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It’s a Pot Luck Sunday Political Brunch – February 25, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV – Some weeks there’s a political story that kind of dominates the focus, and makes it easy for a one-topic discussion This week is not one of them. All kinds of random things are happening all over the map, many seemingly unconnected to the others. That’s means we’re having one of my semi-regular “political pot lucks!” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Florida Kids and Guns” – I used to say gun control efforts in this country would never succeed. The 2nd Amendment is too strong (as are court decisions upholding it). Plus, the National Rifle Association, NRA, is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. It’s too hard to change what’s been established for over 200 years in this nation. But now, I wonder. The testimony and drive of the surviving students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School assault in Parkland, Florida are grabbing a lot of attention. The stories they tell are gut-wrenching and their passion for change is intense. I say this not as a supporter or opponent of gun control, but as someone who watches and analyzes political trends. This time may be different.

“Young People and Voting” – Here’s a fact. Young people – as a demographic – don’t vote in large numbers. It’s ironic, because in the 1960s and 70s young people who feared being shipped off to Vietnam led the effort to change the Constitution and lower the voting age from 21 to 18. They won! The oddity is that since then, young people have had the worst voter turnout of any age group, with one exception. In 2008, they turned out in droves, driven by the advance of internet and social media, and helped elect Barack Obama to the White House. Other than that, they’ve historically stayed home, or in their dorm rooms.

“The Gay Marriage Phenomenon” – Let’s face it, a lot of politics is generational. For example, the concept of same-gender marriage was appalling to most Americans for years. Homosexuals were closeted and many preferred it stay that way. But with the advancement of the gay rights movement through the 1990s, and more and more people living “openly” out of the closet, the younger generation took a different view. A growing segment of the population had openly gay friends and simply said, “So, what?” much to the surprise of their parents and grandparents. Society – and the courts – finally acquiesced on same-gender marriage.

“Same Song; Different Verse” – I use the marriage equality issue as an example – even though it has no connection to gun control – simply because of the changing generational view. Look, the 2nd Amendment is here to stay, and people will always be able to buy certain handguns, rifles and shotguns for self-protection, hunting and collecting. But my guess is that the rising teen and 20’s generation may have a whole different view. When I went to high school in the 1970’s, there were no school shootings. Today, they are commonplace at schools and elsewhere. One can envision this rising generation banning AR-15s, whereas their parents and grandparents never would. The reason: they lived this; we didn’t.

“From Columbine to Parkland” – So what has changed other than generational attitudes. If you were countering my argument, you might point out that the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado had similar outrage, but led to little societal change. True, but in 1999 the internet was “in diapers,” and there were no such things as these massive Facebook and Twitter social media phenomena. Today, modern communication – especially amongst our youngest – can fuel a firestorm and lead to a sea-change in politics (again I reference 2008). Politics as usual may be gone.

“From Russia with No Love” – Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russians for their involvement in Russian attempts to influence the 2016 Presidential election. To date – no Americans have been charged – although one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and confidant Rick Gates have been charged with other improprieties in dealing with Russia. My gut tells me that President Trump, various family members, and inner-circle folks may never be charged with anything, but it will all remain a black cloud that distracts from this administration to the very end, whether that’s 2021, or 2025. Yes, Russia hacked, but Trump collusion? “Show me the money,” because I am not seeing it.

“The ‘Show Me’ State” – Governor Eric Greitens, (R) Missouri was indicted this week on charges of taking a picture of someone in "full or partial nudity" without the person's knowledge or consent. The indictment alleges Greitens transmitted the photo "in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer." In Missouri, that’s a felony. It gives new meaning to the phrase, “The Show Me State,” (please don’t). Greitens has already admitted to an affair, but is now in much deeper hot water.

“Pastor to the Presidents” – This week the Reverend Billy Graham died at the age of 99. Graham was certainly one of the most influential religious – if not politically influential figures – for decades. Graham counseled every President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. While originally a registered Democrat – who later leaned quite conservative - he once said, “Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle to preach to all people, right and left.” Graham favored racial integration and once even bailed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., out of jail. His imprint on American religious and political discourse is indelible. God rest his soul.

What are your thoughts on this pot luck of politics? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political analyst and author who is currently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, and the five surrounding states, plus the District of Columbia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Sunday Political Brunch -- The Looming March Madness of Politics February 18, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV – We are kind of in the odd political no-man’s land between President Trump’s State of the Union Address, and the spring primary elections. Some of those primaries will be held over the next few months, and what’s on the political agenda in Washington, D.C. could be a critical factor. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The State of the Union” – As I always preach, it’s an overrated speech, no matter who is President. This year is no different. President Trump talked a lot about immigration reform, the economy, terrorism, and lots of other feel-good legislation. But the big test is “where the rubber meets the road,” as the old tire commercial said. Yes, it sounds good in January, but is it still alive in July? Has anything become law? Stay tuned!

“All-in-All It’s Just Another Brick in the Wall” – Here’s one of the darkest secrets on Capitol Hill. A lot of Republicans – who don’t want to speak out publicly – don’t want the border wall with Mexico. I should be more specific. It’s not that they don’t want the wall; they just don’t want to pay for it. President Trump says Mexico will eventually pay for it, but there are no guarantees. Few in Congress want to go out on a multi-billion-dollar limb and pay for something, that may never get paid back. In other words, if you’re a GOP candidate in Nebraska, how do you convince voters this is a good idea? It’s a tough sell.

“An Olive Branch Cut Off” – A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators crafted another immigration compromise this week that would deal with DACA – the kids brought here illegally by their parents – many of whom are now productive adults. The President shot it down (even though he previously indicated he’d accept what Congress negotiated). What this President still needs is an olive branch – where he can include Democrats and Republicans in the victory rally. I’m convinced this is still the issue to do just that, but I don’t think it will happen.

“Immigration Imagination” – Why is this issue so hard? Why haven’t we had any significant immigration reform in over 30 years? Here’s one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: Democrats do not want to solve illegal immigration, because they view those coming here as a source of potential Democratic voters. Republicans don’t want to solve illegal immigration because it still provides a cheap, underground labor force that helps a lot of GOP business supporters, i.e., the farming and hospitality industries. Pardon the edgy pun, but it’s a “Mexican Standoff” of the political variety.

“Infrastructure Structure” – If there was one bit of advice I could pass on to incumbents of both parties, it would be to pass some form of the President’s infrastructure bill by June 1st. This country’s roads, highways, and bridges are in sad shape overall. A strong infrastructure is the sign of a strong nation. Plus, it creates jobs and a lot of economic stimulus. Here’s the problem: the nation’s unemployment rate is at historic lows. So, who will fill these jobs? West Virginia – which past a billion-dollar road bond in October – is a microcosm of the problem. Thousands of new jobs are coming. Will some have to be filled with immigrant labor?

“Timing is Everything in Politics” – Having championed infrastructure bills, there is an important caveat. Let’s say Congress passes it tomorrow and the President signs it the next day. It’s likely that almost all bids for contracts won’t be awarded over the next several months, and it’s doubtful any of the construction could begin before Election Day 2018. Therefore, the public has seen no direct benefit that might influence a vote. Remember President George H.W. Bush coming off a huge military victory in the first Persian Gulf War? He finally passed a bill with one of the greatest nicknames of all time, “The Ice-Tea Bill”, in December 1991. The acronym was ISTEA, for Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, but most of the jobs were not created until after Bush was defeated for reelection in 1992 by Bill Clinton. Again, timing matters! If you fix someone’s potholes – but not until after Election Day - it may not matter.

“Market Turmoil” – The bizarre ups and downs of the markets the past two weeks have got to shake up the White House, not to mention everyone else in official Washington, and the financial markets. The President got a huge boost when he and Republicans passed the tax reform bill at Christmas-time. The markets were already cooking, and many companies started offering bonuses and pay hikes. The party may be short lived on inflationary jitters. Things may stabilize and bounce back, but then again, election year politics may weigh in.

What are your thoughts about the current state of politics and the economy? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political analyst and author. He is currently the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the state of West Virginia.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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