Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


ENTERTAINING TRUMP'S PHONY CLAIMS BREEDS UNWARRANTED DISTRUST IN ELECTIONS: The failure to acknowledge the obvious – that Biden DID get the most votes from ALL Americans who cast ballots and DID capture the most electoral college votes to become the next president – isn’t some passive partisan act. Why do these elected representatives tolerate and even encourage Donald Trump’s outrageous and false claims in his desire to keep an office he didn’t win? Why aren’t they speaking up for the integrity of the ballots cast by voters who put them in office? These elected representatives are breeding unwarranted distrust in our electoral system – the most honest and secure on the planet. That isn’t some modest conjecture. Just look at what’s been done by state and local elections officials here in North Carolina. Every challenge – no matter how frivolous – has been objectively examined and found baseless. That’s been repeated by state and local election officials across the nation.

CONGRESS AND THE NC LEGISLATURE NEED TO DO MORE TO HELP THE JOBLESS: North Carolina, along with the rest of the country, finds itself in one of the worst health crises and resulting economic downturns ever. Our state’s unemployed and underemployed workers now find themselves facing another crisis: trying to rely on a state unemployment insurance system that is simply inadequate to meet their basic needs. This wasn’t always the case. Before 2013, North Carolina’s unemployment insurance program ranked in the middle of the nation in terms of the level of benefits provided. However, that year the NC General Assembly passed the most draconian cuts to North Carolina’s unemployment insurance system in the history of the program. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment insurance reform had been long overdue. Now our workers are living week by week with the fallout of seven years of inaction by our lawmakers. Congress must act to ensure that more than 400,000 workers in North Carolina have the support to make ends meet during this ongoing pandemic. Our state’s meager unemployment benefit, which averages at $227 a week, or $5.70 an hour, is simply too little. Can anyone claim that this is enough money to live on? When the General Assembly convenes next month, legislators must act to fix a broken system. While unemployment insurance taxes for employers like me are some of the lowest in the country, workers in North Carolina, because of the 2013 cuts, receive some of the lowest benefits in the nation and are exhausting benefits at the highest rate in the United States.

ROY COOPER: HELP IS ON THE WAY. BUT FIRST WE HAVE TO DIG DEEP: As tough as this is, especially at the holidays, the sacrifices we’re making now will ensure that our loved ones can gather again at next year’s Thanksgiving and Christmas tables. Our COVID-19 numbers are dire, and we need North Carolinians to take this virus seriously. A month ago, daily case counts above 3,000 were troubling. Recently, we’ve had several days with more than 6,000 new daily cases. Hospitals and health care workers are feeling the strain. More than 80% of North Carolina counties have been designated as red or orange, meaning their community spread is way too high. Until vaccines are widely available, we have a few tools that we know can keep people safe while also boosting our economy — wearing our masks, staying socially distant and keeping any gatherings small and outdoors, or better yet, online. Whether it’s helping our neighbors rebuild after a hurricane or coming together to support our loved ones who are most vulnerable to this virus, North Carolinians are best at looking out for each other when times are tough.

REPUBLICANS WERE ONCE THE ANTI-RADICALS. THEY'RE NOW BATTERING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: The Republican Party projected itself as the bulwark against left-wing radicalism, the moral arbiter of all that was evil, and the righteous judge of what was constitutionally permissible and what was an abomination against God. The movement chained itself to rigid ideology and primal fear, despite Russell Kirk’s warning that “the conservative abhors all forms of ideology” and is guided instead by principles “arrived at by convention and compromise.” But a party that elevated Donald Trump from Manhattan’s class clown to the U.S. presidency no longer has any use for the likes of Kirk, Edmund Burke or William F. Buckley. For four years, Republicans averted their eyes as Trump broke the law, defied constitutional norms, trashed governing traditions, dehumanized political opponents and further radicalized a party that had long ago become unmoored from conservative tradition — and yet that proved to be but a preview of worse things to come. Now, Republican leaders are either actively engaged in sedition against the United States or offering their silent support to a president furiously working to overturn an election. The leveling wind against liberalism has instead become a gale-force wind beating away at the foundations of American democracy. So what does one do when the cure becomes more toxic than the disease? When the fever proves more deadly than the infection it was meant to kill? Where do voters turn when those who promised to protect American institutions against political extremism pose a greater threat to democracy than the progressive elites they long demonized? (Editor's note: Just a few years ago Joe Scarborough was one of those TV pundits who would attack liberals and progressives frequently. His evolution is a testament to how bad Trump is.)

THE "TRUMP WON" FARCE ISN'T FUNNY ANYMORE: Unfortunately for Trump, and fortunately for the country, he has not been able to bend reality to his desires. Key election officials and federal judges have refused his call to throw out votes, create chaos and clear a path for the autogolpe he hopes to accomplish. The military has also made clear where it stands. “We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a speech not long after the election. But there are others who — out of partisanship, opportunism or a simple taste for mayhem — have chosen to support the president’s attack on American democracy. They refuse to acknowledge the president’s defeat, back lawsuits to throw out the results, and spread lies about voter fraud and election malfeasance to Republican voters. They are laughing at Trump’s joke, not realizing (or not caring) that their laughter is infectious. What was a legal effort by the Trump campaign, for instance, is now one by the state of Texas, which has petitioned the Supreme Court to scrap election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, depriving Joe Biden of his victory. Filed by Ken Paxton, Texas’s attorney general, the suit says it would be a violation of due process to accept the outcome in those states, on account of “election irregularities” and “interstate differences in the treatment of voters” that disadvantage Republican voters in areas with stricter voting rules. We have learned that the Republican Party, or much of it, has abandoned whatever commitment to electoral democracy it had to begin with. That it views defeat on its face as illegitimate, a product of fraud concocted by opponents who don’t deserve to hold power. That it is fully the party of minority rule, committed to the idea that a vote doesn’t count if it isn’t for its candidates, and that if democracy won’t serve its partisan and ideological interests, then so much for democracy. None of this is new — there is a whole tradition of reactionary, counter-majoritarian thought in American politics to which the conservative movement is heir — but it is the first time since the 1850s that these ideas have nearly captured an entire political party. And while the future is unwritten, the events of the past month make me worry that we’re following a script the climax of which requires a disaster.


MARGARET MAGNANI: CALL THEM WHAT THEY ARE, TRAITORS AND DICTATORS: As a child, I remember learning in my civics classes that leaders who tried to wrest or keep power by subverting the will of the people expressed in elections were called “dictators” and their efforts called a “coup.” We have Republican members of Congress supporting efforts to overthrow the will of the voters with no evidence of election fraud. At the same time, their constituents starve and die due to their lack of action on anyone’s behalf but their own. Are we interested in retaining a president whose only interest is keeping a Washington, D.C., address? With luck and courage, our court system will hold the line against these traitors and let history record their perfidy.

CHRISTINE DIAZ: EVICTION AND UTILITY CUTOFF MORATORIUMS MUST BE EXTENDED: COVID-19 has taken a large financial toll on North Carolinians with an estimated 300,000 to 410,000 households unable to pay rent. While the CDC residential eviction moratorium has temporarily prevented approximately 240,000 N.C. families from eviction, this protection will expire on Dec. 31. The federal unemployment subsidy will also end. Almost 1 million N.C. households are past due in paying water, electric, and gas bills, and with the state moratorium on utility payments expired, families must now bear the burden of paying all outstanding fees or face shutoff of these essential services. Congress must ensure that a national moratorium on all utility services, as well as a moratorium on evictions and an extension of the federal unemployment subsidy, are priorities in the next relief package.

LING OY: REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS WILL BE SAFER AND HAPPIER WITH BIDEN AS PRESIDENT: I came to the U.S. 13 years ago as a refugee from Myanmar. Like many refugees, I knew that the greatest thing about America is that it keeps getting better. My family bought a house. I was the first in my family to graduate college. My brother serves as a U.S. Marine. We are an American family. That optimism has been tested over the past few years, as the door to the land of opportunity closed rapidly. Donald Trump decreased the number of refugees allowed to legally enter the U.S. He denigrated and belittled us. But the great thing about America is that it always finds a way to return to its better self. Joe Biden’s election shines a light in the darkness. After all, he stood up to the brutal military regime in Burma. No matter where you’re from, he’ll defend the values we stand for as Americans. This election decided many things, including whether or not Americans would continue to welcome immigrants and refugees with compassion. This is the United States my family loved, even before we set foot here. It must remain this way for others.



I have a conservative streak...

But it's not what you think. It's not a "drown government in a bathtub" Groverism, or a bible-thumping Christo-fascist lean that so worried Barry Goldwater. My streak is rooted in the word "Conserve," and might be better described as "Don't try to reinvent the fucking wheel."

I don't believe in change for the sake of change; if you don't get the exact outcome you were hoping for, you scrap the whole thing and start over from scratch. I've seen it in business way too many times, where some dude with an MBA wants to make a name for himself, so he wipes away every procedure and institutes some new formula rich in terminology but lacking in substance. But a workforce is organic (human), and can adapt to minor changes here and there, but not so much when those changes are across the board and every step they take.

Government institutions are the same. Under the right conditions, a bureaucracy will evolve, becoming more efficient and not less. But under the wrong conditions, where funding is added and removed in a capricious manner by lawmakers who have little or no respect for the proper functioning of government, that machine begins to falter. But the general public doesn't place the blame where they should, they blame the machine and not the drunk mechanic.

Here's a prediction: That drunk mechanic is about to completely undermine the Division of Motor Vehicles. In forcing the headquarters out of Raleigh an hour's drive away, the DMV is about to lose 25% of its experienced staff. That equates to an institutional memory loss of staggering proportions. New people must be trained to take up those positions, but the very people who need to be their trainers will not be there to pass their experiences along. It's an unnecessary crisis, brought about by the false economy of "lowest bid" mentality. That is not conservatism, it's reckless disregard.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's not functioning at the level you would like to see, find the part(s) that are inhibiting efficiency, and remove or replace them with something better. Because if you scrap the machine and all the technical drawings that describe its operations, and set out to build a new machine from scratch, you will fail miserably and nothing will get done.

This is why I've always preferred the label "progressive"...

for myself. It too, is an ideological stance that says you build on what you have and make it better. It has never been a stance that advocates for the wholesale scrapping of institutions or norms that work, but rather one that encourages the very definition of progress: a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage. It is the ideology of science, of innovation, of improvement. True progressivism needs true conservatism to keep it from running away with itself, from forgetting the goals and becoming about the process of change itself without retaining what is good. But we have lost that half of the equation, where now there is only the internal balance of one party between its more progressive and more conservative wings, which does not serve the same function as well. Hopefully, these upheavals in the GOP will result in a re-emergence of a true conservative party, where we can finally get back to the balance that produces the good of the nation.

Yah, it's more than a little ironic

that many who fashion themselves as progressives don't really grasp the fundamentals. It has become an "anti-whatever" movement, that disregards much of the progress that has already been achieved. So they actually allow (or ignore) regression when it happens, because they have little or no respect for where we were before that regression. Very frustrating.

As you may have figured out,

this is also what drives my skepticism of (some) in the progressive ranks who would completely dismantle the Democratic Party structure and replace it with something they think will be much better. Or just start a whole new party that will milk the ranks of the NCDP leaving only the "chaff" behind. Or whatever.

The first thing is impossible, and the second thing would be pointless, since you're also telling me that 90% of the Party is chaff. Which is of course not true, but it (apparently) feels good to say it.

Fix the things that need to be fixed, and use that machine to forward your goals.