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Saturday, February 27, 2021
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The Indiana Ku Klux Klan at its heyday prior to Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson's murder conviction in 1925; Gov. Holcomb delivers his racial "inflection point" speech last August; territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison; Gov. Joseph Wright; and Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.
The Indiana Ku Klux Klan at its heyday prior to Grand Dragon D.C. Stephenson's murder conviction in 1925; Gov. Holcomb delivers his racial "inflection point" speech last August; territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison; Gov. Joseph Wright; and Black Lives Matter protesters last summer.
Saturday, February 27, 2021 10:47 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
        
INDIANAPOLIS — For the past four decades, I've covered the Indiana General Assembly as a reporter and monitored it as a columnist and publisher. What occurred on the House floor and out in the Statehouse hallways last week has been described as a "racial" clash. And I will tell you upfront that while there has been racial tension throughout Indiana's two centuries of statehood, this is the first time in my memory that it bubbled up so publicly at the Statehouse.

It appears to have begun during a debate about a St. Joseph County school transportation bill with State Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, objecting and then walking off the House floor. State Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary had declared the United States to be a "racist nation." That was met with booing and catcalls, with Republican State Rep. Jim Lucas stalking off the House floor. Multiple reports described a hallway shouting match between State Reps. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, and Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis.

"Everybody over there is racist and discriminatory," Summers told the IndyStar of House Republicans. "Those that aren't and are not standing up for what's right, they’ve got white privilege and they’re racist too." Rep. Lucas's involvement came after he had posted several racially-motivated memes on his Facebook page as recently as last summer. This came under the first-year leadership of House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, who quickly described himself as "embarrassed" by the incident, adding, "I’m committed today to increase focus on maintaining decorum, civility and professionalism in this institution.”

The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus called for diversity training, with its leader, State Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis saying, "We can't tell who all is racist over there." House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, sought a different channel. "Reach out today or tomorrow and introduce yourself to someone on the other side of the aisle you haven't met yet."

There are several social overlays here. The most recent was last year's police homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the riots that erupted across the nation, as well as in Fort Wayne and downtown Indianapolis, where a number of windows remain boarded up. Over the preceding five years, President Trump had introduced a new dichotomy in campaigning and governance, described as "racial dog whistles" by critics. This reintroduction of political coarseness had an impact. After Trump took office, I noticed reporting in newspapers across Indiana of shouting and shoving matches at public meetings in towns, cities and counties. Such incidents had been rare previously.

But racial strife in Indiana goes back centuries. Capitol and Washington Publisher Trevor Foughty, in an article in this week's edition of Howey Politics Indiana, walks through our state's racial history, beginning with territorial Gov. William Henry Harrison's determination to bring his slaves to Vincennes and opposition to this by the state's eventual first governor, Jonathan Jennings.
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  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE – The Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission released their report in mid-December. All Hoosiers should be interested in what it did and did not say about teacher pay, along with recommendations they offered. I begin with some stark observations about education finance. After adjusting for inflation, Indiana spending per student is down more than 7% since 2010, and Indiana dropped from 22nd nationally in school spending per student in 2004 to 36th by 2018. It wasn’t in the report, but school spending, as a share of Indiana’s Gross Domestic Product, dropped from 2.6% to 2.2% since 2010. That means by last year we spent roughly $1.3 billion less per year on education than we would have if we grew educational spending at the same rate as the overall economy in that same time period. The Commission figured that the actual cuts to K-12 spending works out to about $580 million per year. That is almost identical to the $600 million they claim it would take to bring teacher pay back to 2010 levels. In other words, almost 97% of the reduction in educational funding came out of teacher’s salaries. This should make clear two important facts. First, it is unlikely that there are excess savings hidden somewhere in school budgets. 
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – Poverty is a human issue with many dimensions including race, gender, occupation, and geography. Its elimination is also multi-dimensional. When not battling with minority members, the dominate Republicans in the Indiana House of Representatives might attend to the plight of 868,000 Hoosiers (13.4%) below the poverty threshold. In the event it did not strike you, 868,000 persons in 2019 was about the same as the population of 43 Indiana counties combined. Before we go further, consider those poverty thresholds which include numerous benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security, pensions, etc. For a single person under age 65, the threshold is income of $13,064. A college student, working half-time at $12.56/hr., fits that description. Thus, Monroe and Delaware counties, with their relatively large college populations, lead the state with poverty rates in excess of 20%. Vigo and Tippecanoe are similarly college-impacted counties with large numbers of young, part-time workers.
  • By ANNE LAKER
    EVANSVILLE — Indiana Republicans are grinning like Cheshire cats and running like retrievers. To be a Republican lawmaker right now is to be exhilarated by free rein. Is even the governor a mere speedbump? Tenants have no defense against landlords, teacher pay is in the cellar, and green building materials are being outlawed at state universities. Here’s a question that can’t be dodged: What exactly makes a citizen want to live in Indiana? Case in point: Most states have one super polluter (an industry that emits toxic air pollution). Southwestern Indiana still has four, Duke Energy’s Gibson power plant, AES’ Petersburg power plant, NIPSCO’s Schahfer power plant, and Alcoa’s Warrick metals plant. As a direct result, Hoosiers die in higher numbers from cancer, as well as heart and respiratory diseases, made worse by the high poverty in these rural counties. While market forces are moving away from coal, state lawmakers have never taken special action to clean up Indiana’s air.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – Mike Schmuhl, campaign manager for Pete Buttigieg’s meteoric rise to top-tier presidential contender, now is running to lead the Indiana Democratic Party. In November, he said he wouldn’t run for state party chair. Why did he change his mind? We’ll ask him. Q. Mike, did you decide to run after former Sen. Joe Donnelly and some other party leaders urged you to do so? A. The political landscape changed with election of President Biden, Democratic control of both houses of Congress, and events of Jan. 6. A number of people from across the state reached out over the last few weeks and urged me to reconsider. I felt backing was growing to put together a plan to win. Sen. Donnelly has always been supportive and encouraging in my efforts to strengthen the party. Q. Hoosier Democrats were shellacked last November. They haven’t won a statewide race since 2012. They continue to have pathetically small state legislature minorities. Are you volunteering to be captain of the Titanic? Or is there a way to steer this ship away from more disaster? A. There have been tough cycles for Hoosier Democrats. It’ll take strategy, planning and execution to level the playing field. Still, we’ve been a pretty balanced and bipartisan state during my lifetime. Don’t forget that Barack Obama won the state in 2008.
  • BY: MARK SOUDER
    FORT WAYNE – Here are the impacts of the second impeachment of former president Donald John Trump: 1.) Chants of “Kill Mike Pence” from large numbers of conservative rioters, at more than one location, was spine-tingling and chilling. Those who watched it in context will likely never forget it. The absurd anger was scary and ugly. This should have been a wake-up call to every Indiana Republican elected official. Mike Pence had been a loyal ally of President Trump until Trump asked him to directly violate the Constitution. “Hang Mike Pence” could easily become any elected official when confronted by a “hang anybody not 100% with us” mob. Indiana Democrats only need to worry when they become politically relevant again. Democrats in other states, however, should also be worried about the increasing willingness of mobs to be incited by exaggerated political rhetoric. Continued out-of-control rhetoric will have escalating consequences. 2.) Vice President Mike Pence was likely the biggest “winner” from the impeachment trial. It is far too early to say whether he will benefit politically. However, in the eyes of history he will become a legend in the story of the only assault on the Capitol of the United States by Americans. The second highest official in the nation. A man betrayed by his president. Eerily close to potential serious bodily harm. Guardian of free elections. A true profile in courage, not a rhetorical one. Even liberals are likely to give him credit because it makes Trump seem worse.
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  • Atomic! CPAC after Trump's defeat; Hupfer boosts Elsener; Braun aims at Cong pensions; Archie on the hot seat
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. CPAC after Trump's defeat: We've been covering how the Republican Party will reconstitute in the wake of President Trump's reelection defeat and the Capitol insurrection. Earlier this month, Republican National Committeeman John Hammond III told HPI, “No more cult of personality. No more big lies. No more looney conspiracy theories. We should cull those things out and move forward. There will be tensions ... as we pivot back toward the party of ideas and purpose.” But when CPAC convenes in Florida this weekend, the normal GOP conservative stalwarts like Mike Pence, Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, Liz Cheney and Paul Ryan will be no-shows. Instead, it will be Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and Reps. Mo Brooks and Lauren BoebertThis comes as the GOP attempts to put the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection in its rear view mirror. Pence and Trump are back on "amicable" speaking terms. Senate Minority Leader Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said minutes after Trump's impeachment trial acquittal that the former president was "morally" responsible for the Capitol siege was asked if he could support Trump in 2024. "Absolutely," McConnell responded. 
  • Trevor Foughty: Indiana's two centuries of racial tension

    By TREVOR FOUGHTY

    INDIANAPOLIS – At the conclusion of the Civil War, Congressman Daniel W. Voorhees gave a speech in which he declared that the most important question of the day was, “Shall the White man maintain his supremacy?” Voorhees hoped the answer would be in the affirmative, but these were not the words of a bitter Confederate, or secret Klansman, or fringe lunatic; they were the words of a mainstream Hoosier politician, who in the course of his career would serve three years as the U.S. district attorney for Indiana, nine years as a member of the U.S. House from Indiana, and nearly 20 years as Indiana’s U.S. senator. The words themselves are striking, primarily because the concept of White supremacy is appealed to so unambiguously. Upon hearing that phrase, modern audiences likely imagine skin-headed Neo-Nazis, or a mass of white hoods marching under the cover of night with only their torches to illuminate the darkness. For many, it likely invokes the notion of vitriolic hatred that manifests itself in both verbal and physical violence. But to Indiana audiences in 1865, such rhetoric wasn’t just tolerated, it actually represented widely held beliefs at the time.

  • Horse Race: Pence, Trump described as 'amicable'
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – When we last checked in with Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there were bruised feelings over the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection that the former unleashed with the mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” The former vice president skipped the former president’s Joint Base Andrews sendoff and attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration. CNN reported earlier this week that the ultimate political odd couple have spoken twice on the phone, with a source calling their relationship “amicable.”
  • Atomic! 60 year olds up for vaccine; Biden tribute to 500k dead; House passes budget; CPAC wants Pence
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis

    1. 60 year olds eligible for vaccine: Some 432,000 Hoosiers age 60-65 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as appointments quickly filled up. The Indiana Department of Health announced that age group is eligible around 9 a.m. and by noon 63,000 people had signed up. Due to limited vaccine supplies nationally, Indiana has prioritized healthcare workers, first responders and those who are most vulnerable in its vaccine rollout. Individuals age 60 and older account for more than 22% of the state’s population but 64% of the COVID-19 hospitalizations and 93.3% of the deaths. On Monday, Johnson & Johnson announced it will provide 20 million single-shot doses by the end of March. It is expected to get emergency approval from the FDA by this weekend. President Biden paid tribute to the 500,000 Americans (and more than 11,000 Hoosiers) who have died of COVID. "I know that when you stare at that empty chair around the kitchen table, it brings it all back — no matter how long ago it happened — as if it just happened that moment you looked at that empty chair. And the everyday things — the small things, the tiny things — that you miss the most. That scent when you open the closet. That park you go by that you used to stroll in. That movie theater where you met. The morning coffee you shared together. The bend in his smile. The perfect pitch to her laugh."
  • Atomic? Botched vaccine rollout; GOP's brutal month; Wentz/Reich Colts QB reunion
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. The staggered U.S. vaccine rollout: As of Friday, 851,321 Hoosiers - or 12.6% of the population - have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine, and another 5.6% have received both. The U.S. average is 12.8% for one shot and 4.9% for both. Wall Street Journal: The Trump administration invested heavily in rapid vaccine development, but it left the last mile of getting shots into arms to states and localities. That approach resulted in multiple, sometimes contradictory systems, and failed to ensure local sites had information about vaccine shipments that they needed to quickly administer shots. The result: More than 16 million of the 72.4 million vaccine doses distributed by the U.S. government hadn’t been used as of Wednesday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  New York Times: Millions of doses wound up trapped in logistical limbo, either set aside for nursing homes that did not need them or stockpiled while Americans clamored in vain for their first doses. Now a national effort is underway to pry those doses loose — and, with luck, give a significant boost to the national vaccination ramp-up. Under the Biden administration, distribution has improved, with 78% of vaccine doses distributed were administered. During the last week of the Trump administration, that number stood at 35%. But it's still below the original benchmark of have at least 80% of doses administered at any time. CDC Chief Rochelle Walensky reported this morning that COVID cases have declines 69% since Jan. 11 and hospitalizations are down 56%.
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  • Carson voted for $1.9T relief bill; GOP opposed
    “A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing devastation in our communities is inconceivable. We have tragically lost more than 12,000 Hoosiers to this deadly virus. In addition, the economic and emotional toll of this pandemic is harming countess families and threatening countless futures. We have to do everything in our power to overcome this immense challenge. Democrats promised more action and more relief to meet this moment, and through this legislation we are working to make good on that promise.” U.S. Rep. André Carson (D-Indianapolis) voted in favor of H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which passed the U.S. House. This sweeping legislation implements President Biden’s plan to address the ongoing public health and economic crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion-dollar relief bill funds aggressive action to crush the virus and vaccinate Americans, keep kids in school safer, provide $1,400 direct payments to families in addition to December’s $600 down payment. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) and her six Indiana Republican colleagues voted against the bill, saying, "As safe and effective vaccines get us closer to ending this pandemic, we should be focused on defeating coronavirus, getting Americans back to work, and helping small businesses recover. Instead, Democrats tossed bipartisanship aside for a rushed, one-sided, $1.9 trillion spending bill – with less than 9% actually going to fight COVID. There hasn’t even been a full accounting of $1 trillion in unspent relief funds, but Speaker Pelosi wants taxpayers to foot the bill for trillions more." 
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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