Will Trump Take Over the RNC? Cash-poor, on a losing streak, and firmly behind Trump, is now the time for national Republicans to change leadership?

Is RNC chairperson Ronna McDaniel to blame for Republicans’ poor fundraising and recent underperformance in elections?

Guest: Shelby Talcott, reporter covering Trump and national Republicans for Semafor.

Local News Roundup: Union County bans fluoride in their water; the Leandro saga continues; Charlotte FC kicks off season

Union County commissioners vote to ban fluoride in the county water supply. According to the CDC, putting fluoride in water is vital to keep teeth healthy, especially in young children. The practice has been done across the country for decades. Detractors claim the issue is about consent, personal freedom, and whether the board has the authority to add fluoride to the water.

Elsewhere, more signage is coming to uptown Charlotte as a display bearing the company’s name will be added to the Wells Fargo building. City Council noted this follows a precedent after signage was approved for the Truist building in 2020.

The saga of the Leandro lawsuit continues. This week, the North Carolina Supreme Court considers whether the state needs to pay around $700 million to fund education improvements as ordered by a trial court.

And coming off a playoff appearance last fall, Charlotte FC returns to the pitch this Saturday to kick off its third season. Will a new coach mean more success for the team?

Those stories and more on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter
Alexandria Sands, reporter with Axios Charlotte

When the game of politics plunges into dangerous spectacle

“Are you not entertained?” shouts Maximus as the titular “Gladiator” in the 2000 film. And actor Russell Crowe sells it — enough to snag an Oscar — as he repeats the line to the stadium. “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

Everyone loves a spectacle, even now, which is why more than 123 million viewers reportedly tuned in to this week’s Super Bowl, whether you were there for the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers — or a shirtless Usher.

Don’t forget, though, that the shouted movie line was about a lot more than the show. It was a taunt, used to communicate the gladiator’s disgust with the reason the crowd cheered him. They weren’t interested in a game well-played by evenly matched opponents, which I’ll wager was the main reason Sunday’s Las Vegas event was a must-see.

That ancient Roman audience showed up for the blood. The more gruesomely the gladiator dispatched the fighters in front of him, the louder the crowd’s approval, no quarter nor empathy given.

In politics today, I’m afraid too many political gladiators are harking back to the example of ancient Rome’s idea of what will win over the citizenry, rather than pulling a page from Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s strategic playbook.

Entertainment, sure. As fractious as possible.

Valentina Gomez, 24, a Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state, wants to make sure voters know what she thinks of LGBTQ-inclusive books. A campaign video that went viral on social media shows the candidate using a flamethrower to torch a few, with the message: “When I’m Secretary of State, I will BURN all books that are grooming, indoctrinating, and sexualizing our children. MAGA. America First.”

Rather than back away, her campaign responded in a statement to NBC News: “You want to be gay? Fine be gay. Just don’t do it around children.”

What E. Jean Carroll could teach ‘tough’ Republicans about calling out a bully

E. Jean Carroll is a brave woman. And her courage calls out the cowardice of many who could learn a thing or two from the writer who just won a judgment of $83.3 million — a sum set by a jury of Americans doing their duty — against the man who defamed her.

Considering all she has gone through, I’m sure if Carroll could trade that money for the life and the reputation she built before she learned the truth about the character of that character Donald Trump, she would.

But the findings in her civil cases did seem to bring a sort of justice, and a sense of liberation. In an interview this week on MSNBC, she told host Rachel Maddow how she felt about the prospect of facing Trump in the courtroom: “I lost my ability to speak, I lost my words, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t go on. That’s how frightened I was.”

But after she entered the courtroom and took the witness stand, Carroll said: “Amazingly, I looked out, and he was nothing. He was nothing. He was a phantom.”

That she fought and she won at 80, an age when women in our culture aren’t especially valued, made her elation lovely to behold.

Carroll’s triumph and her joy made me think of all the big, strong men Trump has insulted and worse, who nevertheless have lined up to support him and debase themselves in the process. I’d love to ask them, as they grin and bear it through clenched teeth, if it’s worth it, the “it” being a Senate seat, a Cabinet appointment or a future with the MAGA base Trump wields like an ax.

Do leaders realize Americans who don’t vote for them are still Americans?

Was it a figment of our imagination? I’m talking about the 2004 keynote address at the Democratic National Convention by Barack Obama, then a little-known state senator from Illinois. In his uplifting speech, he had a warning for “the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.”

“There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a Black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states.”

And enough Americans believed it, believed in the promise of unity, that U.S. Sen. Obama was rewarded with two terms as president of the United States, the first Black man to be elected to that office.

Even then, though, there were hints that not all Americans were celebrating the milestone, not everyone bought the lofty words.

In the background hovered Donald Trump, the same guy whose family’s real estate business had settled with the federal government after excluding folks who looked like Obama from renting a Trump property.

Trump tapped into the wariness and hostility that some felt about this Black man and his beautiful family moving into the White House and becoming the face of America to the world. Trump’s absurd “birther” lies doubting Obama’s American-ness, his bleating the president’s middle name, Hussein, on cue, all of that was lapped up by Americans insecure about their place in a changing country.

The backlash fighting progress that my historian son has told me turns up like clockwork in our country helped give us President Donald Trump. And now, with a New Hampshire primary victory and what looks like a clear path to the Republican presidential nomination, Trump is back — though, as his racist attacks on Republican challenger Nikki Haley and disparaging comments about Black and brown migrants prove, his act has hardly changed.

And God Gave Us Trump

How American white evangelical Christianity has reshaped itself in the image of Donald Trump.

Guest: Rev. Angela Denker, Lutheran pastor and author of Red State Christians: A Journey into White Christian Nationalism and the Wreckage It Leaves Behind

To honor Dr. King, GOP should honor what he really believed in

It was fitting that as the world honored the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would have turned 95 years old on the holiday commemorating his life and work, his daughter Bernice King set the record straight: “Many folks who use ‘woke’ with contempt today probably would have hated Daddy when he was alive,” she said. “He was very conscious and committed to eradicating what he called the ‘triple evils’ of racism, poverty and militarism. If you’re quoting him to stop truthful teaching about him…”

I wonder if anti-“woke” warrior Ron DeSantis’ ears were burning?

Bernice King has had to spend way too much of her time and energy correcting, scolding and rebuking not just the Florida governor and fading GOP presidential hopeful, but also all those who have never hesitated to co-opt King. And like her, I suspect even they know they would have been among the majority of white Americans who judged King a danger in 1968, the year he was assassinated at the age of 39.

It has become routine for many to lecture her about all the things her father would say or think were he alive today, which disrespects them both.

The real King is still deemed too dangerous for some who would ban books that honestly report the important American history

For history-challenged candidates, Civil War source material is nearby

Who would have thought so many of those competing to be president of the United States would have slept through American History 101? And I wonder why, if a working-class student at a modest Catholic school in Baltimore managed bus trips to museums in that city and neighboring Washington, D.C., folks who grew up with far more resources than I ever dreamed of never found the time to learn from the treasures such institutions contain?

Welcome to campaign 2024, when it seems each day’s headlines include at least one fractured history lesson, revealing just how much our leaders don’t know or don’t want to know about America’s past, and why that matters for our present and future.

Local News Roundup: Tepper fined; Pornhub blocked in NC; NYE violence Uptown; Charlotte banking magnate dies at 82

Carolina Panther’s owner David Tepper is fined $300,000 and issues a non-apology statement for throwing a drink on fans during last week’s loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The adult website Pornhub has shut down access in North Carolina in response to a new age-verification law that went into effect on January 1.

A mass shooting in Romare Bearden Park on New Year’s Eve left five people injured. It’s the latest subject in the ongoing conversation about safety in Charlotte.

And the man who grew Charlotte’s First Union into one of the largest banks in the country has died. Ed Crutchfield was 82.

Those stories and more on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter
Nick Carboni, WCNC sports director
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Nick Ochsner, WBTV chief investigative reporter
Ely Portillo, senior editor at WFAE News

Local News Roundup: City Council chamber cleared after protests; bodycam footage released in controversial arrest; Tricia Cotham has a Democratic opponent

Mayor Vi Lyles had to order the emptying of the council chamber during Monday night’s City Council meeting, as pro-Palestinian audience members shouted at a speaker defending Israel.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police released the body camera video from the controversial arrest at a Charlotte bus stop last month. The video, released on Tuesday, led to an announcement by Chief Johnny Jennings that disciplinary action will be taken against one of the officers involved in the incident.

Two local Democrats have thrown their hats in the ring to run against Tricia Cotham for the North Carolina House in 2024. Nicole Sidman works at Temple Beth El in Charlotte. She filed to run Thursday, joining Yolanda Holmes as the two Democrats running in the March primary. Holmes previously ran against Cotham in 2022 when they were both Democrats in a primary election.

Van Brett Watkins, the convicted hitman who shot Ray Carruth’s pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams back in 1999 has died in a North Carolina prison. We’ll talk about reaction to his death.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and more, on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

GUESTS:

· Erik Spanberg, managing editor for the Charlotte Business Journal
· Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
· Steve Harrison, WFAE’s political reporter