For serious primary voters, the parade of Democratic candidates is no joke
The contender clown car may be overflowing, but voters definitely aren’t laughing

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The number of Democratic hopefuls declaring, thinking about declaring or being pushed to declare their interest in the 2020 race is increasing so rapidly, it has already become a reliable punchline. But for voters looking to discover the person who offers sensible policies on the issues they care about while exuding the intangible “it” quality that could beat Donald Trump, it is serious business.

Forget about what magic the letter “B” might hold — think Bernie, Biden, Beto, Booker, Buttigieg and I know I’m forgetting someone, oh yes, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet — these voters are digging deeper on the candidates who will crowd a debate stage in Miami two nights in a row in June.

When a hate crimes hearing goes very wrong, something’s not right in America
Casting a shadow on the hearing, as he does on everything, was the president

OPINION — When people are being threatened, intimidated and murdered, you would think that partisan bickering would take a back seat. But this is the U.S. Congress we’re talking about. Instead, what was supposed to be an examination of white nationalism and the rise of hate crimes on Tuesday devolved into what Americans have wearily begun to expect from their elected representatives. The House Judiciary Committee members inhabited different parties and different planets.

When what’s at stake is this serious, that’s pretty frightening.

Does the ‘content of their character’ still matter in the 2020 race?
It’s easy to mock Democrats for setting the bar too high. But at least they have a bar

OPINION — “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It might be the only quote by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that many Americans can recite by heart.

There is good reason for that, as political partisans have twisted a 1963 speech to suit their 2019 conservative agendas, despite the fact that those who now embrace him as one of their own would be horrified by King’s belief in extensive change in the system.

When does partisan gerrymandering cross the line?
If you want a glimpse of 2020, look no further than this week’s action at the Supreme Court

OPINION — “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Republican member of the North Carolina general assembly’s redistricting committee. “So, I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

He added: “I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and three Democrats, because I do not believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.”

If Trump won’t fight white supremacist terrorists, these people will
The administration has siphoned money out of programs to study domestic terrorism, leaving it up to the American people to fill in the gaps

OPINION — “We Support our Muslim Brothers and Sisters.” “Love Will Win, Hate Will Lose.” “Terrorism Has No Religion.” The Charlotte, North Carolina, Muslim community invited all to join in a United for Christchurch, New Zealand, vigil in an uptown park on Sunday afternoon, and encouraged those who came to mourn and stand in solidarity to bring posters with supportive messages.

They did.

How big and little lies, plus cash, prop up the ‘American dream’
It takes some major gaslighting to turn the long-excluded into the villain

OPINION — In the 1944 film “Gaslight,” a greedy Charles Boyer, trying to convince his rich, naive wife Ingrid Bergman that she is insane, dims and brightens the gaslights in their home, while insisting it is a figment of her imagination. Today, the term “gaslighting” has come to mean that same psychological manipulation.

America is being “gaslighted.”

A half-century after Selma, the ‘black friend’ defense is going strong
Too many Americans, like the Oscar-winning ‘Green Book,’ think racism can be solved by making an ‘exceptional’ black friend — as long as the family doesn’t move in next door

OPINION — On a “Meet the Press” appearance a few weeks ago, Ohio Democrat and maybe presidential hopeful Sen. Sherrod Brown was commenting on that slam-bang start to Black History Month, Virginia officials in blackface, when he said, “This country hasn’t dealt well with issues of race. We have a president who’s a racist.” That led host Chuck Todd to ask Brown if he believed Donald Trump was a racist “in his heart,” to which Brown answered, “Well, I don’t know what ‘in his heart’ means.”

Exactly.

GOP greets North Carolina election scandal with crickets, excuses and misdirection
Hypocrisy is too mild a word for Republican about-face on vote fraud

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — America might know the name of the next president before voters in North Carolina’s 9th District have a representative in the House.

OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration.

Why politicians, and everyone, need to think about legacy
Anti-lynching bill should be a reminder of how history will judge the present

OPINION — At least the bill was approved on a voice vote. That was the bill that would make lynching a federal crime, passed in the Senate late last week — in 2019.

Let that sink in. The legislation still must be approved by the Democrat-controlled House, which is expected to happen with no problem, and be signed into law by President Donald Trump. But it would be unwise to take anything for granted since similar legislation has stalled for more than 100 years, held up by elected public servants who felt that taking a stand would be too politically risky.

How Ralph Northam is spending his Black History Month
The African-Americans of his state have done a whole lot of forgiving since the first enslaved people were brought there centuries ago

OPINION — The lessons of this February’s Black History Month commemorations have already veered far beyond the usual ones that begin and end by quoting a snippet of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — the part about judging folks not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. A new curriculum is being written in real time, affecting real-life politicians and their constituents. And Virginia is hardly the only state not ready for the big exam.

Of course, the politician in question, Gov. Ralph Northam, has been learning as he goes — about blackface, about apologies and about redemption.

Trump was trying to channel Reagan. He sounded more like Nixon
You would think one of the president’s advisers would have warned him

OPINION  — “The state of our union is strong.” It is the line that is prominently featured in the speech of every president when he (and so far, it’s been a he) stands before Congress for a political ritual that remains impressive. Political theater? Sure, and why not. A country without a monarch craves a little pomp now and again, no matter the partisan sniping that precedes and follows it.

But what does that statement actually mean once the booming chants of “USA, USA” — which are sounding more aggressive than affirming lately — fade?

Stacey Abrams has already delivered her message
No matter what she says in her SOTU response, the Democrat is heralding a new era for her party

OPINION — Move over Beto O’Rourke, the candidate who brought Texas Democrats closer than they had been for years in his eventually unsuccessful Senate race against GOP Sen. Ted Cruz last year.

Will he or won’t he run for president? That’s the question that’s been following him during his postelection adventures. But another Democrat who caught the attention of national leaders and celebrities in her midterm contest is getting ready for her moment on the national political stage.

A Kamala Harris candidacy is a test, and not just for the candidate
2020 hopeful’s life story is the story of America, even if many don’t see it that way

OPINION — Of course, a reporter asked Kamala Harris how she would describe her identity. The California senator, a new entry into a crowded and growing Democratic field to challenge Donald Trump next year, answered simply, “I describe myself as a proud American.”

It’s a question no other candidate has been asked, and one that Harris will no doubt be asked again before the long slog to November 2020 is completed.

Very much up for grabs: this year’s profile in courage
Washington may not offer much in the way of inspiration, but look a little harder

OPINION — “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Identifying the politician offering that idealistic advice is not so hard — President John F. Kennedy at his Jan. 20, 1961, inauguration. But that’s not all the 35th president had to say about the promise and challenges of America.

Climate change? “The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet.” Income inequality? “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

If Trump is looking for a national emergency, he should try these ones instead
Voter suppression, gun violence — those are worth fighting against

OPINION — Dueling teleprompter speeches and a high-drama walkout: This is what it looks like when our country’s leaders debate the best way to meet the challenges at the border and whether shutting down the government is the best way to settle it.

If no one budges this week — and the way talks have been going so far, optimism is not particularly warranted — the next step could be a national emergency, declared by the president. But first Donald Trump seems intent on diluting the word “emergency” to mean whatever he wants it to mean on a particular day or hour.

Trump’s reading list: Start with dictionary, look up ‘wall’
President should take a page from Obama’s book

OPINION — Though his two terms have ended, it is a tradition that former President Barack Obama has continued: providing his year-end list of favorite books (and films and music). This year, not surprisingly, his book of the year is Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” already a best-seller. That makes sense, since she is not only his wife and one of America’s favorite first ladies, but also, according to Gallup, the “most admired” woman in the country. Plus, can you imagine the troubles at home if another title topped his list?

But what of our current president?

For 2018 Trump Starred in Best (Worst?) Reality Show Yet
Uncertainty keeping everyone on the edge of their seats but not in a good way, Curtis writes

OPINION — In television shows, the cliffhanger is a bit of a cheat, putting a lead character in jeopardy so fans will have a reason to tune into the new season. Those (including me) who have labeled the current president and his administration something of a reality show — with its surprise guests, plot twists and dizzying cast of characters — could hardly have predicted how much Trump and crew would have followed the script.

As 2018 ends, the United States is on the brink of not only a new year but also new and not always encouraging developments of national and international significance. And no one, certainly not the president, knows how it will end.

The Criminal Justice Bill Shows Where the GOP Is on Race
It wasn’t always this way for the party of Lincoln

OPINION — Sen. Tim Scott, Republican from South Carolina, was optimistic after the Senate passed an amended bill this week that makes bipartisan progress on an issue — criminal justice reform — that has divided lawmakers for years.

Scott, an original co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement: “By cutting recidivism, encouraging job training, education and mental health and substance abuse treatments for incarcerated individuals, and making our criminal justice system both smarter and tougher, we have taken a positive step forward.”

If She Didn’t Give Up on Democracy, Neither Should We
When it came to voting, Rosanell Eaton wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer

OPINION — If you don’t know Rosanell Eaton’s name, it’s time to learn exactly who she was and why her life and life’s work matters. She is the antidote to the cynicism infecting politics in 2018, a hero of democracy when democracy is under siege. She cared about her country and its highest principles, demanded her basic human and civil rights and brought others along with her.

Rosanell Eaton would not take “no” for an answer.

A House Race in North Carolina Gets Curiouser and Curiouser
Who knew the background checks for political work were so lax?

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Perhaps North Carolina’s 9th District will have a congressman by January; but maybe not.

You see, there seems to have been a mix-up in the count, distribution and collection of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, which make up part of the district — what the state elections board (made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent) called “unfortunate activities” when it first refused to certify the results.