Mike Johnson

Speaker Johnson's Strange Manipulation Of His Shadowy 'Black Son'

“Some of my best friends are Black” is a phrase that has become cliché, and deservedly so, since it is essentially a dodge. Folks uttering those words are looking for a free pass, credit for knowing what it means to be Black in America without doing the work.

By now, most people know that proximity does not equal understanding.

Most, but not all.

The new speaker of the House, GOP Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, has been known to showcase the Black child in his family’s life over two decades, usually when his empathy on matters of race needs a boost. Johnson controls the narrative. He doesn’t want to infringe on the privacy of a now-grown man with a family, he says, so he won’t go into too much detail.

Just enough, though, to show he gets it.

I have nothing against any person of any race who wants to foster, mentor or teach any young person in need of guidance. I applaud the realization that all parties on both sides of such relationships have opportunities to learn and grow. At the same time, I think it’s fair that reporters question just how formal the relationship between congressman and child has been, and why this child is conspicuously missing from family biographies and photographs.

I also wonder about any story cut from the same cloth as The Blind Side, the simple tale of a wealthy white family “adopting” a deprived Black child, rescuing him from an ignoble fate and smoothing his way to football glory in college and the pros. That “just like a movie” story, which has been cited by Johnson as a template, was far more complicated, as the world has come to learn.

Johnson’s tale seems to be similar in many ways, with one particular problem common to these kinds of inspirational parables. They almost always place the white benefactor front and center, instead of the person who was a person before being molded by a Good Samaritan.

In the case of popular movie The Blind Side, a young Michael Oher was already a gifted, smart and hard-working young man and athlete with admirable Black role models, not the nearly mute cipher portrayed as a vessel for the Tuohy family’s largesse in an Oscar-winning film. Oher, in his own voice, said as much in books and when he took his “family” to court to sever a conservatorship that was never an adoption.

I don’t know much about Johnson’s ward, son, or however he would describe the man, also named Michael, except what I’ve learned when he makes a cameo appearance in a pithy yarn from the new speaker.

Reparations? Johnson is against awarding any kind of compensation to descendants of those discriminated against, locked out of an equal shot at the American dream for generations. He came to the conclusion not after a close examination of American history. No, rather than depending on the facts of the case, attorney-turned-lawmaker Johnson relied on Michael, who, he told a House subcommittee, thought reparations defied an “important tradition of self-reliance.”

Funny, I don’t know what the Johnsons’ four biological children think about reparations, or anything else.

After George Floyd was murdered, Johnson acknowledged the existence of a world that treated his two then 14-year-olds differently. Johnson said on PBS: “Michael being a Black American and Jack being white Caucasian. They have different challenges. My son Jack has an easier path. He just does.”

But that was so 2020. Since his recent promotion, to assuage a MAGA base who believes such talk makes him an “undercover Democrat,” as one conservative activist has put it, Johnson told Fox News’ Sean Hannity it wasn’t race so much as “culture and society,” that was the culprit, “a really troubled background” and “a lot of challenges.”

Seems like Johnson, while shielding the child who’s like a member of his family, doesn’t mind squeezing him into the most stereotypical The Blind Side frame, speaking for and about him.

Pretty much everyone could have seen that coming from a politician with Johnson’s mix of piety, judgment, and ambition.

It’s pretty rich that Johnson downplayed the role of systemic racism as he represented a state that in the past spawned the U.S. Supreme Court disgrace of Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” doctrine, and is now in court disputes on congressional districts that give African American voters a fair chance.

Where does Johnson stand on banning books that teach his son or any other child these Louisiana truths? Maybe we’ll soon hear from Johnson that “Michael” disapproves.

If Mike Johnson really wanted to know what African Americans feel, about anything, he could reach out to his constituents in the state’s Fourth District, which is about one-third Black.

In talking with residents of the Shreveport-Bossier area, The Washington Post and The New York Times found stark divides along party and race, which often walk together in the South, though no race is monolithic in opinion. Many white conservatives, including his mom, were quoted as loving Johnson’s agenda, and believing a spiritual hand more than an exhausted Republican House caucus eased his elevation to speaker.

Instead of listening only to that choir and the Black child who, in his telling, whispers in his ear on racial issues, Johnson should consider consulting dissenting constituents who tell him things he may not want to hear. Those citizens have far more experience raising Black children in a state and district with a history of racial discrimination in education, housing, employment, voting rights, criminal justice and so much more.

In showing humility and doing the work he was sent to Washington to do, Johnson might learn something — and finally give Michael that privacy.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Matt Gaetz

Does America 'Deserve' The Leadership Of House Republicans? Really?

“I think there’s some reason to doubt whether or not Matt Gaetz is serious,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, Republican from South Dakota.

Talk about an understatement. When a member of your own party verbally spanks you, and another characterizes your immediate fundraising following Tuesday’s congressional chaos as “disgusting,” as Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana made a point of doing, self-reflection might be a logical reaction.

But that is not what drives Gaetz, the Florida Republican who definitely got what he wanted — time in the spotlight and, yes, the ouster of now former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

What do Americans think, the people who don’t much care about the latest congressional preening, not when they came so very close to losing needed food aid, veteran counseling, education funding, access to parks and museums and all the meaningful and essential things in jeopardy when the government shuts down?

Well, of course some of those with worries about everything from the economy to the border who gave the GOP their current majority, albeit a sliver of one, might be pleased with the mess — as long as Gaetz and his tiny cohort disrupt. But what about those who wanted change, but not the drama of representatives such as Gaetz — and Majorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), George Santos (R-NY) and Lauren Boebert (R_CO)?

Greene made sure to insert an amendment in a Defense spending bill that would cut the salary of Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1, her petty posturing slamming the first African American to hold that position no coincidence. Fabulist Santos emerges from his corner from time to time, just to remind everyone that he’s a congressman and you’re not. Boebert? Enough said.

Don’t weep for the unfortunate McCarthy, though, considering the only thing he seemed serious about was becoming speaker. He didn’t even realize that if you want a few Democrats to throw you a lifeline, perhaps you shouldn’t break your pledge on opening an impeachment inquiry without a vote. And blaming the opposing party for dysfunction you clearly own is definitely not a good idea.

When he bargained away the store, giving far-right members the power to take it all away with one vote, when he grinned and bore it when Gaetz marked “present,” instead of affirming his leadership nine short months ago, McCarthy was cooked.

But there’s a reason so many Republicans are furious with Gaetz. And no, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called out Gaetz in The Washington Post, doesn’t get a cookie. The man so many in both parties blame for poisoning any semblance of bipartisanship as speaker in the 1990s has more in common with the Florida firebrand than he has the self-awareness to admit.

This week’s food fight is the latest move that exposes the endgame of today’s GOP — power with a heavy dose of trolling. Being serious leaders of a country in need of leadership was never in the plan.

It makes sense that Donald Trump is the Republican Party. Ever on brand, the former president and current front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination couldn’t let the Washington GOP contingent get all the buzz.

So, this week he showed up and showed out at his trial on fraud charges in New York City.

It wasn’t the least bit amusing.

Trump’s performances curdled a long time ago, if they ever worked, at least for those on the receiving end of his bile. What he does, what his party does with rhetoric and action that riles up the base, hurts real people. His targeting of an American public servant is nothing new; this time, lies on social media about the New York judge’s clerk earned Trump a gag order.

From New York and Washington, the events of this week resembled a reality show that would tank in the ratings: “White Men Behaving Badly.”

The short-term funding deal keeping the government running is on track to expire in time for the holidays, while House Republicans are embroiled in what is sure to be a contentious battle over who will become the next permanent (ha!) speaker.

Who would want the job, knowing what happened to the last one — and previous GOP House speakers Paul D. Ryan and John A. Boehner?

Power, though, draws candidates like rotten meat draws flies, especially if you don’t intend to do the job. Rep. Jim Jordan has thrown his hat into the ring and possibly donned a jacket for a chance to bang that gavel. As Judiciary chair, the Ohio Republican has already proven to be an expert troller.

Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas has said he will file paperwork to nominate Trump, and why not?

One of the first actions of the guy holding the spot for now, Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, proves that he has a qualification his party seems to love. In an act of vindictive cruelty, McHenry ordered former Speaker Nancy Pelosi to vacate her Capitol hideaway office — while the Democrat was in California for the funeral of her longtime friend, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.


In a statement, Pelosi said: “Office space doesn’t matter to me, but it seems to be important to them. Now that the new Republican leadership has settled this important matter, let’s hope they get to work on what’s truly important for the American people.”

Remember the lack of drama that marked Pelosi’s time as speaker, operating with a majority nearly as tight as McCarthy’s?

The GOP might take a leadership lesson from Pelosi, who put politics aside when she remained calm, and reached out with concern to her GOP colleagues when the Capitol was under attack from rioters some Republicans now characterize as “patriots.”

The current House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, is learning fast. Jeffries kept his caucus together this week, and wound up looking like the grown-up, in contrast to an opposing party eating its young.

Turns out diversity really is our strength.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Is Purple North Carolina Turning Florida Red? The Mouse Wants To Know

Is Purple North Carolina Turning Florida Red? The Mouse Wants To Know

North Carolina is a state on the verge. Of what? Well, that depends on whom you ask. Some residents are thrilled that the state seems to be politically falling in line with a bunch of its neighbors to the south, most recently with an abortion bill. Others, particularly those who felt protected in relatively progressive urban bubbles, aren’t happy with the shift and are vocalizing their displeasure.

To back up a bit, in the past few years, the state’s tint could reasonably have been described as a reddish shade of purple. You could see it in its Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, with moderate policies and a calm demeanor that shielded his resolve, and a competing state legislature with a Republican majority big enough to flex its muscles but still subject to a veto when it pushed too far right.

There were the occasional cautionary tales, as in 2016, when then-Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the infamous HB2, or as it was nicknamed, the “Bathroom Bill.” It was the state GOP’s response to a Charlotte anti-discrimination ordinance, particularly the part that said people could use the bathroom for the gender with which they identified.

That installment in the ever-present rural vs. urban culture clash attracted the national spotlight as well as late-night comics’ jokes. Both proved harsh.

When concerts — including “The Boss,” Bruce Springsteen — and beloved basketball tournaments were canceled, once-bold politicians backtracked and McCrory lost his reelection race to Cooper, who is now approaching the end of his second term.

But memories are short, especially after the 2022 midterms, when the stars and voters aligned for North Carolina Republicans.

While Democrats did better than expected nationally, Republicans held their own and even made gains in North Carolina. Ted Budd, who as a House member voted against certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory, won the U.S. Senate seat of the retiring Richard Burr, one of the seven GOP senators who voted to convict Donald Trump on an impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection.

That’s a philosophical, if not party, change.

In the state General Assembly, Republicans won a veto-proof majority in the state Senate and came one vote short in the House. The state’s Supreme Court changed as well, with a 4-3 Democratic majority shifting to a 5-2 Republican advantage.

When Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham, months after her election in a blue district, donned a red dress for her April announcement of a switch to the GOP, any gubernatorial veto became vulnerable to an override.

A word about Cotham: Shocked constituents and folks who knew her when — meaning: all her political life — asked how someone who campaigned with support from those who supported LGBTQ rights, someone who spoke of her own abortion when she stood firm in support of reproductive freedom a few short years ago, who had said, as The Charlotte Observer pointed out, she would “stand up to Republican attacks on our health care” as well as “oppose attacks on our democracy, preserve fundamental voting rights, and ensure all voices are heard” could turn on a dime? Well, she explained, Democrats hurt her feelings; many feeling burned by the bait-and-switch are not quite buying it.

Attention, though, is now focused on a GOP agenda in overdrive, mirroring moves in Ron DeSantis-led Florida, with a few extras.

Why the rush, in a state with registered voters roughly split into thirds among Democrats, Republicans and the unaffiliated, and where elections up and down the ballot are always close?

Because Republicans can.

GOP fever dream

Top of the list, of course, of proposals and bills rushing through the state House and/or Senate with minimal debate, were those that targeted transgender young people, restricting gender-affirming care and prohibiting transgender girls from joining female sports teams in middle school, high school and college. Never mind that fewer than 20 transgender athletes have been approved to play high school sports in the state this year, and just two were trans girls.

Opponents worry about the effect on public schools if North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program of vouchers is expanded, as the Republican majority favors. It makes public money available to everyone, regardless of income, for any school, which includes private institutions and those with religious affiliations. For those already able to afford private schools, this would be a nice bonus; and the money comes with no strings, no need to follow state standards.

Headlines of gun violence have not deterred efforts to loosen the state’s gun laws. And would any red-state agenda be complete without bills meant to soft-pedal any mention of racism in the teaching of American history? Cooper has been on a travel and media blitz trying to convince Cotham and perhaps other Republicans to change their minds and their votes after, as expected, he vetoes the recently passed 12-week abortion ban, which also includes other restrictions, like an extended waiting period and new requirements for clinics.

Few, including the demonstrators outside the Capitol building in Raleigh, expect minds to change. North Carolina, with a 20-week ban, had been a refuge for those in the South. Perhaps not for long.

With the new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court, the electoral future looks rosy for Republicans. This court has already ended voting rights for some former felons, reinstated a voter-ID law a trial court had ruled was infected by racial bias and overturned a ruling on gerrymandering. With the legislature able to draw new lines, the seven-seven balance in the state’s U.S. House delegation may not survive.

Is the GOP’s fever dream of an 11-3 advantage possible? We’re about to find out.

The test of whether North Carolina will go full DeSantis will come in 2024, with the race for governor. Cooper, no doubt exhausted by constant sparring with the legislature that has worked to diminish the powers of his office from Day 1, is term-limited. Though the field is far from set, voters will have a clear choice.

Front-runners include state Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, who stood with those protesting the abortion ban and, on the Republican side, Mark Robinson, who has carved out a distinct national profile with his divisive rhetoric on gun laws, his support of some far-right conspiracy theories, and his hateful dismissal of LGBTQ citizens and their rights.

Let’s just say, when Disney’s making that list of states where the mouse might find a new home, for now there’s an asterisk next to North Carolina.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

'Tennessee Three' Revive King's Message For Those Who Need To Hear It

'Tennessee Three' Revive King's Message For Those Who Need To Hear It

Since I could not say it any better than the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’ll just quote him: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler nor the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

His Letter from Birmingham Jail, written and published in 1963, was King’s answer to the well-respected white clergy members who deemed his civil rights protests “unwise,” and published their disapproval in an ad in a Birmingham newspaper.

But the message could just as easily apply to the Republican state legislators in Tennessee who last week expelled two Black Democratic colleagues for breaking “decorum,” even as children afraid for their lives continued to plead for gun reform that might make them feel just a bit safer in their schoolrooms. There was shouting but no arrests, no violence, no property damage — just peaceful demands for “justice.”

That Republicans called these demonstrators “insurrectionists” was a disgusting touch that might have had those 1960s-era white clergymen, clueless as they were back then, shaking their heads.

It’s ironic that Tennessee is one of many states peering into a microscope for any sign that classroom lessons on race might cross some vague line, after a law forbidding discussion of so-called divisive concepts was signed by Republican Gov. Bill Lee in 2021. A chapter of “Moms for Liberty” didn’t spare a book about King from its wrath.

The actions by Republican lawmakers in Nashville prove that more, not less, teaching on the truthful history of America and Tennessee, birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, is sorely needed because, clearly, they haven’t learned a thing.

Trying to make uncomfortable truths go away by admonishing and punishing those who bring them into the light has never worked for long.

The fact that three adults and three children at a Christian school in Nashville had been murdered by an assailant wielding a semi-automatic weapon seemed to disappear as GOP members of the Tennessee General Assembly took turns dressing down the “Tennessee Three,” reaching for the most condescending words in their vocabularies.

“Just because you don’t get your way, you can’t come to the well, bring your friends, and throw a temper tantrum with an adolescent bullhorn,” Republican state Rep. Andrew Farmer said to Rep. Justin Pearson. He responded by deriding Farmer’s tone: “How many of you would want to be spoken to that way?”

Better to have listened rather than lectured, and felt the urgency of colleagues who do not look like them, who have backgrounds as activists, who were elected overwhelmingly by constituents, tens of thousands of them, who were stripped of representation when the lawmakers had their microphones cut off, their IDs invalidated and their bodies, finally, cast out.

Better for the legislators from a different political party to have learned from them, and from parents and children in the galleries and outside the chambers.

The third member of the trio, Rep. Gloria Johnson, a teacher, recalled seeing students fleeing a shooting at her school in 2008. She honored the names and memories of those killed at Covenant School. Johnson, spared expulsion by a single vote, unlike the two she stood alongside, is a white woman in her 60s. Just let that sink in for a moment.

And remember, since most of the GOP legislators hypocritically rolling in moral high dudgeon did not, that the disgraceful scene took place in the week of the 55th anniversary of the murder of King by an assassin’s bullet — across the state in Memphis.

What did they accomplish with the swift move? Well, after the events of last week, three state legislators whom few outside of their districts knew much about have had their profiles and causes elevated.

'Built on a protest'

Pearson sounded more preacher than politician when he said: “You are seeking to expel District 86's representation in this House — in a country that was built on a protest,” adding: “In a country built on people who speak out of turn, who spoke out of turn, who fought out of turn to build a nation. I come from a long line of people who have resisted.”

The expelled Democratic Rep. Justin Jones was equally eloquent when he asked: “How can you bring dishonor to an already dishonorable House? How can you bring disorder to a House that is out of order, where the speaker refuses to let representatives elected to speak for their people even be heard?”

Their fight recalled the legacy of King, who traveled to Memphis to raise the voices of that city’s neglected and disrespected sanitation workers, toiling in dangerous conditions for low pay.

The world has also learned about the members of the Tennessee legislature’s Republican caucus, predominantly white and male. Past comments about bringing back “hanging by a tree” as a method of execution, charges of criminal and sexual misconduct and persistent instances of reflexive racism have not been enough to earn the expulsion handed to Jones and Pearson.

Now, Jones is back after the Nashville Metropolitan Council voted on Monday to return him to his seat as “interim” representative before a special election is held. Though he drew the attention and visits from national Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, he did not really need their words to craft a way forward.

Upon his return, speaking from the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol, Jones said: “Today we are sending a resounding message that democracy will not be killed in the comfort of silence.” After a vote is held in Shelby County, Pearson may not be far behind.

But how much will politics as usual really change?

With gerrymandered districts and a supermajority that can do pretty much what it wants, Tennessee Republicans may not be worried about their power slipping away, not anytime soon. In states throughout the country, with blue dots of cities overwhelmed by surrounding red, any meaningful political swing would certainly be an uphill battle.

But I have a feeling the young people who crowded into the Capitol and the elected officials who echoed their concerns are hardly going to shut up.

Mary C. Curtis is an award-winning columnist for Roll Call and hosts its "Equal Time" podcast host. She is a contributor to NPR and The Op-Ed Project.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Donald Trump

From Trump And Biden, Competing Visions Of Our Past -- And Future

“I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” And just to make sure everyone in the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference and those watching at home got the message, former president and current presidential candidate Donald Trump repeated that last line: "I am your retribution.”

Trump revisited his “American carnage” 2017 inauguration speech to again paint a picture of an angry and divided America — with a promise to lead a charge into battle if elected.

On the same weekend, President Joe Biden traveled to Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, that day on March 7, 1965, when marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge heading to the capital city of Montgomery for voting rights and for justice in the name of civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson — who was killed by an Alabama state trooper — were met with violence from law enforcement as the world watched.

The result of the marchers’ resolve and sacrifice was the Voting Rights Act, signed by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson on Aug. 6, 1965.

“No matter how hard some people try, we can’t just choose to learn what we want to know and not what we should know,” Biden said Sunday. “We should learn everything — the good, the bad, the truth — of who we are as a nation.”

And, after renewing his call to strengthen those same voting rights citizens had demanded that day in 1965, Biden concluded: “My fellow Americans, on this Sunday of our time, we know where we’ve been and we know, more importantly, where we have to go: forward together.”

At CPAC at National Harbor, Maryland., last week, the speaker’s list included Jair Bolsonaro, the former president of Brazil, whose followers attacked his country’s capital city after his loss; and Kari Lake, still in election denial about her own November defeat in Arizona’s gubernatorial race. Notice the theme?

Attendees could choose between sessions on “Finish the Wall, Build the Dome” or “No Chinese Balloon Above Tennessee,” but there was no room for a lesson on the American history made on that Selma bridge 58 years ago.

In Selma, where devastating tornado damage provided a backdrop for a community that has never given up in the face of crises, one of those marking the day with another pilgrimage to the bridge was 67-year-old Sheyann Webb-Christburg, who, as a little girl, was a civil rights activist and one of those tear-gassed and chased by troops on March 7, 1965.

After she attended her first church meeting and heard the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others speak about the fight for freedom, she disobeyed worried and wary parents and kept returning. She was a child who asked questions, and she knew right from wrong, which led her to the bridge that day.

Traumatized by her experience, by seeing how low her country would go to maintain its system of white supremacy, she ran home and wrote about her own funeral arrangements. But she has never wavered.

“In many ways, I have felt hopeless,” Webb-Christburg told Politico. “But there have been other reasons where hope still prevails with me. And it still does.”

It was a message of light born out of the darkness no child should experience. But would her historic and optimistic truth, which she has shared with young people, be axed from history lessons for children the age she was back then?

Would it be judged “woke” by the likes of the Saturday CPAC crowd that cheered Trump’s dark vision?

The story of March 7, 1965, and what followed had good guys and bad guys. Does the lack of support for recognizing those of all races working for equal rights under the law, then and now, put you on the side of the troopers bashing men, women and children with batons and the legislators who voted “no” on voting rights?

It sure seems that way, since picking sides is not that hard.

Putting politics aside

Though it’s hard to believe, there was a time when Democrats and Republicans occasionally put politics aside, recognizing that, despite differences, some things were above partisanship, some events were too important a part of American history and must be remembered and honored if our country’s values were to mean anything at all.

In fact, in 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Selma march, then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went. The California Republican may have been pushed, after the lack of GOP leadership representation prompted criticism. But he went, and he wasn’t the only Republican in the delegation to pay his respects.

On that day in 2015, then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walked across the bridge with former GOP President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush. Also in attendance was Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who died in 2020.

Who could forget the image of the young Lewis, wearing a trench coat and toting a backpack, marching bravely in the front of the line in 1965, and, despite brutal beatings by troopers that cracked his skull, reached out to help the women and others being trampled and attacked during peaceful protest.

While president, Bush had in 2006 signed the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act with broad Republican support. But since Supreme Court justices he appointed struck down key provisions of that landmark bill in the 2013 Shelby decision, laws to bolster voting rights — including one bearing Lewis’ name — have failed to make it through Congress.

I have to wonder if McCarthy, now the speaker of the House who kowtows to Trump and fringe members of his party, would be proud to admit he was ever in Selma that day in 2015. That McCarthy handed over Jan. 6, 2021, tapes of the Capitol riot, conducted by a MAGA mob, to a Fox News host he knew would excuse rioters who vandalized a tribute to Lewis, says everything about them — and him.

We know where Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a former college football head coach, was last week — at CPAC, serving up his usual word salad about the “far left” and “crazies” and making false claims about schools not teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Tuberville might not be able to identify the three branches of government or why the Allies fought in World War II, but he sure knows enough to skip an important event in the state he represents so he can shout “woke” at folks who have trouble defining it.

This past weekend, the choice for our leaders — and Americans — could not have been clearer.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Bad Old Days: Now Republicans Want To Bring Back Child Labor

Bad Old Days: Now Republicans Want To Bring Back Child Labor

When songwriters Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager penned “Everything Old Is New Again” decades ago, I wonder if they could have imagined the jaunty, oft-covered tune would one day be turned into a blueprint for some very dangerous doings.

In 2023, turning to the past to find solutions for present challenges is taking the country down roads far darker than the song’s images of mellow trumpets, Bacardi cocktails and “dancin’ at your Long Island Jazz Age parties.”

Today, those glancing “backward when forward fails,” as a verse explains, have landed on child labor and Jim Crow — not exactly the good old days. And the citizens of every age whose lives could be turned upside down don’t feel like singing.

In Iowa and Minnesota, bills working their way through the system float an idea that was abandoned when even the cruelest among Americans couldn’t stomach policies that permitted children to toil in sweatshops and on assembly lines, stealing time from education that might have led to brighter futures. Some of the work could possibly endanger their lives.

But what’s a country to do when there is need — the need for low-income families to earn more money and for businesses to fill hiring goals? Something once thought repugnant can look pretty seductive if the alternative, trying to level the playing field with empathetic policy, is out of the question. So, why not reach back to a time when inequality was the point, tolerated by those who benefited and ignored by those who didn’t feel the pain?

And by jobs, I’m not talking about babysitting or scooping ice cream.

“Legislators in Iowa and Minnesota introduced bills in January to loosen child labor law regulations around age and workplace safety protections in some of the country’s most dangerous workplaces,” The Washington Post reported. “Minnesota’s bill would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to work construction jobs. The Iowa measure would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work certain jobs in meatpacking plants.”

What could go wrong? Well, the Labor Department has been taking an interest, with investigations already looking into how much industry is or is not protecting younger workers.

Those actions haven’t stopped other states from exploring ways to loosen regulations.

Such work will predictably affect poor Americans more than most. I hardly think wealthy kids would choose working in a meatpacking plant over an internship in a chosen field. Such internships or jobs with little or no pay have been nonstarters for a young person who has to help the family pay the bills.

And, in this country, with its persistent racial wealth gaps, minorities might no doubt disproportionately be the ones working longer hours in more dangerous jobs.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work. At a young age, my grandfather toiled on oyster boats off the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a job so tough that the move to the big city of Baltimore and the life of a longshoreman on the docks were an improvement. But in his time, he had fewer options. Young people today certainly do not, and shouldn’t be too broke to exercise them.

Considering America’s history, it’s no surprise that minorities might be the first to feel any rollback of rights. In Mississippi, separate and unequal seems the reason for changes in the court and criminal justice systems, changes that have Jim Crow written all over them.

“A white supermajority of the Mississippi House,” reported Mississippi Today, “voted after an intense, four-plus hour debate to create a separate court system and an expanded police force within the city of Jackson — the Blackest city in America — that would be appointed completely by white state officials.” State Rep. Edward Blackmon, a Democrat from Canton, Miss., referenced a state Constitution that removed voting rights from Black Mississippi citizens when he said during the debate, “This is just like the 1890 Constitution all over again. … We are doing exactly what they said they were doing back then: ‘Helping those people because they can’t govern themselves.’”

This is a state where districts are so gerrymandered that bills can sail through the legislature with the votes of its white GOP members, and not a single Democratic one. With the state’s history of citizens attending separate schools and churches, of living in separate neighborhoods, of treating its Black citizens as children who need to be controlled, the proposed bill looks less like a return to the past than business as usual.

That’s the problem with fond longing for a rosy past that never was. It ignores the reality of those who survived only because of the hope of a brighter, safer, more equitable future.

Thankfully, there have always been Americans who remember “then,” fighting to make America great “now.” It’s why attempts to roll back everything from LGBTQ rights to any fully accurate history taught to schoolchildren will meet resistance.

Still, I am reminded of a line in that song that I admit I will never hum so cluelessly again, a line that those kicking and screaming to halt progress hold onto with a tight grip: “And don’t throw the past away / You might need it some rainy day.”

For those for whom the past is bliss, it’s pouring.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the dangers of child labor?

A. Child labor can harm children physically and mentally, deprive them of education and opportunities for advancement, and contribute to the cycle of poverty.

Q. What can be done to prevent the resurgence of child labor?

A. Advocacy and education are key to preventing the resurgence of child labor, including supporting laws that protect children, raising awareness, and providing resources for education and job training.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Is The American Dream For Everyone? Ask Ilhan Omar

Is The American Dream For Everyone? Ask Ilhan Omar

Is American citizenship conditional? The country certainly will welcome the immigrant, the newcomer — “as long as.” And that list is long. As long as you don’t criticize. As long as you don’t make a mistake. As long as you fit a certain, undefined ideal of “American.”

Watching President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night, I realized how much decorum matters only for some, and an impossible “perfection” is demanded for others who will never clear the bar.

A wild-eyed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia can stand and point and yell, interrupting the president of the United States with her disrespect, and instead of feeling any shame for acting out, will probably replicate the moment to raise money from constituents and fans who love the show.

After all, it worked in 2009 for fellow Republican representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, who no doubt earned extra points because the object of his ire was Barack Obama, the first Black president of the United States, a man who had to be “perfect.” That “You lie” has since been used against him doesn’t mean Wilson would change a thing.

While witnessing Greene’s act, I remembered the scene on the floor of the same Congress about a week ago, when Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota mounted a futile defense before Republicans, as predicted and promised, cast her out of its House Foreign Affairs Committee for words used to criticize policy on Israel, something she had quickly apologized for years ago.

The irony is that some of the same colleagues who ultimately voted against her — including Greene and the speaker of the House — had never felt the need to walk back their own comments, including a now deleted Kevin McCarthy tweet about Democratic donors trying to “buy” an election, employing the same trope members of the GOP and some Democrats had accused Omar of using.

Their Americanness would never be called into question.

In Omar’s presentation, I was struck by the riveting photo of herself as a child, staring straight ahead, both ready and unsure of what would come next after fleeing one war-torn country and spending years in a refugee camp in another.

That the little girl is now a congresswoman in the U.S. House of Representatives should be Exhibit No. 1 in the resilience of the American dream, the tale of someone starting out with little who has risen to the top.

But since the girl-turned-congresswoman is Ilhan Omar, a Black woman, a Muslim and born in Somalia, her story will always be suspect for some. Instead of seeing her global experience as something that could inform any debates on a committee devoted to exploring U.S. policy in the world, it has become a cudgel to threaten when she steps outside the boxes she is put into.

What has been the go-to command for politicians from Donald Trump to GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas? They never hesitate to tell the woman who is as American as they are to “go back,” to “leave.” At the same time, they are insulting the voters she won over and the Americans she represents.

And when Trump targeted her, he also included American-born Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, making clear that his test for being entitled to have a voice includes more than being born on U.S. soil.

"What opinions do you have to have to be counted as American?” Omar asked. “That is what this debate is about.”

Anyone viewing Biden’s speech had to be struck by the disconnect. It is Republicans who always complain of “angry” Americans trying to impose their will, but who never hesitate to not just display anger but revel in it.

Who is this “woke mob” Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders referred to in her rebuttal?

I have no idea what is “mob-like” about Americans asking for empathy for fellow citizens, for law enforcement dedicated to protecting and serving everyone in every neighborhood, for truth-telling in an inclusive history of our country, the last being something Sanders herself barred in one of her first acts as governor of a state with a lot of citizens who have been excluded. She banned the teaching of “critical race theory,” which has not been shown to have ever been taught in her state’s public schools but has become a convenient shorthand for any mention of race and racism in the study of a mythical American history.

It was Republicans in that congressional audience Tuesday night who seemed to find it darn near impossible to stand and clap for Biden’s defense of democracy and condemnation of the true “mob,” who tried to undermine it on Jan. 6, 2021.

If all those who broke windows and attacked police and tried to stop the vote-counting that day had looked like Ilhan Omar, does anyone doubt the reaction would have been quite different? Many Republicans have tried to wish away that day, showing contempt for the America they profess they are protecting from Ilhan Omar.

Despite talk of moving past the white-hot, divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump, the choice of his former press secretary to set their future with a speech that rivaled Trump’s scene of “American carnage” proves who matters in their America versus who can never complain and has to always explain.

Some, like Sanders, are obsessed with “woke fantasies.” Others strive for their own hopeful version of the American dream, where all may not agree but everyone definitely belongs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Q. Who is Ilhan Omar?

A. Ilhan Omar is a Somali-American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district.

Q. What are some of Ilhan Omar's political beliefs?

A. Ilhan Omar is a member of the Democratic Party and has been an advocate for progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, and criminal justice reform.

Q. What is Ilhan Omar's position on immigration?

A. Ilhan Omar is an immigrant herself and is a vocal advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

After Tyre Nichols, Can They Finally Say Those Three Simple Words?

After Tyre Nichols, Can They Finally Say Those Three Simple Words?

Black Lives Matter.

Now, can everyone understand the desperate, defiant power of those three words? Can all those who tried to act as though they didn’t get why the phrase needed to be said — over and over — finally stop pretending?

After viewing, listening to, reading about the video that laid bare the torture of Tyre Nichols by an armed gang, operating under the cover of law in Memphis, can anyone honestly insist that it’s the slogan that’s the problem?

Is there anyone out there still wondering that if only protesters’ signs had read “All Lives Matter,” the police would have looked at Tyre Nichols and seen a son and a father, a handsome young man who loved his mother’s home-cooked meals, who photographed sunsets and practiced skateboard tricks?

Would tacking a “too” onto the phrase have made the police listen to the 29-year-old on the night of January 7, or answer his questions about why he was being detained? Would it have stopped the police from barking out 71 confusing, conflicting commands in 13 minutes, as The New York Times calculated, from punishing his slight body mercilessly when he was unable to comply?

When politicians call for nonviolence from those weary of being treated as “less than,” where are the calls for nonviolence from those charged with keeping the peace?

America is a country steeped in violence — no explanation needed after a litany of mass shootings in this new year. And now, the country has experienced a countdown to the release of a horrific video of a Black man being treated, as one of his lawyers put it, like a “human piñata.”

More proof, though none was needed, that Black Lives Matter is not in the training in any of the 18,000 police departments with different rules and regulations but depressingly similar outcomes.

Just listen to the officers’ profane bragging about getting their piece of the disgusting action, all while the barely conscious body of Tyre Nichols leans slumped against a police car and no one bothers to render aid or comfort.

Who could be shocked, when this kind of behavior has been celebrated far beyond the confines of an “elite” unit of supposed crime-stoppers?

America may no longer advertise the public lynchings of Black citizens — as it did in a past that is not as distant as some would like to think — so whites could tote picnic lunches and children to public spectacles, memorialized and fetishized, with postcards and pieces of bodies saved as souvenirs.

But in the first month of 2023, the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky thought it was a great idea to promote and feature as guest speaker one of the officers who fired shots in the no-knock raid that resulted in the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. This is after admissions that information that led to the warrant’s approval was falsified.

When these genteel, I’ll wager churchgoing, ladies brought in Jonathan Mattingly — formerly of the Louisville Metro Police Department — to share his tale of being as much of a victim as Taylor, unsuspecting patrons of the restaurant where the event was held were subjected to the amplified sounds of gunshots and images of that night. And the club’s statement to Spectrum News that Mattingly “has the right to share his experience” makes pretty clear their members’ regard for Breonna Taylor’s life — and death.

In Memphis, the responding officers, most of them Black, obviously have absorbed the lessons on who counts in America, and have proved that something is fundamentally wrong with the culture of policing, when “law and order” too often becomes the rationale for how officers see and oversee minority communities that only want to be served and protected.

A change in how Americans view one another and how too many police see Black citizens as perps, even when they’re calling for their mothers, might be a long time coming, at least if legislation is part of the solution.

After George Floyd was murdered by law enforcement in Minneapolis, Americans marched, and there were calls for police reform. Then, attention waned. Republicans returned to a “soft on crime” attack on opponents in the other party, and with a weaponized “defund the police” charge that the majority of Democrats never supported but still feared, it was predictable that all but the most committed would back off.

Talks and action plans on police reform led by Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and then-Rep. Karen Bass of California, both Democrats, and GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina fell apart in 2021, with the issue of “qualified immunity” — how much and whether to hold officers responsible for civil rights violations — a sticking point.

In a divided Congress, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) forecast future progress when he dismissed the effectiveness and, presumably, the need for any new laws on Meet the Press. Jordan, like most everyone except those on the fringe who will always blame the victim when the victim is Black, said he thinks the videos were awful.

But Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, also said, "I don’t know that there’s any law that can stop that evil that we saw,” perhaps forgetting Dr. Martin Luther King’s quote that “while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.”

If something does not change, expect more heartlessness, perhaps not captured on videos, but experienced by those who have been witness for far too long. The Tyre Nichols video hopefully will be the “this time” that will help his mother heal, knowing her son’s death made some difference, even in the hearts and minds of those who can’t imagine such scenes in “their” America.

But know that for many, those scenes were no surprise.

The surprise is that anyone ever doubted the necessity of a chant asserting the basic humanity of Black Americans.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

The Insidiously Vague 'Anti-Woke' Campaign Of Ron DeSantis

The Insidiously Vague 'Anti-Woke' Campaign Of Ron DeSantis

“Say what you mean and mean what you say,” unless you want to keep everyone guessing. Alas, vague is in vogue, the better to sow confusion about not-so-honorable intentions — and get your way in the end.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has mastered this dark art, most recently as he ordered thoughtful discussions of African American history to end before they had begun, with studies of other cultures somehow escaping his ire.

A pilot of an Advanced Placement course on the subject has run into the buzz saw of the state’s “Stop Woke Act.”

The Florida Department of Education’s letter to the College Board said the content of its AP African American studies course “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” showing by its use of “inexplicably” that it had no earthly reason for a decision intended to close, not open, young minds.

Try teaching the history of the United States of America with “just the facts,” and you might end up with lessons on the enslavement of men, women and children, lynching, redlining and Jim Crow without judgment, without pointing out the evil, the inhumanity and the apathy of those who looked the other way while reaping the benefits of racist oppression.

In the name of not causing trauma in today’s students, Florida policymakers are erasing the trauma of the families and descendants of the Floridians lynched in Tallahassee, the state’s capital city, where the same lawmakers obviously close their eyes when passing markers acknowledging that chapter in American history.

Educators may want to fight back. But with jobs and livelihoods at stake, there are risks. ProPublica talked to a number of professors without tenure who are anxiously changing course names and weeding out terms such as “white privilege” to dodge cancellation and firing. But it’s difficult to avoid something that's so hard to pin down, knowing all the while that disgruntled students who might be unhappy about a grade know exactly which “woke” cudgel will get immediate results.

So, for those instructors, it's better to just stop. Just stop any mention of gender politics and the roots of racism, just stop connecting the dots between modern wealth and health gaps and how America’s institutions were constructed with discrimination the motivating factor.

Just stop answering questions from students of every race who are supposed to be curious, but apparently not too curious.

Don’t tell the governor that “woke” comes from a 1938 “stay woke” caution from blues singer Lead Belly, advice for Black Americans who wanted to avoid a fate similar to that of the falsely accused “Scottsboro Boys.” And by all means, don’t teach that in a Florida school. Because in 2023, “woke” means whatever DeSantis wants it to mean.

Unfortunately, Florida has set a template for other states, such as South Carolina, where Republican legislators have proposed a bill already being criticized by organizations such as the state’s American Civil Liberties Union for what it calls vague language that could discourage teachers from settling there.

A vague election law has already had its desired effect in, yes, Florida. After voters overwhelmingly approved opening up the franchise to former felons who had served their time, Republican legislators said, “Not so fast.”

Many of those hopeful voters, after being registered by confused election officials, themselves unsure of exactly what the law said, were swept up by DeSantis’ “election integrity” task force, arrested by law enforcement officers who seemed puzzled about the details of the law the terrified, targeted citizens were supposed to have broken.

Of course, those hauled out of their homes in handcuffs in well-publicized raids were mostly African American, with the white transgressors in The Villages given not much more than a slap on their presumably Republican wrists.

Charges may have been dropped in most cases, but do you think minority folks with a former brush with the law would risk another by voting?

Call it a pattern of intimidation by obfuscation.

Book bans and rules in cities and states across the country have pushed out many teachers and librarians who loved their work but didn’t relish doing battle with angry culture warriors whose voices drowned out dissenters.

Now, many school librarians who stuck it out are confused about which books and magazines they are allowed to order, especially when lawmakers, citizen panels, school board members, loud parents and occasionally people without a child in the school or community have the final say.

So, they’ve stopped. No new books for school libraries that need them, for students who present lists of titles they are eager to read. Will discouraged young people give up on reading altogether when they can’t see themselves in literature, when they are denied anything that might excite them or introduce them to something surprising?

That’s the fear of many teachers and librarians, who have stopped; they are stuck, waiting for clarification, when confusion is the point. “No one is going to want to visit the library,” one told the Washington Post in a story that explained their plight. For someone like me who spent endless hours in the library, consuming books on everything and being exposed to ideas that made me think, reading a quote like that is a heartbreaker.

The only antidote to such foolishness is a dose of clarity — and bravery.

That’s where Marvin Dunn comes in. At 82, maybe the professor emeritus at Florida International University, an African American who has lived through the worst the state can dish out, has seen too much to use a labyrinthine law as a reason to back off.

Dunn is a plaintiff in a suit against the DeSantis law, and he is leaning into his role as teacher by leading high school students and their parents on “Teach the Truth” tours to the sites of some of the worst racial violence in Florida history. He has bought a few acres of property in what was Rosewood, a mostly Black town burned to the ground by a white mob in 1923, to preserve what and who should never be forgotten.

Might that cause discomfort? Perhaps, and reasons to reject the hate that made such acts possible.

“Listen, if there is such a thing as the woke mob in Florida,” Dunn told the Washington Post, “I aspire to lead it.”

Nothing vague about that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the impact of the "Stop Woke Act" on educators in Florida?

Ans: The "Stop Woke Act" has created a challenging environment for educators in Florida, causing them to censor their teaching materials and avoid discussing specific topics, such as race, gender, and politics, for fear of losing their jobs.

What is the impact of the "Stop Woke Act" on students in Florida?

Ans: The "Stop Woke Act" has limited students' access to diverse perspectives and critical historical events, which can be detrimental to their education and understanding of the world around them.

Is the "Stop Woke Act" impacting other states in the US?

Ans: Yes, similar legislation is being proposed in other states, such as South Carolina, leading to concerns about its impact on education and freedom of speech.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Why Losing To Lauren Boebert Makes Adam Frish Optimistic

Why Losing To Lauren Boebert Makes Adam Frish Optimistic

The announcement this week that Republican Lauren Boebert had won her race, and would be heading back to Washington to represent Colorado’s 3rd District in the House, hardly came as a surprise to her Democratic opponent. The surprise is the optimism of Adam Frisch — about Colorado, America and politics — after coming so close (a 546-vote margin close) to upending predictions and winning the seat.

“We’re all very proud of how well we ran and the way that we did it,” he said when I spoke with him on a Zoom call last week. “We took the high road throughout the whole journey, and that resonated with a lot of people.”

Frisch had already conceded before the recount, citing Colorado’s “very, very strong election laws” and “very high level of election integrity” and finding comfort in that. Based on her well-documented mistrust of government, I doubt Boebert would have accepted defeat quite so easily.

He is human, so “as great as the moral victory is or was,” Frisch said, “it certainly would have been better to have a victory victory.” But I believe Frisch when he says the 20,000-plus miles he traveled during his campaign were more than worthwhile. That’s because I had already met the other person on our call, his frequent companion in his trips throughout the district, the candidate’s 16-year-old son, Felix Frisch.

That any journalist covering politics, culture and race might occasionally succumb to cynicism will come as a revelation to exactly no one. One remedy for me turned out to be teaching a group of high school juniors and seniors and incoming college freshmen for two weeks, as I did this past summer, in a School of The New York Times Summer Academy course in political commentary. Felix was one of the students.

We explored Washington, D.C., including stops at the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and, on an early excursion, the memorial to third president Thomas Jefferson, where we had a chance to consider the complicated legacy of one of America’s Founding Fathers.

On the walk back to the Metro on what must have been one of the hottest days of the summer, Felix told me he had been campaigning for and with his father, traveling the Colorado district to convince voters that Adam Frisch would represent their needs better than incumbent Lauren Boebert would.

I listened as he spoke excitedly of meeting voters in corners of the district few candidates had taken note of, and I thought to myself, “Too bad your dad doesn’t have a chance.”

But though it’s natural for any son to think his dad can do anything, Felix was on to something.

The Boebert I covered at the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Salt & Light Conference in September was ripe for a challenge, with her emphasis on grievance as she cast herself as victim in a kind of holy war.

Adam Frisch thought so too.

He wrote down some thoughts 14 or 15 months ago, and “basically 98 percent of it played out,” he told me.

“I think 30 to 40 percent of the Republican Party want their party back,” Frisch said, “and Lauren Boebert doesn’t represent a traditional, conservative, Republican conversation going on.” He repeated a phrase that anyone who followed his campaign heard repeatedly, saying she was part of the “angertainment industry,” crediting the expression to his middle and high school buddy, current Minnesota Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips.

Frisch learned in his travels that “ranchers and farmers are pragmatic … and she’s the antithesis of pragmatism, of trying to work across party lines and solving things for their district.”

In one stop at Grand Junction, which the Aspen-based candidate called the “heart of Trumpism in the state,” he said he took questions from everyone. Though he obviously didn’t win over quite enough of them, he made some connections.

His son was there for a lot of it, and Felix said he has appreciated growing up witnessing people challenge both his father, a former city councilman, and his mother, a member of the school board and a big part of her husband’s campaign. “I know what it’s like to admit mistakes in front of people, to have accomplishments and be proud of that.”

Felix, who managed, coordinated and truly appreciated the work of campaign volunteers, said his biggest takeaway is that “people are a lot more together on things” than conventional wisdom and reporting would suggest.

Sounding pretty political himself, he said he’d like to see politicians realize that young voters care about a variety of policy issues and need to be taken seriously. No party can “just rely on the young people to show up,” he said.

Now that his calls are being returned, Adam Frisch puts the odds of his running again “between probable and possible” in what will surely be a contentious 2024 cycle; pushing back against extremism in Colorado and nationally is his priority now, he said. That and getting back into shape after brewery, bakery, barbecue and burger tours.

He also had advice — for both parties.

For Democrats, it’s to try to expand on the party’s comfort zone of bigger cities, despite how difficult that might be now that so many voters have hardened support for their political “team” over any other consideration. The American people’s job, he said, “is to make sure they really think about character and the kind of people they send into office.”

While he wishes the Republican Party would turn away from Donald Trump “because of him having dinner with neo-Nazis and trying to suspend the Constitution,” he at least believes the party will distance itself from the former president because it’s electorally smart.

Both sides, he said, need to fix the primary system to allow room for moderation, and hopefully, “extremism is going to continue to be punished.”

“It’s important for people to stand up and truly say what they believe in.”

It’s a nice sentiment, fitting for the season, though anytime so-called leaders willing to break laws and traditions to keep Trump in the White House are well-represented in the incoming GOP House majority, a hint of cynicism and caution seems not only healthy, but also necessary for the new year.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

Lindsey Graham Should Stop Insulting Black Voters -- And Listen To Them

Lindsey Graham Should Stop Insulting Black Voters -- And Listen To Them

One of South Carolina’s senators must have an incredibly low opinion of Black Americans, their intelligence and judgment. The evidence? His sad, almost laughable closing argument as he barnstormed for Herschel Walker, who lost his runoff race challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock and won’t be joining Lindsey Graham as a Republican colleague in Washington, D.C.

Graham did not talk about Walker’s proposals or plans for the people he would represent in the state of Georgia. He never mentioned Walker’s experience, which consisted of long-past football glory and running some businesses with a debated degree of success. In fact, Walker’s buddy barely let the candidate speak in TV appearances where Graham tried for “sidekick” but instead came off as “handler.”

No, Graham’s final arguments for the Donald Trump-endorsed Walker went something like this absurd statement he yelled more than stated on Fox News: “They’re trying to destroy Herschel to deter young men and women of color from being Republicans.”

Graham said, “If Herschel wins, he’s going to inspire people all over Georgia of color to become Republicans and, I say, all over the United States.”

No, senator. In fact, the reality turned out to be quite the opposite.

If anyone by word and deed is deterring people of color from turning to the GOP, it would be one Lindsey Graham, along with other Republican leaders, exemplified by their decision to back Walker in a contest with Warnock because, in their eyes, one Black man is the same as any other. Or at least that’s what Black voters seemed to surmise.

How else to explain the endorsement of a man so clearly unqualified and uninterested in tending to the needs of the citizens of Georgia in the Senate?

You wonder if Graham and other Republicans actually talk to Black voters about the issues they might care about — say, voting rights, health care, criminal justice reform, climate change, the economy — or if they believe that personality, not policy, drives them to the polls.

You even wonder if Republicans talked to Walker, since it was clear from his sincere concession speech on election night that there was a side of the candidate seldom revealed on the campaign trail.

And who is the “they” Graham was referring to in his emotional plea? Would that be the women who lined up at great cost to recount stories of abuse at Walker’s hands? Or maybe the candidate’s conservative activist son — the one child Walker clearly acknowledged before he was forced to own up to others — who wondered why a father with so much baggage decided to expose his loved ones to the spotlight?

For Graham to set up Walker as some kind of Pied Piper able to lure African Americans to his party was an embarrassment. Actually, “insulting” is the word I most heard from Black voters upset that Republicans would choose Walker as someone who represents what it means to be a Black man.

Did Graham, as well as Nikki Haley, Rick Scott, Ted Cruz, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, notice the majority white audiences who showed up for Walker, or question why the candidate, in his few closing rallies, avoided making his case to Georgia voters of color in churches, colleges and communities?

There was a reason Walker received a tiny fraction of the Black vote in the general election. (And odds are he did not improve on those numbers in the runoff.) Most Black folks in Georgia were not buying what he and Graham were selling, a Black man spouting GOP talking points. The prospect of Walker as a rubber stamp for Sen. Mitch McConnell was not nearly as attractive as a six-year term for Warnock, someone a majority of the state’s voters obviously view as effective.

By the way, there is another senator representing South Carolina, who also campaigned for Walker, though less frequently and stridently than Graham.

No one of any race has ever questioned the character of GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the former state legislator and congressman with qualifications most would judge worthy when it comes to running for high office.

But in his 2014 race, Scott, who is African-American, did not fare well among Black voters. That’s presumably because of real differences in policy on issues such as voting rights and criminal justice reform.

Most Black voters looked, judged and voted on his positions, with a majority deciding to pass.

Black voters are not a monolith and never have been. As an example, my parents were conservative Republicans who eventually drew the line at GOP “Southern Strategy” race-baiting. But it’s fair to say the majority are clear-eyed when it comes to what they choose to do in the voting booth, particularly in a state such as Georgia, where that vote was won with protest and sacrifice. In Georgia, the mandated runoff when no candidate reaches 50 percent is a product of white politicians’ effort to dilute and invalidate the wishes of African Americans when they were finally allowed to exercise their rights as citizens.

The current voting restrictions backed by Gov. Kemp forced the Warnock campaign and other Democratic groups to sue to restore a Saturday of early voting. Those long lines were a sign of a healthy democracy, and also of a lack of resources in counties that need them.

Georgians overcame every obstacle.

And if the state GOP figures out a way to make each Atlanta vote count for three-fifths of any ballot from predominantly white, rural areas, Black Georgians will figure out a way around that, too. Gerrymandering and ever more restrictive voting laws won’t work forever. And touting more Herschel Walkers is certainly not the answer.

So, Sen. Graham, don’t try to anoint role models, particularly when your party has vilified the African Americans many voters of color have actually elevated, including former President Barack Obama and, yes, Raphael Warnock.

Fulfilling your dream of inspiring more people of color to support the Republican Party would mean actually listening to them — and learning a thing or two.

This week, in Georgia, the message was loud and clear.

Why Did Republican Plans Backfire In This Election Cycle?

Why Did Republican Plans Backfire In This Election Cycle?

Democrats get way too giddy about immediate gains and take their eyes off the ball, while Republicans excel at playing the long game. Overused sports metaphors aside, that has been the conventional wisdom because there’s a lot of truth in it.

Want proof? After Barack Obama’s historic 2008 presidential win, it was Republicans who ignored predictions of a “blue” future. They went to work. While Sen. Mitch McConnell did not ultimately succeed in his wish to make Obama a “one-term president” in 2012, he and his party delivered a 2010 midterm “shellacking” — to use Obama’s own word — that won control of the House and gained seats in the Senate.

In 2014, the GOP won that Senate majority McConnell craved, and the country still lives with the result — a solid conservative block on the Supreme Court, one that overturned Roe v. Wade and seems intent on rolling back voting rights and other signature issues claimed by today’s Democrats.

Few who watched McConnell's block-and-delay strategy, one that shaped that court, would argue with his coaching skill and foresight. But after last week’s anemic midterm GOP showing, the wisdom of Republican guile and “Democrats in disarray” is looking a lot less conventional.

It’s Democrats who are being credited with thinking ahead.

So, was the blue team taking notes, or did Republicans get a little too cocky? Why did some of those best-laid plans backfire?

After the results of the midterms, the partnership with Donald Trump, who refuses to go away, has not aged well. He did win the presidency in 2016, but Republicans ignored a lot that was in plain sight — things like competence and character.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, was all in when he asked and answered his own question in an appearance on Fox News in 2021: “Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no.” He added, “I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”

But remember, this was the same guy who tweeted in 2016: “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.”

He knew better. So did Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

The definition of a nanosecond is the time it took for the House minority leader to segue from condemning Trump’s complicity in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol to a humiliating pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring.

McCarthy is now on the verge of finally fulfilling his dream of leading a House majority, and the prospect of herding his contentious crew may make that dream a nightmare. If he had sought advice from former GOP speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, McCarthy might have stiffened his spine and kept Trump at arm’s length. But those short-term gains were too tempting to ignore.

McConnell’s pre-midterm laments about “candidate quality” hint that even the master planner, who thought he could both use and control the former president, might be having some second thoughts. He survived a leadership challenge from Florida Sen. Rick Scott.

In the weeks before the midterms, the media paid way too much attention to the GOP flooding the zone with polls, meant to excite fans and demoralize the opposition, I suspect. But so did Republicans trapped in their own echo chamber, one devoid of solutions but chock-full of conspiracy theories, election deniers and jokes at the expense of the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi as he recovered from a brutal attack.

Did they not see there might be a few lines too indecent or unbelievable to cross?

In the meantime, it was Democrats who foresaw that voters could care about more than one issue at the same time (it’s the economy and abortion rights and democracy), who predicted that women might not easily forget the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision striking down Roe v. Wade, who appealed to young people who might not answer a poll-taker but who might care about climate change, gun reform and criminal justice reform.

Young voters are still an underrepresented percentage of the electorate, and in some areas they trended toward Republicans. But they made a difference for Democrats in college towns and swing states. And that student debt relief package proposed by President Joe Biden, something he was criticized for promoting, may have been one incentive.

While many pundits, including some in his own party, thought Biden naive for leaning into the survival of democracy as a topic worthy of speeches, it appears that making a final pitch to the head, heart and conscience of a nation actually worked.

You have to give him credit for seeing something many did not, for engaging in aspiration appeals many dismissed as too amorphous to capture the attention of bored and cynical citizens.

It would not be the first time Biden has been underestimated.

It is unfortunately true that grievance, a driving force for elections past, still attracts a sizable percentage of Americans who want to return to a nonexistent past, to a time when glory meant ignoring and oppressing others, thus the Make America Great Again refrain.

Razor-thin midterm margins reveal a still polarized nation.

But Democrats’ belief that Americans would choose policy solutions and a calmer political playing field instead of chaos held — at least in this election cycle.

Speaking of the past, Trump, awash in criminal investigations, has announced he is again running for president in 2024, ready to drag the Republican Party along with him. Knowing who and what Trump is and has always been, odds are pretty good he will always put himself, not his party, front and center.

Admittedly, the former president changed the GOP, remade it in his own image, and, even in this past week, had some successes in Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere. You can never count him out.

But Republicans must be wondering if hitching their star and their future to such an unpredictable and uncontrollable force, if emphasizing culture wars, if elevating fear and suspicion, were wise choices if the goal is building a bigger and better GOP.

Have they dropped the ball?

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

This Time, Let's Honor The True Heroes For Saving Democracy

This Time, Let's Honor The True Heroes For Saving Democracy

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp was rewarded Tuesday night with a win by voters, who approved of his policies and appreciated his stand against former President Donald Trump, who tried and failed to get Kemp to toss out ballots that contributed to Trump’s narrow 2020 defeat in the state.

But it always bothered me that Kemp and the similarly Trump-resistant secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, earned kudos and votes for simply doing their jobs, and that both, flush in the praise for standing up to Trump, went on to support more restrictive voting rules that were not needed in the first place, rules that disadvantaged voters like Jennifer Jones.

The Guardianrecounted the arduous odyssey of Jones, a Ph.D. student at Morehouse School of Medicine in Georgia, who, like any good American citizen, showed up to cast her early vote in her Fulton County precinct for the midterm elections.

She hit a roadblock.

Despite dotting every “i” and crossing every “t,” she was told she could not cast a ballot for the candidates of her choice — Stacey Abrams for governor and incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. Why? Someone she didn’t know and had never met had challenged her right to do the right thing.

The culprit was her state’s ironically named Election Integrity Act, supported by Kemp and Raffensperger, which allowed such a scenario and, in fact, invited it. Those who denied the results of the 2020 election of President Joe Biden, who were none too happy about the close election of two Democratic senators, Warnock and Jon Ossoff, enthusiastically used the law to cast doubt on the kinds of voters who made those results a reality.

Her mystery challenger might not have known her but probably knew a few things about her by following the clues and determining that Jones, a Black woman, was not quite “right” in some way.

It’s annoying, but not surprising, considering the history of Georgia and the country — white men of privilege taking two steps back for every step forward, when others doing the hard work don’t get much credit.

Remember, Georgia is the state where Black poll workers in that 2020 election were falsely accused of election mischief by Trump and friends, and hounded from their homes and patriotic duty. Mother and daughter Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss were still clearly shaken when they testified about their ordeal before the House Select Committee investigating the events of January 6, 2021.

They were the true heroes of democracy in Georgia.

The results of Tuesday’s 2022 midterm elections are still uncertain. While the “red wave” predicted by Republicans, prognosticators and pollsters whose profession is becoming increasingly suspect did not emerge, control of the House and Senate is still up in the air.

One thing is certain, though. When results are this close, there will inevitably be rumblings about how Black voters could have done more to help Democrats, especially Black candidates who fell short. That was clear in preview stories that wondered if Democrats were doing enough, if Black voters expected too much, and whether or not Abrams was doing enough to appeal to Black men, in particular.

A Washington Post headline stated it pretty clearly: “Democrats count on huge Black turnout, but has the party delivered in return?” “Politicians need to mobilize Black male voters ahead of the midterms, experts say,” warned a story on NPR. Abrams spent an inordinate amount of time swatting down the narrative that Black men didn’t much like her.

I am already hearing whispers about the Senate race in North Carolina, which saw GOP Rep. Ted Budd defeat former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, an African American woman who campaigned across the state — one a Democratic Senate candidate had not won since 2008, and one once defined in the Senate by Jesse Helms and his opposition to civil rights.

I don’t think Black voters are the major problem for any of these candidates.

Missing has been much in-depth examination of white voters, and there are still more of them in this country than any other group, throwing support behind election deniers, reproductive rights hard-liners and those, like Budd, who refused to certify the free and fair election of President Biden.

How does that work? Give a pass to those who vote for those who like or look past the most un-American of actions, and place the blame on Black voters whenever Democrats or Black candidates fall short?

That’s asking African Americans to save democracy, a request we are used to, despite obstacles like the efforts of reelected Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, hailed as the new face of the Republican Party. His administration’s public arrests of formerly incarcerated Floridians, many of them Black, for breaking intentionally complicated election laws they had no idea they were violating, struck fear in prospective voters, even beyond his state’s borders, reported The Marshall Project, achieving the desired effect — voter hesitation and intimidation.

Certainly, those who choose not to vote earn my criticism. Any of today’s challenges, from voter ID laws to last-minute changes in the proper polling location, pale in comparison to the violence visited upon voting rights icons from Medgar Evers to John Lewis.

But I understand the exhaustion and occasional despair when, election cycle after election cycle, only some Americans are blamed for not doing the thing a lot of your fellow citizens don’t want you to do and construct barriers to stop you from doing.

In Abrams’ second loss to Kemp this week, it wasn’t Black voters who let her down.

In important ways, though, Stacey Abrams counted. When Jennifer Jones needed the information to correct misinformed poll workers, she knew who to call for help — Fair Fight, a national voting rights organization based in Georgia, founded by Abrams.

She is a winner, whether or not she gets credit.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

When Will Republicans Reject Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry And Smears?

When Will Republicans Reject Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry And Smears?

Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine initially thought her GOP colleague Sen. Joe McCarthy might be onto something with his crusade to root out subversives in the State Department. After all, post-World War II, concern was high on issues of national security. But when she examined his questionable “evidence,” Smith instead worried that his bully-boy act would be the true subversion of American values.

Though her June 1950 “Declaration of Conscience,” delivered on the Senate floor and supported by six other Republican senators, never mentioned McCarthy by name, it was clear Smith meant the Wisconsin senator when she said: “Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism.”

And though Smith certainly wanted Republicans to win, she said, “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”

While Democratic President Harry S Truman praised her words, retaliation was swift from McCarthy, who dismissed the effort from “Snow White and the Six Dwarfs” — proving inane name-calling did not originate with Donald Trump.

Smith was removed as a member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, replaced by an ambitious senator from California, Richard M. Nixon. But four years later, she got to cast a vote for McCarthy’s censure after the beginning of his end, the moment U.S. Army lawyer Joseph Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Cut to today, and the opportunity for members of today’s GOP to take a stand.

I’m talking, of course, about the horrific assault on Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was reportedly the target of a disturbed man who believed he was a patriot, a man fueled by a toxic brew of conspiracy theories about minorities, QAnon, the lie of a stolen election and what were once fringe ideas that are now manna for many in the Republican base.

You would think that every human being could agree that bashing in the skull of an 82-year-old man with a hammer is bad.

You would be wrong.

Power at all costs is paramount, with decency being kicked to the curb.

A Declaration of Cowardice would be more fitting for those who mumble condolences, but not too loudly or sincerely, or peddle absurdities that blame everyone and everything but refuse to admit that the violent rhetoric of Republican leaders and candidates might have had something to do with it.

The suspect’s calls for “Nancy” echo the feral howls of insurrectionists as they roamed and desecrated the halls of Congress on January 6, 2021, looking to harm her, the true patriot who took charge that day, whose goal was to protect her colleagues, her staff and the peaceful transition of power.

What the intruder to the Pelosi household planned, according to what law enforcement has said were his own words, was unimaginable — the torture and maiming of the third in line to the presidency. And apparently there were others on his to-do list.

It makes sense he would start with Nancy Pelosi, the supervillain of Republican fantasies and attack ads for decades, the subject of unhinged rants by the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, whose voice will gain legitimacy if the GOP gains control of the House of Representatives.

When House Minority Whip Steve Scalise was shot, Democratic leaders didn’t create memes or make jokes, as Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake did regarding the attack on Paul Pelosi, drawing approving laughs from audience members content to join her in the muck.

After the earlier attack, I don’t recall vile conspiracy theories like those retweeted by Donald Trump Jr. Maybe he learned it from Dad, who, not to be outdone, added his own lies to the conversation. Elon Musk, proving that he’s the fox guarding the Twitter henhouse he now rules, shared and then deleted misinformation. With the torrent of racist and antisemitic slurs flooding the platform, it’s pretty clear no one can count on him to reform political discourse.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin was supposed to be a different kind of Republican, but his partisan swipe while Paul Pelosi lay injured in the hospital proved otherwise.

This from the crew that claims the mantle of a twisted caricature of Christianity. I last heard North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson at a conference sponsored by the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition, spewing insults at anyone who did not subscribe to his worldview.

He has resurfaced with a Facebook post with the message, “I’m sorry Paul I don’t believe you or the press!!!!” and the image of a Halloween “attacker” costume that was as crude and witless as you would imagine.

No one seems to be willing to stand up for the values that should be bedrock, but now, in some quarters, are for suckers.

Every time leaders sink lower, it becomes acceptable to try on depravity, like a rancid suit of clothing, and discover it fits quite nicely. That’s much easier than judging those of different races or faiths or political parties as human beings.

In the past week or so, a man has pleaded guilty to threatening Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California and his staff, and three men have been found guilty of supporting a kidnapping plot against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat running for reelection.

But by all means, Republicans, don’t think twice about pouring more millions into labeling Nancy Pelosi the root of all evil.

It’s ironic, considering it was Pelosi who on January 6 showed concern for Mike Pence, more than anyone in his own party or the crowds clamoring to hang him. Pence’s own boss wanted him to be a toady, rather than fulfill his duty as vice president.

Politically, I doubt Pence and Pelosi agree on much of anything. But, in that moment, Pelosi was being decent.

“I worry about you being in that Capitol room,” Pelosi told Pence. “God bless you.”

When asked about the legacy she would leave, Margaret Chase Smith correctly predicted that her speech elevating American ideals over party, a choice that cost her at the time, would rank high, and she seemed proud of that.

Will today’s Republicans ever be able to say the same?

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

As Midterm Tightens, Republicans Revert To Racist Rhetoric (Because It Works)

As Midterm Tightens, Republicans Revert To Racist Rhetoric (Because It Works)

It’s no surprise that fear of the other — of what they want and what they might do to you and yours — is on the ballot in November.

Former President George H.W. Bush’s success in making Willie Horton the figurative running mate of his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, has nothing on race-baiting, the 2022 edition. In a close midterm election cycle, attack ads and accusations aimed at Black candidates, or any candidate that might be interested in restorative justice, are front and center, as Republicans running for office have returned to the playbook, one that unfortunately has worked time and again.

To many, Black people are viewed with suspicion straight out of the womb, and I’m only slightly exaggerating. Data backs me up. Just look at the greater percentage of Black boys and girls suspended or arrested for school infractions that earn white peers a lecture or visit to the principal’s office. Take note of the litany of unarmed Black people shot or choked by trained police officers who “feared for their lives,” with no benefit of the doubt to save them.

Even when the Black person under the microscope is educated and accomplished and has reached the highest of heights, the “othering” doesn’t go away. If the person can’t be tagged a criminal, he or she must be sympathetic to criminals. Guilt by historical association, you might say, because the tactic can be traced back hundreds of years, when dehumanizing Black people, connecting them to violence and crime, was the best way to justify murder, rape and lynching.

As Margaret A. Burnham, a law professor who founded the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University, points out in her book By Hands Now Known: Jim Crow’s Legal Executioners, throughout American history it was whites — bus drivers, store owners, ordinary people — who perpetrated random terror against Black people without consequence.

For the best example of predominantly white mob violence in the past few years, you need look no further than the videos and other evidence of windows and doors smashed, American institutions defiled, and law enforcement beaten and attacked on January 6, 2021. The goal was lawlessness, the overturning of a free and fair election.

I might add that it was left to mostly minority government employees to clean up the literal mess.

But stubborn facts won’t get in the way when there is political hay to be made.

At its most base level, there are attack ads that darken the skin of Black candidates such as Stacey Abrams, running against Republican incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, taking on GOP Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. In their recent debate, Johnson accused Barnes of turning “against America” — and that was when he was asked to say something positive about his opponent. Not only are Black folks criminals, apparently, they are somehow not even American, a charge repeatedly faced by former President Barack Obama, whose relatively scandal-free eight years in office compares quite favorably to his successor, whose most recent reported grift was bilking American taxpayers by inflating charges at Trump hotels for members of the Secret Service.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio accuses his Democratic challenger, Rep. Val B. Demings (D-FL), of wanting to defund the police, to which the former Orlando police chief can answer, “I am the police.”

But, you might ask, what about Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate giving incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock a run for his money in Georgia? Doesn’t that prove Republicans have no problem with Black men, considering how many top leaders are defending the former football star?

When I see the GOP backing a man with Walker’s political, ethical, and personal failings, someone who has trouble with the truth as well as maintaining relationships with his many children and their mothers, I can’t help but think this is the kind of Black man his party is comfortable with, one that fits every negative stereotype, one who will follow their lead. Imagine the attacks on a Black Democratic candidate with that résumé.

When Walker stands with senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rick Scott of Florida, he looks as much a prop as the badge he flashed at his only debate with Warnock.

I witness that tableau and feel pretty angry for my late father, a quintessential American, who worked hard and did whatever he had to do to care for the wife and five children he adored. We would kid him that in his ideal world, we would all get married, have kids, and return home so he could be close — and he did not disagree. Dad, a Lincoln Republican, would not recognize what and whom his party elevates.

It would disgust him to hear Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the perfect GOP example of the playbook for this year’s midterms. Tuberville traveled all the way to Nevada for a Donald Trump rally to make the claim that Democrats are “pro-crime.” To make his racist intent clear, he threw in a reparations reference, adding, “They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that,” ending with a profanity for emphasis.

Reparations, of course, means compensation for the labor of the men, women and children who helped build this country under the most cruel conditions. It’s most galling when you remember the former football coach made his fortune and reputation on the backs of many young, unpaid Black men.

Yet Tuberville felt free to demonize Black people because there was no cost, no condemnation from others in his party, no drop in the polls for the GOP candidates he was stumping for — nothing. Some in his party even defended him.

And that’s the troubling thing. This kind of racist rhetoric, which has served as inspiration for young white men before attacks at a Charleston church and a Buffalo supermarket, is ramping up, and it will not end until enough people call it out — until it no longer works.

Former Iowa Rep. Steve King must be wishing he had only waited a few years before cozying up to white nationalism, endorsing “great replacement” conspiracy and tagging “the other” as criminals intent on destroying America.

Where once he was punished by his Republican Party, at this moment he and his brand would fit perfectly.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.

At 'Faith & Freedom' Conference, Partisan Dogma Displaces Religion

At 'Faith & Freedom' Conference, Partisan Dogma Displaces Religion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In a Colorado church early this summer, one of that state’s Republican representatives, House member Lauren Boebert, spoke, as she always does, with definitive conviction: “The church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church. … I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk that’s not in the Constitution.”

While many would and have disagreed, pointing to that document’s First Amendment — which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — Boebert was speaking for many Americans for whom that separating line has always been, if not invisible, at least fuzzy.

Boebert remains strong in her belief that faith and politics are inextricably entwined, as evidenced by brief, fiery remarks on Friday at the North Carolina Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Salt & Light Conference in Charlotte. There were warnings (“how far have we come when the word of God is not a part of our regular speech?”), bragging (“I am a professional RINO hunter,” when recounting her defeat of a longtime incumbent) and a prescription (“we need men and women of God to rise up”). In her words, she is someone who has been called by God, who “told me to go forward.”

At the gathering, which drew, according to organizers, about 1,500 over its two days, there was much talk of God, rivaled only by the many references to fighting and marching into battle, with the very future of America at stake. Though prayer was the primary weapon on display, and a voter registration table showing the way, there was also a raffle for a 17.76 LVOA rifle, only 500 tickets available, $20 each, six for $100.

America has heard similar exhortations before, including from the former head of the Christian Coalition, the founder of the national Faith & Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed. Despite Reed’s tight relationship with Republican Party politics — as senior adviser to the Bush-Cheney campaigns in both 2000 and 2004, onetime chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, a GOP candidate himself, and more — the ambassador for the North Carolina organization insists his group is independent.

Paul Brintley, a North Carolina pastor who leads on minority engagement, told me, “Our forefathers made choices in laws from a foundation of the Bible” and “we don’t want to lose our saltiness” in continuing that charge, hence the “salt” in the conference name. Jesse Hailey, a Baptist pastor from Elk Point, S.D., said he, too, longed for a country that elevated biblical traditions, and he said he was very pleased with the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

But, “we don’t endorse candidates; we just educate people,” said Jason Williams, the executive director of the N.C. Faith & Freedom Coalition.

Was that a wink?

It was hard to miss the issue-oriented voter guides or the theme of the vendors’ room with tables for the Patriotic Students of America, which promotes clubs and believes “today’s education system has growing anti-American sentiments,” and Moms for Liberty, which has led the charge against what it labels critical race theory but in practice seems to be about banning books on LGBTQ families, six year-old Ruby Bridges integrating New Orleans schools, and girls who aspire to a career in tech.

Valerie Miller, 40, a member of the Cabarrus County Republican Party executive committee, touted “Blexit” — Black Americans leaving the Democratic Party — and her story of finding a home in the GOP. You could also learn about Patriot Mobile, advertising itself as “America’s Only Christian, conservative wireless provider,” and pick up a “Let’s Go Brandon” sticker.

All the while, a who’s who of conservative politicians, media stars and firebrands took the stage.

When it comes to what faith in action — political action — should look like, opinions have always varied in stark ways. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, after all, was a generous yet robust rebuke to fellow faith leaders who urged patience not action in pursuit of justice. Not even the Scripture they all preached could settle the argument.

It’s no different today, with people of faith preaching far different versions of how God’s vision is and should be reflected in the country’s policies. In Washington, D.C., last week, a diverse group of national, state and local faith leaders prioritized voting rights, the living wage, and the lack of health care as they joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival in a briefing to urge Congress to act on issues that affect millions of vulnerable Americans.

“We’re in a moral crisis. Fifty million people are going to experience some sort of voter suppression because we’ve not restored the Voting Rights Act and passed the original John Lewis bill that the guy who amended the original John Lewis bill didn’t vote for it himself,” said co-chair Rev. William J. Barber II, who is also president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, in remarks I watched on video. “And 50 million people will experience continual poverty because we’ve not raised the minimum wage in 13 years. Thirteen years.”

Speaking of voting, back in Charlotte, was that featured speaker Mark Harris, the pastor and former GOP congressional candidate whose race had to be rerun — without Harris — after ballot irregularities?

The most anticipated marquee name was definitely the Day 2 Saturday closer, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, the first African American to hold the office, and the Republican most expected to make a run for the top job in 2024 when term-limited Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper leaves. Robinson, as well as Rep. Ted Budd, locked in a tight race for U.S. Senate with Democrat Cheri Beasley, had a Day 1 conflict — Donald Trump’s Friday rally in Wilmington, N.C.

A Greensboro speech supporting the Second Amendment catapulted Robinson to prominence and office, and he has not lowered his decibel level since, making his views clear on LGBTQ rights, among other issues. I suppose I should have felt lucky to have been watching on video and not at Freedom House Church when Robinson swore he could smell members of the media in the dark — cue exaggerated sniff — because “they stink to high heaven.”

To the delight of the crowd, he called Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “nitwit” and sneered at academics before he segued to the Lord. “The essential element of our nation’s founding,” Robinson said, “is the wisdom and knowledge of Jesus Christ and his word.”

Let us pray.

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. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

System Of Injustice Fails Breonna Taylor -- And Protects Donald Trump

System Of Injustice Fails Breonna Taylor -- And Protects Donald Trump

You can be sure the FBI and the Department of Justice dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” on the search warrant before they went looking for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the home of the former president of the United States, and hit the jackpot. Though I wasn’t there, I’m confident that no agent busted down doors or shot around corners.

According to reports, though not to the hysterical hyperbole employed by Donald Trump on the campaign trail, this was a professional operation, approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the federal judiciary.

Still, thanks to Trump-appointed U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, a special master must sort through and review 13,000 documents and items seized from Mar-a Lago before the investigation can continue. The ruling came after even Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr — who judged Cannon’s ruling “deeply flawed” — eventually came to the conclusion that the federal government had no choice but to act in the face of Trump’s defiance.

More delay, more court review, it seems, before the public gets any closer to finding out why a private citizen who used to be president took classified government documents to his private club or what national, perhaps damaging secrets Trump and company held on to despite entreaties to do the right thing.

I get it, though. I understand why the former president and his followers — the crowd current President Joe Biden accurately labels “MAGA Republicans” — believe that the rules apply only to some, while others get to make them up as they go along. Just look at the excuses they make for his behavior, and the twists and turns of spine and morality necessary to turn violent Capitol rioters into “patriots.”

To realize there really are different and inequitable systems of justice in a country that swears it isn’t so, look no further than the case of a woman who was given none of the protections or attention that those with wealth and power take for granted.

Breonna Taylor was defenseless. In fact, as we’ve found out from a guilty plea by someone tasked with enforcing the law, the search that ended in Taylor’s death was based on lies.

Former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett late last month pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge, admitting she helped falsify the warrant and conspired with another officer to concoct a cover story when the March 2020 killing of this young Black woman belatedly made national news.

I relate much more to Taylor’s plight than Trump’s, having been seen more than once during my growing-up years as more perp than citizen minding my own business by law enforcement patrolling my working-class Black neighborhood. Then again, I would think that most Americans struggling to get through each day would find more similarities with the emergency room technician who wanted to be a nurse than a former president who refuses to accept defeat in a presidential election.

Yet, one search garners the headlines and boiling outrage, while the other earns little more than a mention, unless you’re a friend or family member or anyone interested in an American system of justice that works fairly.

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. But with every day, every new Trump revelation and accompanying pushback by those who would rather not know the truth, it becomes depressingly clear that way too many Americans are not just fine with the status quo, but are willing to fight to make sure certain people get away with everything.

Imagine how any other ordinary citizen would be treated had they defied polite, then stern requests, then a subpoena to turn over documents that were never theirs to begin with, that contain information that could endanger the security of Americans and their allies.

To listen to his constant whining, to skim endless emails begging for cash, Trump doesn’t realize how lucky he is, or has been for his whole coddled life, one littered with bankruptcies and bailouts, lawsuits and settlements. Pain has been cushioned, often erased, by lawyers, toadies and loyal yes-men and yes-women who deflect and sometimes take the fall while he moves on, using his megaphone to spew grievance and claim victimhood.

At rallies, like his recent one in Pennsylvania, he name-called law enforcement, Democrats and anyone who fails to see things his way; he relishes stoking anger, not that he has to do very much. Like The Hulk in The Avengers movie, Trump’s acolytes are “always angry.”

While Breonna Taylor at first did not have millions of followers willing to defend her right to get a peaceful night’s sleep without police officers skating on thin legal ice precipitating a deadly encounter, many did take up her cause and marched to support it.

But I’d wager that some of the same folks who at the time shouted “back the blue” and blamed Taylor herself before all the facts were in now favor defunding the FBI and any other law enforcement agency whose goal is to keep the nation’s secrets out of the hands of random visitors at Trump’s Florida compound, where a fake Rothschild and a Chinese infiltrator have roamed the halls.

If you are truly intent on officers of the law following it, consistency would demand some support for the 26-year-old Kentuckian, now that it’s clear justice was not done in her case. But I don’t think many of the Jan. 6, 2021, crowd would ever link arms with those marching for accountability from authorities for one Black woman and others who fit her profile.

Alas, consistency has gone the way of the courage of mainstream Republicans, who now may not praise Trump but dare not criticize him.

It’s ironic that it fell to the same federal government that is the target of Trump and MAGA ire to seek just a bit of belated justice for Taylor, with the Department of Justice charging four officers involved in that botched Louisville operation, one that was as sloppy as the Mar-a-Lago search was certainly by the book.

In Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron has dodged responsibility, with his own grand jury speaking out about charges he failed to present. But despite pushback on how he handled or mishandled what happened to Breonna Taylor, the Republican rising star, with the support of Donald Trump and, he hopes, MAGA Republicans in his state, Cameron may yet gain the governor prize he craves.

Not my idea of justice, but maybe America’s.

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.