Which party has a game plan for the future? We’re about to find out

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?

Who gets credit, and blame, after Election Day?

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 Guardian recounted 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 Jan. 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.

When will Republicans reject fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear?

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.

Celebrating, reflecting and looking to the future after National Hispanic Heritage Month

When America started officially honoring Hispanic heritage in 1968, it was a one-week celebration. Though the country now marks National Hispanic Heritage Month, acknowledging how generations of Hispanic Americans have influenced and contributed to our nation, it doesn’t have to end when that month is over. This episode of Equal Time reflects on the issues and challenges facing the community and the country now and into the future.

Equal Time host Mary C. Curtis speaks with Larry Gonzalez, an experienced participant in policy-making at the federal and state levels and a founder and principal of the communications firm The Raben Group, and Teresa Puente, an assistant professor who teaches journalism at California State University Long Beach and has spent her career reporting on immigration and Latino issues in the U.S., with extensive reporting from Mexico.

A depressing return to a well-worn election playbook — 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 Jan. 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.

The fight over faith in politics: Which faith? Whose values?

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, 6-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 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.”

You can’t ‘pivot away’ from sick stunts and cruelty

It’s called the “pivot.” It’s that moment when a politician who has been playing at the fringes for primary purposes tacks to the center, just in time for the general election, the better to appeal to independents and moderates who might be turned off by red-meat rhetoric.

A particularly clumsy execution of what should be a deft move could be observed after New Hampshire Republican Don Bolduc won his primary fight and the right to run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Maggie Hassan.

After running as a true Trump devotee, swallower of the election lie that Donald Trump was denied the presidency because of fraud, and signing a letter saying Trump won, Bolduc had a come-to-truth conversion as soon as the primary votes were counted. “I’ve done a lot of research on this,” he said to explain his about-face. “The election was not stolen.”

Did he forget that videotape exists and social media is forever?

In politics, there are actually all kinds of pivots.

One that erases the lived experiences of human beings is underway right now, as buses and planes crisscross the United States, courtesy of governors competing to see who can score the most political points on the backs of brown people.

Who are these men, women and children? Where exactly are they from? Are many in the country legally, stuck in an immigration system that is overloaded, unwieldy and in need of reform? What’s going to happen to them now? Who is paying for this stunt?

Before all these questions are deeply explored, notice how quickly conversation about GOP Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida transporting asylum-seekers northward segued from the details about the people on those buses and planes to analysis of how these politicians’ cynical moves will play among voters.

Eventually, those details dangerously lose their power to shock, the names and faces blurring.

Consider how little has been reported on the fate of a 1-month-old baby dropped off in front of the Washington, D.C., residence of Vice President Kamala Harris, courtesy of Abbott.

Put yourself in the place of desperate parents trying to give your infant a better life; wonder what kind of despair and hope would lead to a trek into the unknown.

Oh, that’s right. In Donald Trump’s recent ominous and threatening Ohio speech, the one in which he labeled anyone opposing the MAGA movement as “thugs and tyrants” with “no idea of the sleeping giant they have awoken,” he could not pass up the chance to refer to some immigrants as “murderers” and “rapists.”

The clear message was that “these” people are not like you, smoothing the way for a pivot from people to threats to political pawns, good only for the opportunity to “own the libs” and bank a few votes.

When taken to task for not giving social services in Martha’s Vineyard advance notice, the better to make preparations, DeSantis press person Jeremy Redfern embraced the oversight, tweeting, “Do the cartels that smuggle humans call Florida or Texas before illegal immigrants wash up on our shores or cross over the border? No.”

Anyone who invites a comparison to human-smuggling, lawbreaking coyotes might want to examine his life choices.

It’s not even an original tactic.

Fighting unwinnable battles in an American culture war

As usual, Michelle Obama stole the show. The former first lady returned to the White House to unveil the official Obama portraits that will forever hang on its walls, and she used the special occasion to deliver remarks that hit the perfect tone.

“For me, this day is not just about what has happened,” she said last week. “It’s also about what could happen because a girl like me, she was never supposed to be up there next to Jacqueline Kennedy and Dolley Madison. She was never supposed to live in this house. And she definitely wasn’t supposed to serve as first lady.”

All over the world, you could hear young girls and women, particularly those of color, cheering.

She referenced the sentiments of her “hope and change” spouse in saying, “if the two of us can end up on the walls of the most famous address in the world, then, again, it is so important for every young kid who is doubting themselves to believe that they can, too.”

Now, whenever the former first lady speaks simple truths, a few trolls find fault with her words, seeing in them victimization, not the obvious celebration intended by the speaker. But then, those naysayers were the ones who never appreciated the style and class the Obamas brought to the people’s house while navigating the uncharted role of “the first.”

Michelle Obama’s speech was not about how bad we were but how far we’ve come, and isn’t that something Americans can point to with pride?

Apparently not.

The first Black president and first lady — an inspiration for so many who had felt left out — are merely ammunition for those who insist on fighting a “culture war” they feel they’re losing.

Two systems of justice? Bet on it

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.

Progress? Certainly. But has the Americans with Disabilities Act changed the country enough?

Marking its 32nd anniversary this year, the Americans with Disabilities Act has inspired the world to see disability through the lens of equity, opening opportunities for persons with disabilities to contribute to our global progress. But, from creating more consistency for academic accommodations to providing additional employment opportunities, what needs to be done in the next 32 years and beyond?

Equal Time host Mary C. Curtis talks with Nicole Patton, the manager of state government relations at the National Down Syndrome Society, and Charlotte Woodward, an education program associate at NDSS. Woodward, who was born with Down syndrome and a heart condition, is one of the few people with that disability to receive a life-saving heart transplant. She went on to graduate summa cum laude from George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a concentration in inequality and social change.