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.

Opinion: America’s Future Depends on Clearly Seeing Its Past
A tragic history should be recognized by all

It may be a museum that makes viewers want to look away, with its solemn memorial to the thousands of men, women and children murdered — lynched — in countless acts of domestic terrorism. But facing truth must come before reconciliation, before Americans can clearly see where the tribalism that continues to threaten unity can eventually and inevitably lead.

The Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice, opening this week in Montgomery, Alabama, is one step toward acknowledging the complicated truth of an America that too many still want to see as all glitter, an unvarnished march toward liberty and justice for all. Of course, the existence of the memorial does not mean those who most need to see it will be planning a trip any time soon.

Opinion: When the World of Politics Collides With the Real One
New political forces may impact midterms

It is months away from November 2018, but that doesn’t stop predictions not only for the midterms but also for President Donald Trump’s re-election chances in 2020. But while the world of politics is preoccupied with whether a blue wave is inevitable or a figment of hopeful Democrats’ imagination, events outside the bubble might shift the electorate in unpredictable ways.

My Roll Call colleague Walter Shapiro explains, with examples from recent history, how politically fraught these pre-election prognostications can be. It’s also wise to remember how life and politics can be determined by “moments,” despite what consultants who make a living steering candidates and campaigns may say. And right now, America is in the middle of moments that could challenge conventional electoral wisdom.

Opinion: Showing Your Gun — A New Campaign Strategy?
South Carolina lawmaker’s act may be more than a blip during the midterm season

A U.S. House race in South Carolina may depend on how you define the word “brandish,” as in, what exactly do you call it when Republican Congressman Ralph Normanpulls out his gun in a Rock Hill diner meet-and-greet with constituents?

Though the state’s law enforcement division and attorney general have concluded “this is not a prosecutable offense,” Republicans and Democrats are weighing the political plusses and minuses of the recent event in light of a midterm race that gets more interesting by the day.

Opinion: Taking the Lessons of the Holy Season and MLK — but Not to Heart
Trump and others miss key parts of civil rights leader’s message

Belief in the separation of church and state has turned out to be situational, depending on what issue you want the government to highlight or ignore — abortion rights or aid to the poor, criminal justice reform or same-sex marriage — and which faith you favor.

This is a time of year that challenges that not-so-bright line, no matter what side you fall on, when the occasional (or non) worshipper nevertheless is drawn by devotion, guilt or nostalgia to traditions that otherwise are pushed aside.

Opinion: It’s the Action of Youth That Shames Lawmakers
Amid the chaos of Washington, young marchers stepped up

It was partly partisan politics that drove protesters and counterprotesters in the global “March for Our Lives” on Saturday. Many who traveled to Washington or their town squares demanded action on school safety, gun control and more.

But to Washington lawmakers, of both parties and on either side of the gun issue, who just managed to pass a $1.3 trillion omnibus bill to keep the government running that same week and may not pass any other major legislation for the rest of the year, it was a rebuke.

Opinion: Putin’s Job Is Easy When Americans Do It for Him
Partisan maneuvering undermines the election process

Russian president Vladimir Putin easily cruised to a fourth term this past weekend, surprising absolutely no one. The only nail-biters were how many people would head to the polls — always unpredictable when the victor is certain — and how completely Putin would trounce the token opposition. Now, presumably, the newly re-elected leader can turn his attention to meddling in elections in other countries.

Speaking of the United States, while both Democrats and Republicans would prefer a little more predictability in the November midterms, if not Russian-style oversight, it is members of the GOP who seem most nervous about the eventual outcomes, especially in close House races. And while the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was officially disbanded in January, its spirit lingers on in hints from officials that certain votes should count more than others.

Opinion: Not the Pennsylvania Message You’d Expect, but One Heard Around the World
World is watching as America struggles with basic questions of democracy and representation

The election for a congressional seat in Pennsylvania was over, yet not over, on Wednesday, with all eyes on the few hundred votes that gave Democrat Conor Lamb an initial edge over Republican Rick Saccone.

And the reckoning has only begun. Amid the hand-wringing from nervous Republicans fearing a midterm blue wave and cautious optimism from Democrats who realize November is a long way off were signs that the tensions of this campaign resonate far beyond a spot in the southwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Opinion: Lawmakers Not Fit to Wear Mister Rogers’ Cardigan
Where is his spirit? Not in Washington

Do you remember “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”? I certainly do. It was my go-to and much appreciated moment of calm when my son was small. And I was as much of a fan as he was.

The PBS show celebrated the 50th anniversary of its national broadcast debut with a special, “It’s You I Like,” which aired this week. During its time, the show, less kinetic than “Sesame Street,” which had its own unique charm, wit and silliness, was sometimes mocked for its simplicity and for the decidedly “un-cool” characteristics of the man at the center.

Opinion: The President’s ‘Black Panther’ Suit — Lessons From ‘Wakanda’ to the U.S.
Trump may not think much of African nations, but he could learn something from what just happened in South Africa

Was Donald Trump among the movie fans pushing the latest entry in the Marvel universe to box office records this past weekend? Where else would the president have gotten the idea to play superhero, rushing to meet an active shooter — as he said he would have at a Florida high school — with only his bravery and, one imagines, a fantasy “Black Panther” suit to shield him?

On second thought, given his low opinion of the African continent, it’s hard to imagine him getting inspiration from any country there, even the fictional Wakanda.

Opinion: After Billy Graham, the Deluge
Graham walked a fine evangelical line. Now his son is veering toward partisanship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s difficult to ever imagine another faith leader being dubbed “America’s Pastor.” That’s because of the person Billy Graham was and the current political, social and cultural divisions in our country. And there is also the question of whether pluralistic America wants, needs or should have a pastor — now, then or ever.

Graham was never the universally revered and uncontroversial figure that many of those who now praise him remember. But in reviewing the legacy of a man who lived through much of a century that defined American change and who died at the age of 99 on Wednesday in his home in the North Carolina mountains, it is important to give him his singular, flawed due.

Opinion: When Americans Dream, Is This What They Have in Mind?
A land of opportunity — but not always equal opportunity

The “American Dream” may be a problematic concept, but everyone in this country and around the world knows exactly what it means. And truth be told, everyone wants to believe it: If you are determined and work hard enough, smart enough and long enough, you can achieve anything in this land of unlimited opportunity.

Yes, the history of this country, from its founding on, has proved that the dream is not complete. Ask Native Americans, who have a more than convincing argument to counter the oft-told story of American goodness and greatness. Ask enslaved African-Americans and their ancestors who fought and died for rights enshrined in authentically American documents. Ask the Americans whose family members toiled in factories and on farms for little more than subsistence.

Opinion: How Did the FBI Become the Counterculture?
Trump administration the source of more accusations, more confusion

In her 2014 book “The Burglary,” Betty Medsger recounts the barely believable true story of the band of anti-Vietnam War activists (pretty ordinary-to-the-eye citizens, some married with children) who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in 1971 and discovered some dirty secrets compiled by J. Edgar Hoover and the agency he ruled.

In interviews, members of the burglary team reveal details of the elaborate scheme that alternately bring a smile (one of the group posed as a student to case the joint), a nod to cleverness (the first Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali fight provided a perfect distraction for the heist) and a gasp of suspense (lock-breaking practice proved to be useless on the fateful night).

Opinion: To Make Government Work, You Have to Respect It
Americans malign but also rely on government workers

Explore any part of the vast expanse of the Western United States, and you are sure to stumble across a plaque affixed to the corner of stone stairs leading to a pathway through a national park or monument. You will no doubt get similar unexpected knowledge from a sign hanging on the wall of a library in small-town America.

Things Americans take for granted, many of them, were financed by the federal government, built by U.S. workers, grateful for the Depression-era lifeline provided by the Works Progress Administration. Many of the roads, bridges and sidewalks that crisscross cities in every part of the country share the same provenance — the federal government everyone complains about.

Opinion: Forgetting What It Means to Be an American
Selective memory of president and supporters imperils the country

The 2004 romantic comedy “50 First Dates” offered a novel, though somewhat implausible, premise — and I don’t mean that Drew Barrymore would find Adam Sandler irresistible. The heroine of the tale, afflicted with short-term memory loss, woke up each morning with a clean slate, thinking it was the same day, with no recollection of anything that happened the day before.

Who knew the president of the United States, most members of a political party and White House staff would suffer from the same condition?

Opinion: Why Oprah in 2020 Is Both Blessing and Curse for Trump and the GOP
Talk of her running for president a political threat, but could distract from “Fire and Fury”

It didn’t take long for “Oprah in 2020” to start trending after the one-named icon’s stirring Golden Globes speech on Sunday night.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering his gift for exploiting political and cultural fault lines, one of the first to connect the media and philanthropic queen to electoral gold was none other than Donald Trump, who has said in the past that the two on a presidential ticket would win “easily.”

Opinion: Will African-American Female Leadership Move Into the Spotlight in 2018?
More voices need to be heard

Recy Taylor died at the age of 97 on Dec. 28. Though she was always loved and admired by her family, friends and supporters, it was in the last years of her life that the wider world saw her, really saw this African-American woman from Alabama — her bravery, her strength and her role as a leader in a struggle that has found a loud voice.

Through a book and a film that amplified her story of being kidnapped and raped by white men, and then speaking out about that horrific crime in 1944, when doing so jeopardized her life, Taylor could more than legitimately claim a role as a mother of the movement that has come to be known as #MeToo, one that has stretched from the entertainment and media worlds to the halls of Congress.

Opinion: Thinking Small When the Big Picture Looks Cloudy
Americans are seeking comfort in the little things — and that could hurt Democrats

Polls that show a view of Congress mighty low and sinking fast invariably find voters more satisfied with their own representatives. Thumbs-down verdicts for Washington and the “swamp” in general often turn rosier when dealing with particulars.

That fact, plus gerrymandered districts and restrictive voting laws, is reason enough for Democrats to be cautious when predicting a 2018 blue electoral wave. Americans are thinking small these days, preferring to stick with the familiar and close-to-home when confronted with issues that gobble up all the oxygen in the room and the brain.