorial Day, honoring traitors who fought to split a nation over the issue of slavery.

This Monday.

How will the next generations do better if they are forbidden from learning the history they must not repeat?

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

When 'America First' Is A Ticket To Last Place

It came and went in a second, in political time, a proposed idea that proved too racist for the politician reportedly behind it. But an "America First" caucus that was disavowed, sort of, by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and several of her Republican colleagues who at first seemed ready to sign up should be treated as more than a ridiculous sideshow.

The notions that fueled a "draft" stating the group's principles have lingered, becoming part of a conversation that's becoming a little less shocking and a lot more routine.

That's one takeaway from Greene's enormous fundraising haul, despite her lack of House committee assignments and useful endeavors. Even though the Georgia Republican backed away when the caucus's endorsement of "Anglo-Saxon political traditions" leaked out, the very idea seemed to excite some GOP lawmakers and ignite a constituency that is larger than many "real" Americans would like to admit.

You know, the real American citizens of every race, creed, color, orientation, and national origin, who believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence without reservation, despite the country's history of both triumphs and failures on that score. They are the Americans not surprised, but still disappointed that too many of their neighbors, co-workers, and elected representatives are willing to toss democracy if that's what it takes to hold on to the power they perceive to be slipping away, and justify it all with a sense of superiority — cultural and otherwise.

Exhibits A, B, C, Etc.

As if to prove the point that extreme views are cozily at home in today's GOP, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has so far refused to renounce his association with a Tea Party group that became the True Texas Project. Not long after a man who had posted a hate-filled screed against Hispanics fatally shot 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, one of the group's leaders posted on Facebook: "You're not going to demographically replace a once proud, strong people without getting blow-back." Are Texans in that city somehow less deserving of protection and representation, or mere consideration, by its senator?

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) is shocked, SHOCKED, that anyone would associate him with the "America First" caucus scheme, though he used that phrase in his keynote speech at an America First Political Action Conference in February. If you can judge a person by the company he keeps, the conference was organized by someone who said, "White people are done being bullied," and who had spoken approvingly of the crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Also making an appearance was former Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who once wondered what was so terrible about phrases such as "white nationalist, white supremacist, and Western civilization." Tellingly, none of Gosar's Arizona colleagues had much to say.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R_FL) tweeted that he was "proud to join" Greene in the "#AmericaFirst Caucus." Things must be really bad for him when he sees an "Anglo Saxon" caucus dripping in nativist rhetoric as a distraction and a step up.

When Greene's trademark bravado was cowed by rebukes from others in the GOP, she blamed the usual suspects, saying she had not seen the "staff-level draft proposal from an outside group" and mumbling something about the media taking it out of context. Now, she is off to her latest adventure that has little to do with her Georgia constituents, publicizing a planned appearance at a "Back the Blue and Freedom Rally" in Columbus, Ohio, a community trying to sort out the details and the fallout from the police shooting of 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant.

It's not exactly what a volatile situation needs, but then, you can't keep an angry woman down, and to borrow a reference from Marvel's Hulk, that woman is "always angry."

'Starts With The Art'

But the discarded "America First" draft, published by Punchbowl News, is too rich and detailed to let disappear in the haze of an accelerated news cycle. It covered everything from tech to trade and even architecture, promoting "infrastructure that reflects the architectural, engineering, and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture."

Whew! That reminds me of an exhibit I visited several years ago at the Neue Galerie New York, "Degenerate Art: The Attack on Modern Art in Nazi Germany, 1937," noting what was purged in the name of German purity. New York Times critic Holland Cotter said it addressed, on a large scale, "the Nazis' selective demonizing of art, how that helped foment an atmosphere of permissible hatred and forged a link between aesthetics and human disaster."

I am not one to compare everything to Hitler, but as I viewed the vibrant, modern work that Hitler denigrated, displayed next to the pieces he approved as representative of German culture, I thought, "It starts with the art."

The draft — dare I call it a "white paper"? — called for "a certain intellectual boldness" to "follow in President Trump's footsteps, and potentially step on some toes." Nowhere does it mention that those toes might belong to Donald Trump if anyone dare shows the "intellectual boldness," much less the honesty, to admit the former president lost the 2020 election. He's still spouting nonsense about a "stolen" election, and not one of these bold individuals is telling the emperor of Mar-a-Lago that he'd better grab an overcoat.

In fact, none of the above politicians has yet passed the test of recognizing that Joseph R. Biden, Jr. won a free and fair presidential election. Instead they voted, after the attack on the Capitol, not to certify his win.

Can any doctrine lay claim to integrity when it starts with a lie and treats democracy that recognizes the worth of all Americans as something to be quashed?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who craved some credit for rejecting the "America First" idea, has been running toward Trump before and since. McCarthy, who is salivating at the thought of becoming speaker in 2023, has stalled on the formation of a narrowly focused 9/11-style commission to get to the bottom of the January 6 insurrection. By wanting to include Black Lives Matter in any investigation, he is equating rioters looking to overthrow democracy with protesters asking law enforcement to protect and serve all Americans, even as the headlines regularly validate their cause.

It's as though there is a multipart GOP plan for success: Tighten the rules for voters who hold different beliefs and pass laws to punish marchers for racial justice while quibbling over examining the January insurrection fueled by Republicans' own election falsehoods and yelling the once-quiet part through a bullhorn — or in a leaked manifesto.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

One Black Life Mattered, This Time

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Remember when three Black women proclaimed that Black Lives Matter? It was in 2013 after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. It seemed so essential and overdue for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to found a movement to defiantly claim what America had too often denied.

Yet it was controversial. The willfully blind countered with "All Lives Matter," as though saying that would make it so. Then, there were suggestions: "Don't you think it would be less divisive if the signs read 'Black Lives Matter, Too?'"

In all honesty, anyone who did not get it was not going to with the addition of one three-letter word. But then the world witnessed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That the doubters needed video evidence was infuriating, when Black and brown Americans had been bearing witness for hundreds of years. But communities craving visibility and justice welcomed the opened eyes and protests by all ages and races.

It was certainly never a sure thing that Chauvin would be found guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges, as he was. There was also video of the killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016 and Walter Scott in South Carolina in 2015. Yet in Castile's case, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty. And in Scott's case, after the first prosecution ended in a hung jury, it took a federal prosecution to gain a plea from former police officer Michael Slager — despite the evidence a brave citizen recorded of Slager shooting Scott in the back, taking aim while standing 15 to 20 feet away, and then throwing his Taser down to concoct a false story for his department to swallow and regurgitate as truth. (Another bit of mild relief this week as Slager's 20-year sentence was upheld.)

No wonder so many were holding our collective breath.

Unique Circumstances

It took the shock and trauma of Floyd's torture and murder in broad daylight, the look on the face of a white police officer showing the crowd that he was in charge, and a prosecution that cared enough to put in the work to get a conviction. The defense lawyer's characterization of Floyd as at once superhuman, able to rise up after he stopped breathing, yet so weak he literally dropped dead from preexisting conditions, and the crowd as frightening when they were the ones helplessly pleading with Chauvin, the man with the gun and the mace, fell flat this time.

In a startling change, police testified against one of their own, as if to say, it's him, not us. An acquittal for Chauvin would have truly proved police can get away with anything.

But the marches and protests will continue because it is about more than one trial and one officer. The case of Daunte Wright, shot and killed during what started as a traffic stop in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, as the Chauvin trial was going on, was a reminder of that. And at those Black Lives Matter marches, a militarized presence by police contrasted with their light hand when confronted by anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers, and insurrectionists anxious to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

Peaceful civil rights activists now praised as secular saints by liberals and conservatives alike — a litany that includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Fannie Lou Hamer — were once met with state-sanctioned violence. Some scenes in the present, at protests for justice, resemble the images from then, with tear gas lingering in the air and snipers on roofs.

Changes Afoot

It's true the Biden administration's Department of Justice seems to be taking that word "justice" seriously. Attorney General Merrick Garland is rescinding the ban on consent decrees that monitored local police departments, agreements President Donald Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions deemed an infringement. Just this week, Garland announced a Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.

In my home state of Maryland, the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill that repealed the state's powerful Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights. Now Maryland has established new use-of-force rules, among other provisions on investigations and punishment, and civilians can weigh in.

Yet, in Florida, in what can only be described as a retreat to the bad old days, Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill brazenly targeting racial justice protesters that punishes protest itself with felony charges. At the signing, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd warned newcomers to the state: "Don't register to vote and vote the stupid way they did up north and get what they got."

Ah, Florida. Come for the voter suppression, get arrested at a protest as a bonus.

Even after Chauvin's conviction, there does not seem to be much enthusiasm from Senate Republicans for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, though polls suggest public support for provisions such as bans on chokeholds, limits on no-knock warrants, and data collection that would prevent bad police officers from moving to different jurisdictions without leaving a trail.

Anyone who was paying attention knows that Chauvin was one ten-minute video taken by a stalwart 17-year-old away from returning to his beat, charged up on new resentments.

A Black life may have mattered, this time. But many of us have yet to exhale.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

If Corporations Are ‘People,’ They Just Might Have An Opinion

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

That Pepsi bottle on the counter looks so out of place. My husband has always been a Diet Coke man. It's a matter of principle, he tells me, even as he admits he prefers "The Real Thing." Coca-Cola's statement disapproving of Georgia's new voting restrictions was too little, too late, and that's that, he says. All of that puts the Atlanta-based soft drink giant in a bind, since even its belated critical stand was too much for backers of the bill, who are also banishing Coke from their own fridges, they say.

What's a company to do?

I can't feel too sorry for Coca-Cola, Delta, and the rest, though, since they've been playing the political game forever while pretending to be above it all. And I have to stifle a laugh at the Republican politicians who are admonishing corporations and sports leagues now that the bills the GOP instigated aren't getting a pass. These are the same pols who eagerly accepted campaign donations and good PR in days past.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is astute enough to recognize why his furrowed brow and outraged words are landing with a thud. It's why his story is constantly changing. He told companies to stay out of politics, was called on it, then said he meant to only offer advice that business leaders read the fine print before opening their mouths and closing their pocketbooks.

Carefully studying the legislation would be more than I'd wager Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did, judging by the speed with which he signed the 98-page, GOP-led monster, after it raced through the state legislature, though I'm sure he was briefed on its intent. However, the arrest of duly elected Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon after she knocked on Kemp's door to witness the signing seemed to happen in excruciating slow motion.

Kemp's expressions of concern for Black-owned businesses hurt by Major League Baseball moving its All-Star Game from Georgia, after he prevented Cannon from witnessing the signing of a bill that would affect so many of her constituents, earns him a spot right alongside McConnell in the hypocrites' hall of fame.

Many Georgia Democratic politicians and activists, such as Stacey Abrams, Kemp's past and maybe future opponent, have reminded those who would boycott the state about the workers who would pay a price. But the blame for the punitive actions clearly lies at the feet of the lawmakers who rushed to fix an election system that was not broken — unless broken is defined as losing presidential and senatorial contests.

Devil's In The Details

Apparently, more and more companies are taking Kemp's advice to become informed about not only Georgia's bill but also voting legislation that Republican-controlled legislatures are rushing to pass across the country. The New York Times provided a handy deep dive into the Georgia law. Here are some lowlights: Voters will have less time to request absentee ballots; drop boxes still exist, but barely; if election problems arise, it will be more difficult to extend voting hours; and so much more.

What many find most disturbing in that and other bills are new rules that would give legislatures the right to overrule the will of voters. For instance, in Georgia, the GOP-led legislature is now empowered to suspend county election officials. Isn't that what Donald Trump dictated in his threatening calls to state officials?

How widespread is the threat to democracy? The Brennan Center for Justice estimated that, as of late March, legislators had introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states.

I, for one, would be happy to never hear the word "cancel" again, now that it's used as a mantra from the folks who want to cancel the will of the voters who favored Joe Biden. Did they honestly expect American citizens (many of whom work for or patronize those now-vocal corporations) to take it? After all the corporate statements last summer supporting equity and racial justice after George Floyd's deadly interaction with law enforcement, it was inevitable that demands to back up those words with action would follow.

Good For Business?

Recently, more than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders met virtually to discuss taking action to oppose the voting bills, including withholding investments from states that pass such measures and donations from politicians who support them. Get McConnell the smelling salts!

That's a little surprising since the usual corporate comfort zone is taking the tax breaks and hiring lots of lobbyists. So a certain amount of cynicism is allowed. Paying attention now must be good for business, or CEOs wouldn't be considering it. You also have to credit the 72 African American executives who signed a letter criticizing business as usual. Two of them — Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck — reportedly helped lead the meeting.

In Michigan, leaders of Ford and General Motors joined other businesses based there to voice their opposition to GOP-sponsored election bills in that state and around the country. And more than a dozen top law firms have committed to forming what amounts to legal "SWAT teams" to fight the laws.

Remember when McConnell celebrated the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling that companies could finance election spending? "An important step" in restoring their First Amendment rights, he said. Mitt Romney famously said: "Corporations are people."

Well, people are going to have an opinion and perhaps, when prodded, a conscience. From now on, Georgia and states with laws on deck (a baseball reference in memory of a missed All-Star opportunity) have to decide if corporations are naughty children to be scolded and condescended to, or not.

For those without Fortune 500 bona fides, and only their vote as voice, why wouldn't that vote be protected as precious? Which brings me back to my husband, who reminds me, only half-jokingly, that not only is he doing his part, he's also in good company. Will Smith has decided that his next project is canceling plans to film in Georgia because of the state's freshly minted voting restrictions.

Bad boys, indeed.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Pandemics And Massacres Are Real Life, Not 'Theater'

Perhaps Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky needs a refresher course on the meaning of the word "theater." His GOP colleague Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas could listen in.

The former recently initiated a verbal brawl with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who has been providing information and advice to guide Americans dealing, along with the rest of the world, with a deadly pandemic. The latter accused anyone proposing the consideration of gun restrictions, in light of two horrific mass shootings in the space of a week, of "ridiculous theater."

Now, I realize the term "theatrical" can be used as an insult hurled at someone accused of exaggeration, but what is happening in America is a fact. So let me offer my own definition: "Theater" is the thrill of escaping from it all in a darkened hall with a group of strangers, to see and hear professionals act or sing or dance, and to be uplifted by the experience, if only for an hour or two.

And it's something we've been deprived of during this past, very long year amid the pain of COVID-19, with deadly gun violence that has not abated as a backdrop, and so much more.

The country has been crawling out of isolation because of dropping COVID-19 infection rates and the rising number of people receiving vaccines, though recent trends show cases on the rise again in more than 20 states. At a recent Senate hearing, Fauci cautioned against prematurely ditching precautions, such as wearing masks, until the virus is under control. Medical experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree.

That's when Paul called the act of wearing masks "theater." He challenged the necessity of masks for those who have had the virus (he has) or have gotten the vaccine (he has not).

Paul imagines he is an authority because of his COVID-19 experience and because he has selectively extracted parts of reports that align with his own conclusions. (He is a doctor of ophthalmology.) He is certainly luckier than the more than 540,000 Americans who have died after contracting the virus and the many long-haulers left with lingering symptoms and side effects.

At the Senate hearing, not his first clash with the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, it seemed that Paul was going for a viral theatrical moment of his own, as he kept interrupting Fauci with pronouncements and questions whose answers Paul ignored.

An exasperated Fauci explained to Paul as he would to a third-grader that the studies on COVID-19 are far from conclusive and that variants add even more uncertainty into expectations about how the virus is spread and how much and how long vaccines are most effective.

Reality Bites

Everyone is understandably frustrated. Businesses want and need to open to capacity. Children and parents, as well as teachers and staffers, long for school like it used to be. People want to meet friends. "Cabin fever" is too frivolous a term for what everyone is going through.

But Americans also want to be safe. So they listen to repetitious advice to put on that mask, grab the sanitizer and keep safe distances. And they wait to get on a list for a vaccine. Well, some do. Others crowd beaches for spring break or visit crowded clubs, which is some of the behavior Fauci was warning against.

President Joe Biden promised relief, more vaccines with efficient and equitable distribution, and asked for the help and cooperation of Americans. Results have been mixed, with leaders such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem more intent on leaning into culture wars than managing the pandemic in their states. With an eye on a growing national profile, Noem insisted at CPAC that Fauci "is wrong a lot," joining other 2024 hopefuls in insisting there is nothing to see here.

No Republicans, and that includes Paul and Cruz, voted in favor of a relief package that a majority of polled Americans favored. I wonder if Paul had access to the best, insured medical care in his own COVID-19 fight. Meanwhile, many who could not afford to stay home or call in sick to their jobs have been keeping the country going.

Several of those essential workers were doing their jobs at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket this week when they were shot and killed by a gunman, a case that is still being investigated, as is the shooting that left eight dead in Atlanta last week. A discussion of gun policy and Second Amendment rights is possible without dismissing opponents' concerns as "theater."

Real Theater

That word, though, is not the insult Paul and Cruz think it is.

Some people escape with sports or by going to the gym or cooking or reading a good book. Though I may do all of the above, it's theater that lifts my heart. I recall the last Broadway show I attended, the musical Moulin Rouge, all cheekily garish sets, loud music, stylish dancing, and a plot you could see coming from a mile away. I loved every minute, and even had a picture taken close by the stage. When I shared it on social media, and it was "liked" by one of my favorites, Danny Burstein, who played the club impresario, I was in theater nerd heaven. Then, when it was announced that Burstein, along with many of the show's cast, had come down with the virus, I knew it was time to rip up the tickets for my next theater outing. Everything had changed.

It's not that I don't dearly miss visiting family members, hugging my friends, or returning to the now-dark Broadway scene.

But when Anthony Fauci says to keep wearing masks, at least for now, I'm going to listen to him, not Rand Paul. And when leaders work to figure out a way to make Americans feel safe from violence when they do venture out, I won't immediately attack their efforts and their motives, which is Ted Cruz's go-to move.

It's about knowing the difference between real life and make believe.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

In Trump’s GOP, They Can’t Handle The Truth

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Even if you don't like or have never seen the 1992 film, or if you judge Jack Nicholson's acting technique as, shall we say, a bit much, you can probably recite his signature outburst from "A Few Good Men," with appropriate volume: "You can't handle the truth!"

Why are so many in the GOP still insisting that the presidential election was rigged and that Donald Trump, the main attraction at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, is the "real" president? Why would a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — to avoid a repeat by the same forces who believed an election fraud lie — be a bad idea? Why all the squawking and attempts in some states to censor a social studies curriculum that presents a nuanced and complete history of a United States that has not always acknowledged the accomplishments and sacrifice of all its citizens?

Say it louder, Jack. I don't think the Republicans present and represented at CPAC can hear you.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to reassure a justifiably fearful country, in the midst of a crushing Depression, by being honest and positive about "our common problems."

"Let me assert my firm belief," he said, "that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Actions motivated by that emotion, by fear, can easily take a toxic turn, away from the truth toward full retreat from anything that acknowledges "common problems" or a willingness to solve them.

At CPAC, speaker after speaker repeated a lie that widespread voter fraud, not the votes of more than 81 million Americans, put Joe Biden in the White House. Though that lie fueled the pro-Trump riot of Jan. 6 that left five people dead, too many GOP lawmakers refuse to face that truth, fearful that Trump will name them, as he did every one of the House and Senate Republicans who supported his impeachment in his CPAC speech. This acquiescence is coming from some who were witness to the chaos.

It's a soulless transaction that views democracy as expendable.

And it's leading to an avalanche of additional attacks on democracy, in the form of voting restrictions in states across the country by legislatures dominated by Republicans.

A Return To Form

Newly minted swing states Biden won are clearly in the crosshairs. Arizona Republicans are floating a law that would allow the state Legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election. And sweeping election changes under consideration in Georgia would, among other things, limit Sunday voting — a move certainly aimed at the "Souls to the Polls" events popular with predominantly Black churches.

Additionally, in Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, praised for defying Trump's effort to hold up the state's valid 2020 vote count, has made it known that his office will enforce the rule preventing folks from providing food or water to anyone standing in line to vote.

Enough GOP senators, looking more and more like those who once set up literacy tests and poll taxes, seem all too ready to stop House legislation proposed to make voting easier because of fear that a multiracial and multicultural America will reject what the party Trump still leads is offering.

With the Supreme Court looking primed to further shrink the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, if the justices' questions this week in important voting rights cases are any indication, maybe the GOP shouldn't worry too much about its battle on that front, though voters of color might truly have something to fear.

Fear Laid Bare

"Election integrity" was the focus of Trump's weekend speech, as well as many of the sessions at CPAC. The fear behind that slogan has been laid bare by the continued attacks on voters in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, and other majority-minority centers, presenting a scary "other" instead of an America that's bending toward justice. Listening to the concerns of all Americans, to the truths about needed police reform, health care inequities in the communities most devastated by COVID-19, and environmental injustices on view just weeks ago in Texas, must be a step too far for lawmakers who won't believe the Trump-appointed director of the FBI when he warns of domestic terrorism by far-right groups.

At a Senate Judiciary hearing this week to address concerns about the intelligence leading up to January 6, as well as the threat of domestic terrorism, Christopher Wray's repeated declarations about the outsize role of militia and white supremacist groups and the danger that has his agency chasing more than 2,000 cases met GOP ears that would rather deflect.

While Sen. Chuck Grassley did not go full Ron Johnson, which would mean echoing the Wisconsin senator's wild and false claims of "fake Trump protesters" who ruined a "jovial" pro-police gathering on January 6, the Iowa Republican tried and failed in his effort to make Wray view domestic terrorism through a lens of antifa and leftist protests of last summer.

"We're not serious about attacking domestic extremism if we only focus on white supremacy movements, which isn't the only ideology that's responsible for murders and violence," Grassley said, though, according to Wray and anyone with eyes, those movements were most responsible for January 6.

The Republican Party of now was on view at CPAC, with Trump the star and a soundtrack of "Y.M.C.A" and "Macho Man," amusingly ironic for anyone familiar with the Village People's ethos and the anti-LGBTQ turn of today's GOP. Stereotypically tough "macho" talk marked speech after speech, though deception was rampant and the fear so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The scene was ridiculous, really, especially that golden Trump idol that had some worshippers bowing down. Don't Trump's white evangelical followers recall Moses, a golden calf, and false gods?

But it's not funny, as endless examples prove.

FDR seemed to forget his own wise words during World War II, when he signed an executive order that sent people of Japanese descent — men, women and children, most of them American citizens — to isolated internment camps. The racism-fueled decision, not extended to Americans of German and Italian descent, was eventually reversed by the Supreme Court, which once had given it a pass.

That whole chapter, which no telling of American history should cancel, remains a stain on professed American ideals.

It's not just the truth, it's a warning of what fear can lead to.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

A Presidential Loser Can Still Win — But Will Trump?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

When you lose something precious, something valuable — the big prize — you don't have to get stuck with the "loser" label forever. Life and politics are full of examples of broken hearts and smashed dreams, and also examples of those who managed to rewrite their legacies in meaningful ways that benefited themselves and society.

Donald Trump has proved that he is not the kind of person given to reflection or remorse and would seem the last character capable of earning redemption. He slinked out of the White House on Wednesday, burdened with grievances, two impeachments and "what-ifs," beating an early retreat before Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were sworn in. But it's not too late for him to learn something he has not so far in his 74 years.

Though he predicted four years ago that an America without his leadership would crumble, it was Trump who brought a vision of "American carnage" to life. The lasting image is of his supporters storming the U.S. Capitol, attacking democracy itself, and of a COVID-19 death toll passing 400,000, Americans mourned not by him but by Biden and Harris on inauguration eve with a solemn and soulful service the country needed.

But Trump's Wikipedia entry doesn't have to start with the word "disaster," not if he looks away from his red-carpet exit to pay attention, even with his notoriously short attention span, to how others have conducted themselves when confronted with power and influence slipping through their fingers.

Second Acts

The person Trump often mocked for choking "like a dog" in his defeat by President Barack Obama in 2012 now has the upper hand as the leader of the Senate's "I told you so" caucus. Though he still may get hounded at airports or on planes by rowdy louts, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney stands as the only Republican to vote to convict on one article at Trump's first impeachment.

That, and his simple acknowledgment in November that Biden won, almost makes the memory of his sought-after endorsement by citizen Trump in 2012 and his early attempt to gain a spot in the Trump Cabinet fade. Now that Romney's presidential hopes are in the rear-view mirror, he clearly sees burnishing his legacy on the road ahead. And, perhaps, he simply believes in the Constitution.

Al Gore certainly has built a legacy that is so much more than being the candidate on the losing end of the 2000 presidential election decided by the state of Florida and a Supreme Court decision that is still argued over.

After Gore, as vice president, presided over the tallying of the electoral count that declared George W. Bush the new president, brushing off the objections of some allies, no one would have blamed him for going off the grid forever. But anyone who had listened to his eloquent speech of concession, urging the country to move forward, would have known that was not to be his last act.

Gore turned to his passion: climate change, the environment and the effects of global warming. The film "An Inconvenient Truth" turned his wonky slideshow into a riveting documentary that spread his ideas to millions and won two Academy Awards in the process. He was honored, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

That Nobel honor was also awarded to former President Jimmy Carter in 2002for "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

After a crushing landslide loss to the Ronald Reagan juggernaut in 1980, Carter returned to Georgia, but his global influence continued as he traveled the world to spread the gospel of democracy, monitor elections and play key roles in diplomatic negotiations.

The work of the Carter Center in Atlanta, founded to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering, is credited with important global health achievements, including assisting in the near elimination of Guinea worm disease, a painful and debilitating scourge that once plagued millions.

Remember how many folks wanted to dismiss another Georgian, Stacey Abrams, as a "loser" after her 2018 defeat for governor against Brian Kemp, an election he also conveniently oversaw as Georgia's secretary of state? When Abrams dared say she was more than qualified to be picked as Biden's running mate, many called her everything but "uppity" for daring to put her hat in the ring.

Nobody's snickering now. We were reminded of how Abrams lives rent-free in Trump's head when he used her name as a taunt in attempting to force Georgia officials to change the presidential results — by finding or tossing votes — in those infamous phone calls that may come back to legally haunt him.

After Abrams came some 55,000 votes shy of becoming the nation's first Black female governor, she continued to organize and strategize, seeking to expand the franchise to all Georgians. She had already launched the New Georgia Project, now ably run by Nsé Ufot, after the Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. After her defeat, she founded Fair Fight to counter voter suppression efforts and mobilize voter participation.

That involvement by Abrams and so many other grassroots organizers, many of them African American women, helped deliver the former Confederate state of Georgia to Biden and sent two Democratic senators to Washington.

Now other states and the Democratic Party want to clone her.

Turning A Page

Like Carter and so many of the country's leaders, Biden has relied on his faith to see him through unimaginable losses, both political and personal. Expect to hear quotes from Scriptures and hymns in the next four years.

Many in an exhausted and ailing country and around the world soaked in Biden's declaration in his inauguration speech that "democracy has prevailed." With the help of all Americans, the new president promised to write "the next great chapter" in the American story, one of "hope, not fear."

Trump has set the bar for acceptable behavior so low he would not have to do much for people to give him a little bit of credit for helping write a new chapter, perhaps by joining others in that exclusive club of former presidents who find more in common when they are no longer rivals and can do so much good.

Though Trump has reportedly floated the idea of a third party, dragging QAnon cultists, dead-enders, white supremacists and others raging against America along with him, even he has to know — and his dispirited farewell gave a hint — that's a losers' game. Heck, even Mitch McConnell knows it.

But one glaring and important lesson, lived out in examples that are plain to see, would be the hardest for the Trump everybody knows to absorb — winning doesn't always have to be about "you."

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

A Trump Christmas Brings Tidings Of Resentment And Revenge

Behaving badly, in a way contrary to anyone's idea of norms or traditions, has become a badge of honor for far too many of our nation's leaders and citizens, for which they feel neither shame nor a need to apologize.

Do unto others? Not quite. All those questions that should give pause — "Would you want someone to call your mother that name?" "What kind of example are you setting for your child?" — don't work.

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Trump’s Re-Election Is Confederacy's New ‘Lost Cause’

You can tell a lot about people by studying their priorities.

President Donald Trump is not spending too much time worrying about coronavirus surges and more than 270,000 Americans dead, as Dr. Anthony Fauci offers warnings about being vigilant while waiting for vaccine distribution. You did not hear the president express sympathy for those waiting in long lines for food over the holidays.

Instead, he has played a lot of golf and wailed on Twitter and television, refusing to accept his loss last month to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. Oh, yes, and the Justice Department found time to amend protocols to allow firing squads and electrocutions as a means to execute as many federal prisoners as possible before a new administration takes over.

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The Power Of Jill Biden — And The Women Her Husband Trusts

When Barack Obama won the presidency, many tipped a hat to Michelle Obama, his wife and partner, including Barack Obama himself. It was true in 2008 that the candidate was a smart man, a gifted orator and an exceptional politician as he broke through to become the first Black president of the United States. But he could not have done it without Michelle Obama.

That's my take, anyway.

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