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Of Political Turning Points - Sunday Political Brunch March 4, 2018


CHARLESTON, WV -- Some of the most fascinating times in politics are when longstanding issues and viewpoints change. The liberal Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) once said of conservative Senator Storm Thurmond (R-SC), "If Strom Thurmond and I ever vote the same way on a bill, either one of us made a mistake, or it's an idea whose time has come." Let's "brunch" on some political turning points this week.

"Not 'Sticking to Your Guns'"- President Donald Trump departed with a lot of fellow Republicans this week when he indicated he could support some limited gun control measures. "We're going to do strong background checks. We're going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18. We're getting rid of the bump stocks. And we're going to be focusing strongly on mental health," said President Trump, who promised to work with Democrats. To many on the GOP and NRA side, this is heresy. Yet, for Trump it's an option to be bipartisan and show that he owes no one in Washington, DC any favors. It's a fascinating turn of events, but not a guarantee any laws or policies will change.

"Who are the Change Agents?" -- As I said in last week's column, the change agents in the gun debate could be our youngest citizens (just as they were for marriage equality). Most of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, are on the verge of voting age. They and their cohorts from across the nation will march on Washington on March 24. Alphonso Calderon, a student an Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said of the recent fatal shootings there, and gun control, “Everybody needs to remember, we are just children. A lot of people think that disqualifies us from even having an opinion on this sort of matter…This matters to me more than anything else in my entire life." Will gun laws and policies change? This could be a turning point.

"Trump Trumps Trump" -- The President has other opportunities for turning points. For months I've said DACA was the likely place where he could work with Democrats and find a path to legal status for immigrants brought be illegally as children by their parents. I ultimately believe he will accomplish that, but for now it's on the back-burner. Trump had great victories with a Supreme Court nominee and a tax reform bill, but those were solely done with GOP support. Much of his future success may be based on how well he can work with the other side of the aisle.

"LBJ and Civil Rights" -- In my opinion, President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy get more of the credit then they really deserve for passage of major civil rights legislation. To be sure, they were key players, but the guy who often got the ball across the goal line was President Lyndon Johnson. As a Texan, Johnson was able to persuade other southern Democratic Senators to change their views on civil rights. It's hard to imagine liberals from Massachusetts having that same clout.

"Losing Hope" -- President Trump had a personal turning point this week, when White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned. Hicks was a personal friend of Trump's daughter Ivanka, who then became a close campaign confidant to Trump, and continued that role in the White House. Many Presidents choose personal friends to be advisors, in addition to adding seasoned Washington pros. But Hicks was entangled in some of the Russia investigation and in the controversy and resignation of her former boyfriend, White House Secretary Rob Porter. It's tough when a President and close friend must part ways. I think of President Clinton and his life-long friend Mack McClarty, who did not work out well as White House Chief of Staff.

"Aid for AIDS" -- One of the big successes for President George W. Bush was providing billons in foreign relief for AIDS victims and prevention efforts in Africa. Bush saw AIDS - not only as a health issue - but a national security issue as well. If countries in Africa decimated by AIDS weakened and fell into the hands of Al-Qaeda or its sympathizers, then our enemies could establish a growing base. Fighting AIDS overseas was smart. Former President Bill Clinton once said that he wished he could have done as much for AIDS in Africa, as his successor did.

"Labor Pains" -- I've been covering one of the biggest stories in the nation this week, the statewide teacher strike in West Virginia, where classrooms have been idled in all 55 counties. Pay and health insurance benefits are the big issues. Organized labor in the Mountain State has taken big hits the last two election cycles. A Right-to-Work law was passed, and the prevailing wage for union workers was abolished. Many labor-backed candidates lost. But now, the teachers and their supporters are emboldened. They've been on strike for seven school days, with no end in sight. They've already secured a five-percent pay raise in the House of Delegates, which is supported by Governor Jim Justice. This could be huge turning point for organized labor, if the State Senate goes along.

"Obama in History" - Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of President Barack Obama's terms in the fact that he was the first African-American sent to the White House. Forty years ago, that would have been unthinkable. But his election showed the country had changed in many ways. First, states such as California have minority-majority populations. That means minorities - in total from all group - now outnumber the Caucasian population. That shifts the power base. The other intriguing thing about the Obama election is that more white Americans voted for Obama in 2008, than voted for Democratic nominees Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004. Again, it's a significant power shift, and a huge change in viewpoints about race.

Do you have a favorite or memorable political turning point in your life? Please click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally known political reporter, analyst and author based in West Virginia

(c) 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

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


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

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