Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN: LEAD NOT BY EXAMPLE OF POWER, BUT POWER OF OUR EXAMPLE: I sought this office to restore the soul of America. To rebuild the backbone of the nation — the middle class. To make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home. It is the honor of my lifetime that so many millions of Americans have voted for this vision. And now the work of making this vision real is the task of our time. And I will be honored to be serving with a fantastic vice president — Kamala Harris — who will make history as the first woman, first Black woman, first woman of South Asian descent, and first daughter of immigrants ever elected to national office in this country. We stand again at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to defeat despair and to build a nation of prosperity and purpose. We can do it. I know we can. I’ve long talked about the battle for the soul of America. We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darkest impulses. It is time for our better angels to prevail.

DONALD TRUMP IS LYING. REPUBLICANS NEED TO SAY SO.: Early Thursday evening, President Donald Trump stood before the White House press corps, as well as cameras broadcasting to the nation, and delivered the most dangerous remarks of his presidency. He said states were “finding ballots” in an effort to steal the election from him. He said: “If you count the legal votes, I win.” He also said of our state: “We were ahead in votes in North Carolina by a lot, a tremendous number of votes, and we’re still ahead by a lot, but not as many because they’re finding ballots all of a sudden.” The president’s remarks yesterday weren’t merely the final squeaks from a shrinking balloon. They may be laying the foundation for an attempt to stay in office if votes continue to go Joe Biden’s way. Trump’s surrogates called Thursday for a do-over election in Pennsylvania and urged Republicans there to override the results. His son, Donald Jr., urged the president to wage “total war over the election.” It should no longer be inconceivable to anyone that Trump might attempt to use bogus claims of fraud and shunned poll observers to nullify his defeat. Those claims also risk inciting violence. Election officials across the country have fretted about the safety of vote counters as armed Trump supporters stood outside election centers, and late Thursday, Philadelphia police took two heavily armed men into custody outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted. Police said they were notified of a threat of an attack. Donald Trump has defiled and denigrated cherished traditions and institutions throughout his presidency, but nothing strikes at the heart of America like the president questioning the integrity of legally cast votes.

THE SUPREME COURT MUST AVOID PARTISAN OVERREACH ON ELECTION CASES: On the morning after the polls closed, with significant mailed-in ballot counting underway in key battleground states, Trump declared the election “a major fraud” and said, “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.” Trump’s plan has been hiding in plain sight for months. On September 23, 2020 — five days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death — the president announced that he wanted a replacement confirmed quickly in case the Court had to resolve battleground state election litigation contests. At a Pennsylvania rally on Nov. 1, he made a heavily freighted remark: “[I]f we win on Tuesday, or thank you very much, Supreme Court shortly thereafter.” If ever there were a time for the U.S. Supreme Court to act with restraint, this is that time. President Trump is clinging to his promise to win the election in court. The future of our democracy depends on the Supreme Court refusing to be pulled into the same vortex that has tarnished so many other reputations over the past four years. In election contest litigation, the Court should defer to state courts regarding decisions on how to fairly administer their state’s voting procedures — at least in the absence of categorical constitutional violations. As Yale law professor Akhil Amar and other experts have shown, none of the recent challenges against state interpretations of their voting laws come close to meeting that standard for federal judicial intervention.

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY HAS PROVED ITS RESILIENCE IN ELECTING JOE BIDEN: Mr. Biden’s victory — and Mr. Trump’s defeat — is a testament to the resilience of American democracy. In other countries, at other times, bullies like Mr. Trump have succeeded in becoming strongmen by promising security from dangerous outsiders, demonizing cultural elites and sowing enough confusion and apathy that people failed to resist the slide into illiberalism. Mr. Trump tried all of these tactics. But Americans resisted. They did so in an overwhelming yet orderly fashion, at the ballot box, when it was their turn to have another say, despite the fact that Mr. Trump and his allies adopted a strategy of disenfranchisement when they realized they could not win fairly. They answered his four years of divisiveness by electing a woman — a woman of color — to be vice-president for the first time in the nation’s history. Citizens in unprecedented numbers stood in line for hours to vote, starting weeks before Election Day. State officials adhered to their responsibilities to ensure that people could cast ballots. Withstanding Mr. Trump’s spiteful and mendacious attacks on their integrity, they ensured that those votes would be counted. The first task of this new, potentially divided government must be to reinforce the institutions and norms that creaked under Mr. Trump’s assaults. After an election that showed Republicans can compete when larger numbers of voters turn out, they should be more willing than before to make voting easier. Even with reform, voters will sometimes get it wrong. But our democracy survived crises that came before, and we may just have weathered another, hopefully gaining some hard-won wisdom in the process. Amoral opportunists come and go. The nation’s founding principles live on another day, thanks to a generation of voters who did their part to preserve the Republic.

AMERICA VOTES BY 50 SETS OF RULES. WE NEED A FEDERAL ELECTIONS AGENCY: We often talk about elections as if voters across the country are participating in a single event. But the reality is that individual states and counties — and the partisan politicians who run them — largely make their own rules about ease of voting, ballots and district lines. The overall result is that in the 21st century, in the richest democracy in the world, some people must work much harder to exercise their basic right to vote — and even then, their ballot may be less potent than others. Take rules around registration and voting. Some states and cities automatically register voters and proactively mail them their ballots. Other states require people to register weeks in advance of the election and, unless they have a valid excuse for voting absentee, to show up in person at the polls, where they may face long lines, poorly trained poll workers, and unreliable equipment — not to mention the chance of becoming infected with a lethal virus that thrives in crowded indoor environments. If someone lives in a gerrymandered or lopsided district, that person’s vote might matter less. In the vast majority of states, partisan lawmakers decide how to draw district lines — carefully engineered to maintain power statewide, even if a majority of voters prefers the other party. In the all too common worst-case scenarios, partisan officials take advantage of the lack of federal election standards to disproportionately purge minority voters from the registration rolls entirely, or invalidate their ballots because of minor technicalities at higher rates. It could use new, safe technologies to modernize and streamline our elections, while consolidating and securing important data. It could also help pilot secure election technology, such as the “unhackable” open-source voting system currently being developed by the Department of Defense. Unlike current election software that is bought from private companies and shielded from public inspection, this system will run publicly available computer code that election security experts can scrutinize for issues. A federal elections agency could also better take on certain administrative functions that are currently carried out by the states: for example, the creation of a national voter roll, with all eligible citizens automatically registered to vote. This would bring our registration system up to the standards of most other advanced democracies.


JANICE NICHOLSON: TRUMP AND KING GEORGE III HAVE A LOT IN COMMON: President Trump’s remarks after Election Day and again Thursday evening sent me to the Declaration of Independence to read the indictments against King George III. Most striking was this: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us.” Does that compare to trying to convince citizens the election process is a fraud and that the election was stolen from him? Another indictment: “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.” Does a refusal to publicly admit the severity of COVID-19, criticizing advice of medical experts, mocking those who wear masks, and relying on events with no social distancing seem similar to not heeding the public good? Our country’s founders, unlike most Republican leaders today, recognized wrong actions and spoke strongly against them.

UNC DOCTORS: BAN THE USE OF PEPPER SPRAY AND TEARGAS FOR CROWD CONTROL: We are writing on behalf of eight infectious and pulmonary disease doctors on the UNC School of Medicine faculty to call attention to the public health hazard created by the use of tear gas and pepper spray by law enforcement. Use of these chemical weapons as a riot control measure poses both an immediate and long-term risk to the health of citizens on whom it is used, especially those at greater risk of COVID-19. Aerosolized agents are also a serious risk to the broader public. We condemn their use in the strongest terms and call on elected leaders and law enforcement to select alternative methods of crowd control that pose less risk to the public’s health.

LLOYD KRAMER: GOP ATTEMPTS AT VOTER SUPPRESSION ARE APPALLING: The nationwide, Republican campaign to restrict the counting of votes is a well-organized attack on the foundation of our democratic society. Attempts to stop the counting of ballots mailed by Election Day grow out of a wider campaign to restrict voting rights, but they are inconsistent with long-established government policies. Millions of Americans have traditionally mailed their annual tax payments by the April 15 due date. These clearly postmarked envelopes arrive several days later, but are never “disqualified” or ruled “illegal” because they reached a government office after the due date. We can recognize the patterns of anti-democratic strategies in North Carolina from the history of vote-denying, Jim Crow laws, yet the systematic efforts to reduce or deny voting rights never end.



"Compromise" is not a four-letter word

Compromise: early 15c., "a joint promise to abide by an arbiter's decision," from Old French compromis (13c.), from Late Latin compromissus, past participle of compromittere "to make a mutual promise" (to abide by the arbiter's decision), from com "with, together" (see com-) + promittere "to send forth; let go; foretell; assure beforehand, promise," from pro "before" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "in front of, before") + mittere "to release, let go; send, throw" (see mission).

I give you that etymology to demonstrate how ancient this idea is; that two equally powerful forces must (each) make concessions to not only avoid destruction, but to move forward at all.

Does that mean they hold hands and sing Kumbaya? No, of course not. It is merely a mature acknowledgment that intractability will produce nothing.

We are currently facing this problem in North Carolina, and Washington, DC. A Democratic Governor and Republican General Assembly, and an emerging Democratic President facing a split Congress. The two Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate could swing the Senate to a 50-50 tie with Kamala Harris tipping the balance, but Trump's loss might actually make that harder. Voters may be hesitant to upset (what they see as) a balance of power.

Back to the art of compromise. After losing their supermajorities, Republicans in the General Assembly have realized they can no longer have everything they want. Needless to say, that goes for Democrats, too. Legislation that makes it out of that body needs to be scrutinized closely by the Governor and his staff, with a positive vs negative balance sheet. We can't continue with the funding levels from previous budgets restraining us. Something needs to give, and Roy Cooper may be the only one responsible enough to make that happen. Medicaid Expansion is one of the most critical issues of our time, but it's not the only issue. I'm sure many reading this will disagree, but that is an argument we actually need to have. Because money that should have already been spent is building up, and you know what Republicans will (always) do when that happens. Cut taxes even more, and lay that pillow over the face of needed public services.

By the same token, Democrats in the U.S. House need to stop pushing for the largest pandemic relief package they can put together. Because $1.5 Trillion in circulation beats $3 Trillion on paper every day of the week. We needed that money 3 months ago, and our needs now have far surpassed mid-Summer. We can blame Trump, we can blame McConnell. But blame doesn't keep people from being evicted. Blame doesn't help state and local governments provide desperately needed services. And blame doesn't put food on people's table.

We can compromise, or we can continue to let pride stand in the way.