Abortion is on the ballot. But so is loyalty to Trump: Will voters connect the dots between policy and party in 2024?

A long-promised Donald Trump statement on abortion has finally been released. As expected, it was vague and pleased few. The former president both bragged about his appointment of three Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, and stopped short of endorsing a national abortion ban, instead pledging to leave the decision up to the states.

While it may anger the faction of his party endorsing a national ban, the statement proves the almost certain Republican Party presidential nominee, as transactional and self-serving as ever, can read the polls and the political winds.

Remember, this is the man with a history of declaring himself “pro-choice,” “pro-life” and in favor of punishing women who seek abortions. I’m not sure what he truly believes, but it’s clear from his dancing around the issue that he knows he could pay a price for the GOP’s anti-abortion rights stance in November.

But maybe dealing in contradictions won’t hurt him and his party as much as Trump believes and Democrats hope.

It may not make perfect sense, but a certain voting pattern has been happening lately. Citizens in red states surprise observers when they lean blue on the issue of reproductive and abortion rights, yet continue to reelect the politicians who support those bans.

Ohio has proven that two things could be true at once: Democrat Tim Ryan, Ohioan through and through, could experience defeat in a 2022 Senate race at the hands of Donald Trump-endorsed Republican J.D. Vance, who just a few years ago was tagged as an elitist leaving behind background and family with his best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy.” This was after calling Trump an “idiot” in 2016.

And those same voters could troop to the ballot box in November 2023 to make sure a right to abortion is enshrined in the state’s constitution — after earlier rejecting a state GOP attempt to make it more difficult to win that right.

Vance was shaken by that result last year, writing “we need to understand why we lost this battle so we can win the war.”

But in spite of the surprise Ohio voters handed Republicans, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown is still facing a tough reelection race in the fall. That’s despite his working-class credibility across the state, a record of accomplishments that have benefited Ohio and endorsements from groups such as the 100,000-member Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council. Brown criticizes free-trade agreements, even those coming from his own party, when he says they hurt his constituents.

His GOP opponent, wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno, may have no experience and a background many voters are still filling in, but he has something much more important — a Donald Trump endorsement.

In a state that voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 by a comfortable margin, that may be more than enough. The fact that Ohio voters have proven to be on board with a Democrat’s record and his party’s stand on the issue of reproductive rights is fighting a growing partisan divide that sees a lot less ticket-splitting.

Inside Elections rates both Brown’s race and that of established Montana Sen. Jon Tester, another Democratic incumbent in a red state, as Toss-ups.

Democrats see abortion rights giving them a fighting chance in states they’ve recently seen as lost causes. It wasn’t that long ago (2008 and 2012, in fact) that the party won both Ohio and even, yes, Florida. With an abortion rights initiative on the Sunshine State’s ballot in November, Democrats have even been dreaming of a resurgence in the land of Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.

It will take more than dreams in a time when party is also identity.

Once upon a time, politicians wrestled with the role of religion in politics

“The Catholic public official lives the political truth most Catholics through most of American history have accepted and insisted on: the truth that to assure our freedom we must allow others the same freedom, even if occasionally it produces conduct by them which we would hold to be sinful. … We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us.”

When he was governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, walked a tightrope when it came to the mixing of faith and politics, particularly on the issue of abortion and reproductive rights, as is plain in his 1984 speech “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” delivered at the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology.

More from Cuomo: “Must I, having heard the Pope renew the Church’s ban on birth control devices, veto the funding of contraceptive programs for non-Catholics or dissenting Catholics in my State? I accept the Church’s teaching on abortion. Must I insist you do? By law? By denying you Medicaid funding? By a constitutional amendment? If so, which one? Would that be the best way to avoid abortions or to prevent them?”

Yes, he asked a lot of questions. But at least he was thinking, even when he didn’t have all the answers.

Revisiting that address seems especially appropriate as American laws and religious tenets become increasingly difficult to untangle, when politicians such as House Speaker Mike Johnson point to the Bible as the answer to every question he is asked about his philosophy of governing.

Will Trump Take Over the RNC? Cash-poor, on a losing streak, and firmly behind Trump, is now the time for national Republicans to change leadership?

Is RNC chairperson Ronna McDaniel to blame for Republicans’ poor fundraising and recent underperformance in elections?

Guest: Shelby Talcott, reporter covering Trump and national Republicans for Semafor.

When the game of politics plunges into dangerous spectacle

“Are you not entertained?” shouts Maximus as the titular “Gladiator” in the 2000 film. And actor Russell Crowe sells it — enough to snag an Oscar — as he repeats the line to the stadium. “Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”

Everyone loves a spectacle, even now, which is why more than 123 million viewers reportedly tuned in to this week’s Super Bowl, whether you were there for the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers — or a shirtless Usher.

Don’t forget, though, that the shouted movie line was about a lot more than the show. It was a taunt, used to communicate the gladiator’s disgust with the reason the crowd cheered him. They weren’t interested in a game well-played by evenly matched opponents, which I’ll wager was the main reason Sunday’s Las Vegas event was a must-see.

That ancient Roman audience showed up for the blood. The more gruesomely the gladiator dispatched the fighters in front of him, the louder the crowd’s approval, no quarter nor empathy given.

In politics today, I’m afraid too many political gladiators are harking back to the example of ancient Rome’s idea of what will win over the citizenry, rather than pulling a page from Kansas City coach Andy Reid’s strategic playbook.

Entertainment, sure. As fractious as possible.

Valentina Gomez, 24, a Republican candidate for Missouri secretary of state, wants to make sure voters know what she thinks of LGBTQ-inclusive books. A campaign video that went viral on social media shows the candidate using a flamethrower to torch a few, with the message: “When I’m Secretary of State, I will BURN all books that are grooming, indoctrinating, and sexualizing our children. MAGA. America First.”

Rather than back away, her campaign responded in a statement to NBC News: “You want to be gay? Fine be gay. Just don’t do it around children.”

When it comes to political persuasion, why emotion matters

“The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” might have been published in 2007, but its message is as relevant as ever, especially as the 2024 campaign ramps up. Author Drew Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University, has for 20 years explored the role of emotions in how the brain processes information.

That’s true in life — and in politics. And that explains why Westen has advised or worked as a political consultant for Democratic candidates, progressive and labor organizations and Fortune 500 companies for 20 years. Equal Time speaks to Westen on how a better understanding of the mind and brain translates into more compelling political messaging. Who is doing it right, and who could most use his help right now?

What E. Jean Carroll could teach ‘tough’ Republicans about calling out a bully

E. Jean Carroll is a brave woman. And her courage calls out the cowardice of many who could learn a thing or two from the writer who just won a judgment of $83.3 million — a sum set by a jury of Americans doing their duty — against the man who defamed her.

Considering all she has gone through, I’m sure if Carroll could trade that money for the life and the reputation she built before she learned the truth about the character of that character Donald Trump, she would.

But the findings in her civil cases did seem to bring a sort of justice, and a sense of liberation. In an interview this week on MSNBC, she told host Rachel Maddow how she felt about the prospect of facing Trump in the courtroom: “I lost my ability to speak, I lost my words, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t go on. That’s how frightened I was.”

But after she entered the courtroom and took the witness stand, Carroll said: “Amazingly, I looked out, and he was nothing. He was nothing. He was a phantom.”

That she fought and she won at 80, an age when women in our culture aren’t especially valued, made her elation lovely to behold.

Carroll’s triumph and her joy made me think of all the big, strong men Trump has insulted and worse, who nevertheless have lined up to support him and debase themselves in the process. I’d love to ask them, as they grin and bear it through clenched teeth, if it’s worth it, the “it” being a Senate seat, a Cabinet appointment or a future with the MAGA base Trump wields like an ax.

Local News Roundup: County Commission approves $10 million for Discovery Place Nature; Dante Anderson is new mayor pro tem; Patrick McHenry not seeking re-election; CMS approves budget

On the next Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup…

More plans are ahead to replace Charlotte’s Discovery Place Nature Museum in Freedom Park — with a hefty price tag. We’ll hear about the contentious debate that led to county commissioners agreeing to pay $10 million more towards the museum, and why that still may not be enough.

Dante Anderson is the new mayor pro tem after a contentious debate at City Council this week. We’ll talk about the vote.

We learned this week that North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry will not run for re-election. We’ll discuss what this might do to the political picture in the state.

We’re near the end of the second academic quarter for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, but the school board this week approved the budget for the current school year. We’ll discuss the reasons for the delay.

Most North Carolina Democrats voted in favor of an antisemitism resolution this week. We’ll talk about what the resolution says and who voted.

And former North Carolina Senator Fountain Odom has died. We’ll have a remembrance.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and more, on this week’s Charlotte Talks Local News Roundup.


Nick Ochsner, WBTV’s executive producer for investigations & chief investigative reporter
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter
Ann Doss Helms, WFAE education reporter

BLACK ISSUES FORUM: Local and National Topics Leading to 2024 Elections

A look at topics impacting our decisions for 2024 elections. Plus, renewed debate about monuments and our country’s history of slavery raises a question: are we’re preserving history or our future? Host Kenia Thompson discusses these topics and more with Immanuel Jarvis, chairman of the Durham County GOP; columnist Mary C. Curtis (Roll Call); and Brett Chambers, lecturer at NC Central University.

Local News Roundup: CMPD responds to viral video; CATS names new management company; new fines for illegal parking; drought continues in NC

A viral video of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officers punching a woman restrained by several officers during an arrest surfaced earlier this week. CMPD released a statement saying that the woman was resisting arrest and Chief Johnny Jennings released his own statement.

Charlotte City Council voted unanimously this week to raise the fine for illegal parking in uptown. We’ll bring you up to speed on that and other city council news.

The Charlotte Area Transit System has announced the name of the company it has chosen to operate the Charlotte bus system. National Express Service would now run CATS, instead of RATP Dev. Council will vote later this month to make it official.

Fires continue to spark in western North Carolina, as drought and higher temperatures persists.

And after a disappointing fall so far for pro sports in Charlotte — the Queen City has a new team. The Carolina Chaos Lacrosse team joins the Premier Lacrosse League.

Mike Collins and our roundtable of reporters delve into those stories and more, on the Charlotte Talks local news roundup.


Joe Bruno, WSOC-TV reporter
Mary C. Curtis, columnist for Rollcall.com, host of the Rollcall podcast “Equal Time”
David Boraks, WFAE climate reporter
Alexandria Sands, reporter with Axios Charlotte

Speaker mayhem: When the rules are rigged, it breeds chaos

Just think what you would do if you got the chance to rig the rules in order to win the game every time. Wouldn’t you be tempted? Well, never let it be said that a politician with a seat in Congress let that opportunity roll by. When they have the power to pick their voters instead of letting voters pick them, few can resist.

However, that presents a problem.

What you eventually get is the chaos Americans watched before a slim majority of House Republicans in a closed-door vote chose Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as their fourth nominee for speaker in three weeks before all GOP members, no matter how reluctantly, voted in favor of his ascension Wednesday on the House floor. Yet, the drama may be only beginning on the worst reality show ever. There is a government shutdown to avert next month and aid packages ready to award to allied countries at war.

For the House members who have been gumming up the works — the works being democracy — it doesn’t matter one bit. There will be no self-reflection or consequences because safely carved districts make most House members untouchable, and actually encourage bad behavior.