Brett Kavanaugh Isn’t Clarence Thomas, but It’s Still About Race
Black and brown kids don’t get their slates wiped clean

OPINION — Orrin G. Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, is nothing if not consistent.

His words about distinguished lawyer and professor Anita Hill in 1991 — when she testified in the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee on which he sat — were clear. He said there was “no question” in his mind that she was “coached” by special interest groups. “Her story’s too contrived. It’s so slick it doesn’t compute.” Hatch mused she may have cribbed some of her testimony from the novel “The Exorcist” — the horror!

Midterms Show We’re Not Any Closer to a Post-Racial America
Racially charged language is a trademark rather than a flaw to many

OPINION — Remember the time when Trent Lott got in a heap of trouble for remembering the time?

It was 2002, and the Senate Republican leader representing Mississippi was waxing nostalgic for what he considered the good old days at a 100th birthday celebration for South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond. Carried away by the moment — and in remarks that recalled similar words from 1980 — Lott said: “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

This Is Not Your Father’s Bible Belt. Can Dems Make It Theirs?
Republicans have long claimed a monopoly on religion, but that could be changing

OPINION — There’s a series of striking images in a televised ad for Dan McCready, who is seeking to represent North Carolina’s reliably conservative 9th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. It puts the candidate’s military record and faith front and center — not entirely surprising for someone vying for voters in a swath of the state that includes an affluent section of Charlotte, as well as parts of rural counties all the way to the Fayetteville area, with its strong military presence.

In the ad, McCready stands with his troops as an announcer states that after 9/11, he “was called to serve his country.” Then the scene shifts, and the narrative continues to describe the Marine Corps veteran as finding another calling when he was baptized “in the waters of the Euphrates River.”

Trump to the Rescue (Maybe) in North Carolina
Democrats see opportunities, but GOP won’t go down without a fight

OPINION — When Donald Trump travels to North Carolina this week, it won’t be for one of the campaign-style rallies that are his oxygen — especially needed now when the air is filled with praise for his nemesis John McCain, who is being lauded in death in terms the president can only dream about.

This Friday in Charlotte, host of the 2020 GOP convention and with the Trump National Golf Club not that far away in Mooresville, the president is scheduled to make a lunchtime appearance at a country club for an audience of those willing and able to pay at least $1,000 ($25,000 will get you admission to a “roundtable” and a photograph with Trump). It is a party with a purpose: to raise enough cash to keep two possibly vulnerable House seats in Republicans hands.

Whether Church or State, Powerful Men Are Letting Us Down
From priests to Duncan Hunter to Trump himself, leaders need to get back to earth with the rest of us

OPINION — It is not a good time for those who want to believe — in their faith or in their government. No one expects any institution to be perfect, particularly those that are large and complicated. But why do so many have to be perfectly corrupt, spurring cynicism in those once so willing to give the benefit of the doubt?

There is the church I was raised in, one whose good works and ministries I loved while acknowledging flaws and grudgingly accepting the stern teachings of nuns and priests, and obeying the commandments as best I could. Pope Francis, a pontiff I admire for his common touch and common sense offered a message of understanding after a Pennsylvania grand jury report recounted horrific sins and crimes — the abuse of 1,000 minors by 300 priests over 70 years — covered up by Catholic Church leaders.

When Spike Lee’s Art Is More Real Than a White House Reality Show
It’s a contrast that will reverberate all the way to, let’s say, November

OPINION — It was deliberate and fitting that “BlacKkKlansman” opened a year after the deadly march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. It is not too much of a spoiler to say that director Spike Lee goes there in the telling of the improbable true story of an African-American police officer who, in the late 1970s, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado.

The film brings the lessons of the not-so-tall tale up to the present, to this 2018 moment. That includes an appearance from a youthful David Duke, who still appears whenever and wherever racial hate rises up.

Trump’s Culture War Is Entering Its Scorched-Earth Phase
Will weary voters resist his tactics in the midterms?

OPINION — President Donald Trump is crediting his raucous Ohio rally for propelling Troy Balderson over Democratic challenger Danny O’Connor in a U.S. congressional special election that is officially still too close to call. But what if his fiery rhetoric and the image of a sea of angry faces, attacks on the media and signs supporting the murky QAnon conspiracy actually derailed what should have been an easy Republican victory?

Republican candidates have signaled they will ride the Trump train, with their fearless leader promising to stoke the outrage all the way to the November midterms to persuade the base to show up. The Republican Party is Trump’s party now, so those wanting to win or keep office may not have a choice.

Is Jeff Sessions’ Religious Liberty Task Force More Politics Than Faith?
Evangelical Christians feel more persecuted than any other religious group, and the attorney general knows it

OPINION — In January 1959, in a Virginia courtroom, Mildred and Richard Loving pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and accepted a cruel sentence that spared them jail time but separated them from their families.

The judge’s opinion — pronounced in the Lord’s name without a shred of irony — was based in his definition of faith: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”

Obama’s Push for More Female Leaders Gets Help From Men Acting Out
“Men have been getting on my nerves lately,” ex-president says

OPINION — Former President Barack Obama has not been a headline fixture since he left office. In fact, with a few exceptions, the opposite has been true, maybe because he feels it’s better to keep his political distance in this partisan time or because he’s holding off in order to make a greater impact when he decides to speak up. But last week, Obama did make a bit of news when he encouraged more women to take leadership roles because “men have been getting on my nerves lately.”

Obama certainly could have been talking about certain men who were particularly vexing during his own time in the White House, and have continued to bedevil Democrats (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, for starters).

Opinion: Charlotte Gambles on the Convention Las Vegas Didn’t Want
RNC 2020 goes to a blue city in a red (or purple) state. Now what?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vi Lyles, the Democratic mayor of the largest city in North Carolina, said championing a bid to host the 2020 Republican National Convention was likely “the most difficult decision of my career.”

As word spread this week that Republicans have chosen Charlotte over other candidates, with a formal announcement due Friday, it’s almost certain the event will be one of the city’s biggest tests.

Opinion: Dems to African-American Women: This Time We Mean It
Party hopes to ‘rebuild relationships’ and ‘restore trust’ ahead of the midterms

So why was Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, making an appearance at this year’s Essence Festival in New Orleans, an event known for its high-powered mix of music, culture and empowerment, geared to engage black women globally? Did he see and enjoy “Girls Trip,” the 2017 mega-hit about the reunion of four black female buddies, set against the backdrop of the festival, and decide to get in on the fun, maybe take in a Janet Jackson concert?  

Or was he connecting with his party’s most loyal base, which has carried the electoral load for years, and has also expressed dissatisfaction when that contribution was downplayed or overlooked?

Opinion: Even When Process Is Due, It May Not Mean Justice
Any talk of chipping away at due process should scare us, though the law hasn’t always worked

I remember it so clearly, though I was just a girl when the 1960s scene unfolded: My parents returning from a church dance in good spirits and being met with bad news and a bit of hysteria from the rest of the family. My brother Tony had been arrested for wanting to be seated and served at the Double T Diner in my home state of Maryland.

My parents and members of Tony’s civil rights group were able to get Tony home; my parents had the deed to the house ready, in case they needed it for bail.

Opinion: Trump May Have American Carnage, but Biden Has American Corny
As the president flexes muscles as the border, ‘Uncle Joe’ offers a different vision of strength

You know the lights may be dimming on the American experiment when Attorney General Jeff Sessions resurrects an abbreviated Bible passage that slaveholders once used to justify selling children away from parents to justify separating children from parents on America’s Southern border and then parses the difference between his “zero tolerance” plans and Nazi tactics — as a defense. Leaving aside that using any interpretation of the Bible (or the Koran or any holy book) in setting government policy slides awfully close to a theocracy, this is strong stuff.

And don’t forget the 2018 version of the Pips — Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Kirstjen Nielsen — singing backup to their official and unofficial leader on immigration, with special guest Corey Lewandowski adding his signature mocking “womp, womp” refrain.

Opinion: Supreme Court Resurrects the ‘Purge,’ and McConnell Saw It Coming
Majority leader’s power move is paying off for GOP as court reaches into the voting booth

It was a brilliant and, opponents would say, devious move by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Stall, obstruct and block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court replacement for the late Antonin Scalia.

That pick, Judge Merrick Garland, once a thoroughly acceptable and moderate choice to many Republicans, never had a chance in a ramped-up partisan atmosphere. Instead, the next president, Donald Trump, appointed conservative Neil Gorsuch, with immediate and long-lasting repercussions, this week reaching into the voting booth.

Opinion: Don’t Expect to See Bill Clinton Campaigning for Hopeful Democrats
The ‘invisible man’ on the campaign trail

In the Wednesday morning quarterbacking after Hillary Clinton’s unexpected loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, one criticism was that she had not employed that consummate politician former President Bill Clinton enough in her campaign, to speak to “the people” he could connect with and she could not.

But for all the mistakes the Clinton 2016 campaign operation and the candidate herself made — and there were plenty — sidelining Bill was not one of them.

Opinion: No Holiday in the United States of Exhaustion
Memorial Day week started like any other, with sniping and infighting

In overworked America, with national holidays too few and far between, citizens look forward to each one. Memorial Day, especially, is a time of unity — a day to honor those who have served and sacrificed, without regard to political party or philosophy.

This year, though, that always delicate truce seemed particularly fraught.

Opinion: A Not Entirely Unexpected Campaign Roadblock for Women of Color
Will suburban white women embrace them?

The women of color who are still standing in an electoral slog that ends in November know their road to continued success will be hard. This is the United States, and the fact that they are still pioneers for getting this far in 2018 is not just news-making but also a little depressing.

It is also true that they can’t always count on the support of some of the same feminists they may have joined — in marches, #MeToo protests and the ballot box.

Opinion: Is It Too Early for North Carolina Democrats to Get Their Hopes Up, Again?
After years of dashed dreams, progressives are back to seeing blue

In 2008, Barack Obama’s slim North Carolina victory in his first presidential run had Democrats in the state celebrating in the present and dreaming of a blue future in what had been considered a (relatively) progressive Southern state. Boy, were those dreams premature.

But 10 years later — after new redistricting and voting rules solidified GOP control in both the state and U.S. House delegations and a bill on LGBT rights made the state a poster child for conservative social policies — Democrats are again seeing light at the end of a deep-red tunnel.

Opinion: What Is the Cost When the Language of Politics Devolves?
Normalization of racially charged words is dangerous

The words Americans now say, listen to and ignore in the world of politics once would have been publicly, if not privately, unacceptable — even in the world of sports.

Don’t believe me?

Opinion: We Just Can’t Shake That Old-Time Religion
Nation’s anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic fervor not that far in the past

“Bless your heart” is a phrase I got to know well when I moved from the Northeast to the South several years ago. Though often spoken in soft, sympathetic tones, there was nothing blessed about the sentiment. And when those three syllables were delivered in an email, usually after I wrote a column a reader did not like, they landed like a punch to the gut.

Oddly enough, it was commentary on faith and values that elicited quite a bit of high dudgeon, topped only by the historically reliable topic of race, which, like religion, carries the taint of a North versus South, “them” against “us” spiritual split.