North Carolina’s Republican Party is having an identity crisis

OPINION — All eyes with be on North Carolina next year, when the Republican Party holds its 2020 convention in Charlotte to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. In truth, though, the state has been the center of attention for a while because of actions of party members — and the gaze has not been kind.

Campaign season means ‘law and order.’ Can we break the habit?

OPINION — When mass incarceration in America gets political attention, it’s often so the issue can be used as a cudgel to attack opponents. Thus, the president Twitter-shames former Vice President Joe Biden for his role in promoting the 1994 crime bill even as Donald Trump’s own history of hounding the Central Park Five is highlighted in “When They See Us,” director Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries on the teens accused, convicted, imprisoned and eventually exonerated.

When Democrats and Republicans cooperated on a criminal justice reform bill late last year that made modest changes in the federal system, they congratulated themselves for getting something done in gridlocked Washington.

But it hardly solved the problem. That’s the message of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. “The presidential election will be important setting the tone,” he told me at a recent appearance in Charlotte. “The hard work has to happen in North Carolina, in the state legislature on issues like sentencing, on issues like prisons, on issues like excessive punishment, and that’s true for every state in the country.”

Team Trump’s Harriet Tubman stumble was a missed opportunity for the GOP

OPINION — It would have been so easy, a way for the Trump administration to honor an American icon and reach out to some of those Americans who believe the Republican Party has no use for them. But did anyone honestly think any member of the team leading the country under the direction of Donald J. Trump was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?

Instead Trump and company’s song-and-dance about why a plan put in place before they moved into the White House would be delayed until well after they leave just confirms that they care little for the wishes of Americans who probably did not vote for them, but who are Americans nonetheless, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in the history that has shaped this country.

The move to again force Tubman to the back was a clarion call to Trump’s base, a signal of who is important and who is not.

Can Bernie Sanders change his luck in the South?

OPINION — Bernie Sanders spent the weekend on a Southern swing, which makes sense. The Vermont senator’s failure to connect with enough core Democratic voters the last time around — in the South, that means black voters, and black women in particular — stalled his campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. He hit a wall in the early primary state of South Carolina, losing badly to Hillary Clinton, and he never recovered.

North Carolina redo sets stage for copycat campaigns in 2020

OPINION — After an election fraud scandal, North Carolina Republicans lost a House candidate. After an indictment and questions about possible bribery, the state GOP lost its chair.

But all that didn’t stop a gaggle of Republicans from vying for the chance to run for a House seat that, thanks to gerrymandering, still favors their party — that is, of course, if voters stay interested in a special election that now will be decided on Sept. 10, if everything goes as planned.

Whatever happens, the race has offered a national blueprint for what voters will see in 2020, with the majority of Republicans clinging close to Donald Trump and trying to brand Democrats as far to the left as imagination allows. Meanwhile, Democrats proclaim their independence and ability to stand up to the president and his bending of constitutional norms while doing the other business of Congress and helping constituents.

An American credo: Justice for some, especially the four-legged

Derby on May 4. (Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

OPINION — From the current administration’s indifference to congressional requests for information on the Mueller report to its hardening policies restricting those seeking asylum from violent homelands, one would think Donald Trump and company cared little for justice. But the president did manage to speak out recently in support of one particular victim he felt was wronged.

In a signature tweet, he said: “The Kentuky Derby decision was not a good one.” (He has since corrected the spelling to “Kentucky.”) “It was a rough and tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby — not even close!”

Yes, Donald Trump reacted in outrage, in defense of a horse.

After gun massacre, Charlotte is now ‘one of those cities’

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — “Now we’re one of those schools.” That’s what a  University of North Carolina student, in more sadness than anger, told a local radio station after a gunman killed two and wounded four others on her campus on Tuesday. And now Charlotte, a city already experiencing a spike in homicides, is “one of those cities.”

In the city and state, there is shock, plus questions. A suspect is in custody, but that doesn’t provide answers about why it happened and what can be done to keep it from happening again.

That this latest incident did not make it to the top spot in many national news outlets speaks to how commonplace such incidents have become and how frustrated many citizens are. Is the answer more mental health resources, more “good guys with guns,” more regulations and background checks, or something else?

It’s called accountability, but only for some

OPINION — When I was a little girl growing up in West Baltimore, my parents (especially my mom) gave me some truth along with the love. “You will have to work twice as hard to get half as far,” they told their working-class African American child, schooled as they had been in life’s challenges. They also warned about what everyone on my side of town knew: There was little to no room for error because folks like us seldom got the benefit of the doubt.

This was not to discourage me — far from it. It was to prepare me. Better to know what the deal was upfront.

They did not live to observe the spectacle of the president of the United States and members of his family get away — for now, at least — with all sorts of dishonest doings, things an African American president and his family would have been marched across the White House lawn in cuffs and shackles for. Things anyone in my neighborhood would have been tossed under the jail for even thinking about doing.

For serious primary voters, the parade of Democratic candidates is no joke

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The number of Democratic hopefuls declaring, thinking about declaring or being pushed to declare their interest in the 2020 race is increasing so rapidly, it has already become a reliable punchline. But for voters looking to discover the person who offers sensible policies on the issues they care about while exuding the intangible “it” quality that could beat Donald Trump, it is serious business.

Forget about what magic the letter “B” might hold — think Bernie, Biden, Beto, Booker, Buttigieg and I know I’m forgetting someone, oh yes, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet — these voters are digging deeper on the candidates who will crowd a debate stage in Miami two nights in a row in June.

When a hate crimes hearing goes very wrong, something’s not right in America

OPINION — When people are being threatened, intimidated and murdered, you would think that partisan bickering would take a back seat. But this is the U.S. Congress we’re talking about. Instead, what was supposed to be an examination of white nationalism and the rise of hate crimes on Tuesday devolved into what Americans have wearily begun to expect from their elected representatives. The House Judiciary Committee members inhabited different parties and different planets.

When what’s at stake is this serious, that’s pretty frightening.