Mark Curtis's blog

An Easter Political Pot Luck - Sunday Political Brunch April 21, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s Easter Week and Passover, so nothing too ultra-serious this week. People always advise not to mix religion and politics, but I love breaking rules. Yes, there are some big political developments which we’ll chew on, but I’d also like to reflect on the importance of the season. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Mueller’s Redacted Report” -- Like many people, I’m counting calories these days, so when I hear that the Mueller Report will be “lightly redacted,” it makes me think about my chicken or fish dish in the restaurant that is billed as, “lightly breaded!” Am I getting what I want, or more than I bargained for? Okay, the Mueller Report is clear, there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Game, set, match, this part of it is over.

“But, What About Obstruction?” – The Mueller Report stated it could not come to a definitive conclusion about whether obstruction of justice occurred, although it pointed to 11 areas where potential obstruction was a concern. It’s still an open book, at least for Congressional consideration. This list includes issues where President Trump directed his underlings to take action, i.e. fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but the staffers refused to carry out the order. Oddly enough, staff mutiny on these issues may be Trump’s savior. Had a subordinate fired Mueller, Trump might be in huge legal trouble today. Remember, though, Congress still has a say and with Democrats in control of the House, watch for impeachment efforts.

“Judging Buttigieg” – First of all a pronunciation lesson, because his name baffled me to no end, too. He’s South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete “Buddha-Judge.” This week some protesters chanting Bible verses picketed him because he’s openly gay. He gets that and knows it comes with the territory. But some Democrats were also highly critical of Mayor Pete this week and that may be more troubling in a crowded primary field. There are voices who say that while Buttigieg is gay, he’s still a “white male” with all the privilege that supposedly goes with that. And that he did not endure the same type of long-term, systemic discrimination against blacks and women. In a primary field of 20-plus candidates, Democrats might cannibalize one of their own

“Beware ‘The Flavor of the Month’” – Mayor Buttigieg is very popular and trending. Last month it was Senator Kamala Harris, (D) California, who was polling in double-digits. In a social media world, I think we’ll see lots of changes. Remember the crowded Republican field in 2012? At certain points there were many frontrunners. They included former Senator Rick Santorum, (R) Pennsylvania, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, (R) Georgia, Godfather’s Pizza founder Herman Cain, Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R) Minnesota, and eventual nominee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, (R) Massachusetts. My point is, voters are prone to change their minds, and often. Democrats in 2020, are likely to have a see-saw battle as well.

“Fireman Trump” – One of the strangest stories of the week was the backlash against a tweet by President Trump, who suggested France use air tankers to try to extinguish the inferno at the Notre Dame Cathedral. I lived in California for 12 years and that’s how they fight massive wildfires. I raised the same question out loud in my newsroom. I now understand that it took extended time for some French fire crews to get to the scene, as it was rush hour traffic in Paris. There are those who will jump on anything Trump says. I get that. And Trump invites the incessant criticism with his non-stop tweeting. But I think the air-tanker inquiry was a fair question, at least from non-firefighters who were so frustrated and heartbroken watching the fire.

“A Time for Forgiveness and Redemption” – It’s easy to get caught up in Easter egg hunts, baskets of candy, and spring weather. But the religious message of the week is about forgiveness and redemption. That strikes me especially this year after the West Virginia Legislature passed three so-called “Second Chance” bills. Collectively, they would allow expungement of criminal convictions after a period that included drug testing, treatment, job training and a clean record; they would also allow convicted drug felons to regain food stamp benefits if they are clean; and rehabbed parolees could get legal IDs. All three laws are designed to make redeemed adults more employable. It was a bipartisan effort!

“Why the ‘Second Chance’ Matters” – Here’s the problem in West Virginia. We have the lowest rate of adult workforce participation in America, with less than half our adults holding a job. Yet, we have tons of jobs that are open, but too many people can’t pass a drug test. Then we have a lot of paroled inmates who’ve gone through drug treatment and are clean. The problem is, too many employers don’t want to take the risk and give them a second chance, so jobs stay open, and productivity drops. Many parolees re-offend, and it’s right back to jail. These second chances are designed to stem that vicious cycle. Let’s see if it works.

“Sharing a Kindness and a Good Ministry” – Much of the Christian faith (and others) focuses on these issues of redemption and forgiveness. Jesus Christ was crucified to redeem the collective sins of mankind, past, present and future. Many people go to church to ask forgiveness for their transgressions. But there are others in jails and prisons seeking the same thing. I want to give a shout-out for the Dismas Ministry - which in the interest of full-disclosure - is run by my sister Tyler. For more information see: www.DismasMinistry.org. It collects Bibles for inmates and holds religious programs and services for the incarcerated. By the way, who was Dismas? If you remember the scenes from Calvary, Jesus was crucified along with two other men, one of whom was Dismas.

Have a wonderful Easter and Passover weekend. Let’s not forget the reason for the season.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

What Do Voters Want in 2020? -- Sunday Political Brunch April 14, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I think it’s early in the 2020 political season, yet it really is not. We’re nine months from the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Already, 18 Democrats have declared for the White House, including another young face this week. It made me wonder, “What are voters looking for? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“It’s a Small World, Swalwell” – I used to live in the Congressional District that Rep. Eric Swalwell, (D) California, now represents. This week he announced his run for President of the United States. I’ve met him, but don’t know him well, as he was entering local office just as I was departing California. He’s 38 and is in his fourth term in Congress. He’s something of a maverick and legend for defeating 40-year Congressman Pete Stark (D) California. Stark and I had a bond as two former Milwaukee kids who wound up in the Bay Area. His defeat by Swalwell was a shock, and maybe this young upstart has some buzz. We’ll see!

“The Generational Divide” – As mentioned there are 18 candidates declared on the Democratic side. Nine of them are under age 50, while the other nine are over 50. At the extremes, three of them are in their 30s; six of them are 66 years or older. And we aren’t including Joe Biden, age 76, since he has yet to declare for the nomination. Wow! What does this say about not only the candidates, but the potentially divided voter pool? Again, wow!

“Why Don’t Young People Vote?” – I grew up during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Young people, who could not vote until age 21, were so outraged that a Constitutional Amendment was approved lowering the voting age to 18. The irony was that in ensuing years, young people didn’t show up to vote in numbers that were near parity to the rest of the population. In 1976, only 44 percent of youthful voters (ages 18 to 24), cast ballots. Remember this was the first election since Watergate and the Vietnam War ended. The low turnout was a head-scratcher and continues to be, with few exceptions.

“The Outliers” – Youth voting further declined and dropped to its lowest points in 1996 and 2000, with just 36 and 35 percent of young voters turning out in those elections, respectively. 2008 was a big exception, and potentially offers a model for 2020. Youth voters were truly inspired by Barack Obama and came out in droves to support him. A full 49-percent of voters age 18 to 24 turned out according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, known as CIRCLE. Young voters were engaged by the young, enthusiastic, and inspiring candidate in Barack Obama. By the way, the second highest youth voter turnout (at 48.6 percent), was in 1992 when Bill Clinton was first elected.

“Do You See a Pattern Here?” – The two times where youth voters were most engaged were in 1992 and 2008. Bill Clinton was 46 when elected; Barack Obama was 47. By comparison their opponents, George H.W. Bush was 68 and John McCain was 72. Young voters like young candidates. What we may see in 2020, is another surge in young voters, and they may gravitate towards one of the newer, younger faces in their party. There could well be a generational split in how people vote next year, given the age range of the 18 candidates in so far.

“The Tactics” – If you’re going to leverage youth voters, you must get in the game early. And Joe Biden may be making a mistake by taking so long to make a final decision on entering the race. Declared candidates are already building staff and raising money. Yes, Biden has a big lead in the polls and will have some well-oiled, heavy-hitters as backers, but in politics you never assume the frontrunner spot is safe and secured. Hillary Clinton made that fatal mistake in both 2008 and 2016.

Who are you backing in 2020? Or are you taking a wait-and-see attitude? Click the comment button or email me at Mark@MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states, as well as most of the Washington, DC media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

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