Voting rights, a partisan issue? Yes, Republicans have fallen that far

OPINION — Stacey Abrams has it right, for right now. She lost her 2018 race to be the governor of Georgia to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state was in charge of the election, a situation that would not pass the sniff test in North Korea.

OK, that comparison is a little far-fetched, but only a little.

Since then, though, she’s been plenty busy, confirming that, yes, she would be open to a vice presidential spot on the 2020 Democratic ticket and locking down a network TV deal for a drama based on one of her novels.

Most importantly, though, through her group Fair Fight, she has been fighting for voting rights, an issue that’s bigger than one election and always has been.

Despite the GOP talking point that the impeachment inquiry is crowding out important work, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the House has been passing legislation, only to see those bills die in the Senate under the strict command of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Last week, another proposed bill joined the list, with little doubt that it too would meet the same Senate fate. The two parties can’t even agree on what to call it. For Democrats, and officially, it is the Voting Rights Advancement Act. Republicans have dubbed it the “The Federal Control of Elections Act.”

Not too subtle.

Double standards for 2020 Democratic hopefuls? You don’t say

OPINION — There is a particular line that stuck with me in the just-opened film “Queen & Slim,” about a black couple on the run after an altercation with a white police officer goes awry in the depressing and terrible way you might imagine. During their perilous road trip, in a quieter moment, he (a retail worker) asks her (an attorney) if she is good at her job. “I’m an excellent lawyer,” she replies, to which he answers with a question that’s really a statement: “Why do black people always got to be excellent? Why can’t we just be ourselves?”

Since the pre-mortems were written a bit ago, it’s time for a post-mortem on the presidential campaign of California Sen. Kamala Harris, who never seemed to quite discover who she was or at least convey authenticity and excellence to enough voters or donors to make a difference.

Bloomberg, Biden, Buttigieg and the bunch apologize. Should black voters listen, forgive and vote?

OPINION — Of course, Michael Bloomberg went there — there being a black church to ask for forgiveness. As he tentatively dips his toe and his billions into the Democratic presidential race, joining a scrum that expands even as it shrinks, Bloomberg, perhaps realizing that the path to the presidency must include the enthusiastic support of black and brown voters, has rethought his enthusiastic support of “stop and frisk.”

“I got something important really wrong,” he told the congregation at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. “I didn’t understand back then the full impact that stops were having on the black and Latino communities.”

As New York City mayor, Bloomberg insisted that in order to fight crime, police must have the power to stop anyone judged a potential lawbreaker, which translated to ritualizing a practice that humiliated hundreds of thousands of black and brown New Yorkers who were detained, questioned and patted down because of “furtive movements” or some other vague justification. The number of stops rose to more than 685,000 in 2011, with no citations made or charges brought nearly 90 percent of the time.

In her congressional goodbye, Katie Hill worried about letting down young girls. Now that’s a change

OPINION — Katie Hill said, “I’m sorry,” a lot. In a speech that was not quite seven and a half minutes long, that stood out.

With a public impeachment inquiry now underway and a torrent of names and made-for-TV characters moving in and out of the spotlight, few remember that one of the votes approving this step was the last cast by Hill. The freshman congresswoman resigned her seat as she was about to face an ethics investigation after accusations that she was having a sexual relationship with a congressional aide. She denied that, though she admitted to one with a campaign staffer that she said was inappropriate though not rule-breaking.

Pete Buttigieg tries to solve his South Carolina puzzle

[OPINION] ROCK HILL, S.C. — Why was South Bend, Indiana, mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg in South Carolina over the weekend, with a busy schedule that included tailgating at a historically black college homecoming and delivering remarks at an AME Zion worship service?

“To say that I want to be the president who can pick up the pieces, that we’ve got to be ready not just to defeat this president but to guide the country forward,” he confidently told me. “I have my eyes on that moment and what America’s going to need.”

It’s quite a tall order for a candidate polls show in single digits in the first-in-the-South primary, where he is still largely unknown to the African Americans who make up the majority of the state’s Democratic voters, even as his campaign coffers and Iowa poll numbers rise. In a weekend packed with public appearances, he and a diverse group of campaign workers and surrogates, including some from South Bend, were trying to catch up — and distribute those “African Americans for Pete” buttons.

With ‘lynching’ comment, Trump retreats to his racist comfort zone

OPINION — When Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley sent her 14-year-old son, Emmett, to visit relatives in Mississippi, she never thought he would return in a casket, a victim of a mother’s nightmare and America’s shame. A group of white men kidnapped, tortured, mutilated and murdered him that summer in 1955 for the “crime” of flirting with a white woman, who years later admitted to lying about their supposed interaction.

Mr. President, that’s a lynching.

Elijah Cummings, a man of character and the best of Baltimore

OPINION — In the summertime, Baltimore can be hot as blazes with humidity to match. Trying to cool off in a public pool would be quite an ordinary outing for an 11-year-old boy. But for young Elijah Cummings in 1962, it turned into a nightmare in the still largely segregated city. White adults and children resisting integration yelled, “Go back to where you came from” — sound familiar? — to children and, over the heads of a police line, threw rocks and bottles, one of which caught young Elijah in the face.

That day taught Cummings he had rights, he later said, and it made him determined to become a lawyer despite teachers who dismissed his dream as impossible. With strong parents and supporters such as his boss at a drug store, who paid his college admission fee, Cummings fulfilled that dream and so much more.

The experience and the lesson he learned from it told you a lot about the boy who would become the man, a fighter for justice and a leader with a sense of right and wrong, even when there was a price to pay —lasting physical and emotional scars, reminders of work left to be done.

Can church ever be separate from state at a Franklin Graham rally?

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After the Rev. Billy Graham became less a counselor of presidents and more a political player, particularly in the unfortunate case of Richard Nixon, he learned a lesson. The Rev. Franklin Graham, heir to his father’s legacy, has chosen a different path, arguably becoming as well known for his politics as for his role as a spiritual leader.

Considering his remarks as he brought his “Decision America” tour to his hometown this past weekend, it’s a box Graham the younger is not exactly comfortable being placed in. But for the preacher who credited the “God factor,” in part, for Donald Trump’s 2016 win, that narrative is set. Vocal support of the president pre- and post-election exists right alongside his philanthropic and mission outreach — such as recent efforts in the Bahamas — through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.

Before he took the stage, and as Christian musician Jeremy Camp warmed up the crowd, I asked Graham about where he stands and about the qualities he admires in Trump, who is making his own news as he battles an impeachment inquiry with increasingly rough and divisive language, on Twitter and at rallies, which is anything but Christian.

When celebrity luster gives cover to how America judges its own

OPINION — I am not one of those folks who see celebrities as larger-than-life icons to be worshipped and admired. Usually. But the recent deaths of Jessye Norman and Diahann Carroll hit me in the gut because those two amazing women were at once larger than life and so very real. The reactions to their accomplishments also illustrate an American or perhaps universal trait — the ability to compartmentalize, to place certain citizens of color or underrepresented citizens on a pedestal, at once a part of and apart from others of their race or gender or religion or orientation.

It allows negative judgment of entire groups to exist alongside denials of any racist or discriminatory intent. There are a lot of problems with that way of thinking. It places an unfair burden on the icons, a need to be less a human being than a flawless symbol. And it uses them as a rebuke to others who never managed to overcome society’s obstacles.

Most destructively, it allows behavior that punishes those not so talented, fortunate or lucky.

Americans as ‘High Noon’ heroes against lawlessness? Nope

OPINION — Americans like to imagine themselves as Gary Cooper’s Marshal Will Kane in “High Noon,” facing impossible odds, struggling, yet managing to stand up, even if it means standing alone and risking it all. We are all rugged individuals, we think, rushing in while cowards run for cover.

Think again.

As we’ve seen in the reactions to the impeachment inquiry launched by the House into the actions of President Donald Trump, that high self-regard is just another American myth disproved by historical reality.