As Democrats line up to debate, the GOP is regressing

OPINION — It was pretty startling, actually, viewing the lineup for the first debate of Democratic presidential hopefuls in April 2007 on a stage in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Among them were the usual suspects — Sens. Chris Dodd, John Edwards and Joe Biden. And then, there were surprises — Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

This is different, I thought. Whatever happens next, this looks like America, an America I had rarely experienced except in the aspirational promises of its founding documents, with the few exceptions of pioneers such as Shirley Chisholm or Jesse Jackson, when it came to choosing presidents.

When I covered the second Republican debate in May of that year, in Columbia, South Carolina, distinguishing between the candidates was a little tougher at first glance.

U.S.-Iran Conflict Escalates

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 international Iran nuclear deal and imposed strict sanctions, it was to put pressure on Iran to pull back from any plans for expansion in the Middle East. The sanctions have hurt the economy, which has also been damaged by Washington canceling waivers for countries to buy Iranian oil without a penalty.

But tensions are hotter than ever after explosions damaged two Japanese- and Norwegian-owned oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Is America headed for more conflicts in the Middle East?

North Carolina’s Republican Party is having an identity crisis

OPINION — All eyes with be on North Carolina next year, when the Republican Party holds its 2020 convention in Charlotte to nominate President Donald Trump for a second term. In truth, though, the state has been the center of attention for a while because of actions of party members — and the gaze has not been kind.

Campaign season means ‘law and order.’ Can we break the habit?

OPINION — When mass incarceration in America gets political attention, it’s often so the issue can be used as a cudgel to attack opponents. Thus, the president Twitter-shames former Vice President Joe Biden for his role in promoting the 1994 crime bill even as Donald Trump’s own history of hounding the Central Park Five is highlighted in “When They See Us,” director Ava DuVernay’s Netflix miniseries on the teens accused, convicted, imprisoned and eventually exonerated.

When Democrats and Republicans cooperated on a criminal justice reform bill late last year that made modest changes in the federal system, they congratulated themselves for getting something done in gridlocked Washington.

But it hardly solved the problem. That’s the message of Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. “The presidential election will be important setting the tone,” he told me at a recent appearance in Charlotte. “The hard work has to happen in North Carolina, in the state legislature on issues like sentencing, on issues like prisons, on issues like excessive punishment, and that’s true for every state in the country.”

President Trump’s U.K. Visit

CHARLOTTE, NC —  The Unites States and Britain have for generations been proud of their “special relationship,” their cultural, political and military bonds. But as President Trump traveled across the Atlantic for a state dinner and high-level meetings, there are questions about those bonds. The president and the queen exchanged strong and supportive toasts – but there was more to the story.

Team Trump’s Harriet Tubman stumble was a missed opportunity for the GOP

OPINION — It would have been so easy, a way for the Trump administration to honor an American icon and reach out to some of those Americans who believe the Republican Party has no use for them. But did anyone honestly think any member of the team leading the country under the direction of Donald J. Trump was going to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill?

Instead Trump and company’s song-and-dance about why a plan put in place before they moved into the White House would be delayed until well after they leave just confirms that they care little for the wishes of Americans who probably did not vote for them, but who are Americans nonetheless, and that they have no knowledge of or interest in the history that has shaped this country.

The move to again force Tubman to the back was a clarion call to Trump’s base, a signal of who is important and who is not.

A Growing Charlotte Is Now 16th Largest City. Can We Handle It?

CHARLOTTE, NC — A Growing Charlotte Is Now 16th Largest City. Can We Handle It?

The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that Charlotte has again moved up in the rankings of the country’s largest cities, adding 13,151 residents between 2017 and 2018, for a total population of nearly 872,500. It passes Indianapolis to become the 16th largest city in the country.

And its outlying towns are growing even faster.

Only Phoenix, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Seattle added more new people. So, what does that mean, as Charlotte, though proud of the achievement, continues to struggle with challenges those growing numbers mean, from affordable housing to infrastructure demands to the wealth and education gap?

Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup: VP Pence Visits CLT; Huntersville Ed Committee Recommendations

On this edition of the Charlotte Talks local news roundup:

The Huntersville education advisory commission recommends that the town operate its own charter school and split from CMS, a move that one CMS official says is “politically driven. How likely is this outcome?

Vice President Mike Pence was in the Queen City this week for an RNC Kickoff Meeting, as next year’s Convention, which will be held in Charlotte, is getting closer. What was the purpose of this visit, and what have we learned about plans for the 2020 Republican National Convention?

As abortion legislation is passed around the country, rallies are taking place nationwide, and here in the Queen City. We’ll talk about a Charlotte rally where anti-abortion and abortion-rights advocates clashed.

In South Carolina, the House and the Senate have now approved around $120 million in tax breaks to offer to the Carolina Panthers to entice them to move practice fields and the team’s headquarters to the state from North Carolina.

And get ready to start your engines — this weekend is the second “Race Weekend” in a row for Charlotte (we hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race last Saturday, and this weekend is the Coca-Cola 600). What should we know to attend the event or avoid the crowds?

Those stories and much more with Mike Collins and a panel of journalists on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.

Guests:

Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com and WCCB

Alexandra OlginWFAE Reporter

Glenn Burkins, editor and publisher of QCityMetro.com

Jonathan Lowe, reporter for Spectrum News 

Can Bernie Sanders change his luck in the South?

OPINION — Bernie Sanders spent the weekend on a Southern swing, which makes sense. The Vermont senator’s failure to connect with enough core Democratic voters the last time around — in the South, that means black voters, and black women in particular — stalled his campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. He hit a wall in the early primary state of South Carolina, losing badly to Hillary Clinton, and he never recovered.

North Carolina redo sets stage for copycat campaigns in 2020

OPINION — After an election fraud scandal, North Carolina Republicans lost a House candidate. After an indictment and questions about possible bribery, the state GOP lost its chair.

But all that didn’t stop a gaggle of Republicans from vying for the chance to run for a House seat that, thanks to gerrymandering, still favors their party — that is, of course, if voters stay interested in a special election that now will be decided on Sept. 10, if everything goes as planned.

Whatever happens, the race has offered a national blueprint for what voters will see in 2020, with the majority of Republicans clinging close to Donald Trump and trying to brand Democrats as far to the left as imagination allows. Meanwhile, Democrats proclaim their independence and ability to stand up to the president and his bending of constitutional norms while doing the other business of Congress and helping constituents.