Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


A QUALIFIED, WELL-PREPARED TEACHER IN EVERY CLASSROOM: We must increase educator compensation and create incentives to enable low-wealth districts to attract and retain qualified and well-prepared teachers. As a means toward lifting North Carolina’s teachers to at a minimum the national average, let’s raise pay for teachers and instructional support staff by at least 5% this year. We must also reinstate retiree health benefits for teachers and all state employees — new employees hired after January 1, 2021 won’t retire with state-subsidized health care; and we must work to regain that important benefit. We must also work harder to significantly increase the racial and ethnic diversity of North Carolina’s qualified and well-prepared teacher workforce. We must provide high-quality mentoring and induction support for beginning teachers for their first three years to increase both their effectiveness and their retention.

NC GOP LEADER DELIVERS ANOTHER ELECTION FRAUD FANTASY TO A NATIONAL AUDIENCE: Whatley was invited to CPAC to explain why North Carolina did not experience the voter fraud that Trump falsely claims cost him the election elsewhere. The answer is simple: Trump claimed no fraud because he won in North Carolina. But Whatley said his state delivered a fair result because the GOP’s relentless legal vigilance kept cheaters from finding votes for Democrats. It’s as baffling as it is disappointing that Republican conservatives are doubling down on the idea of pervasive election fraud. The 2020 election was intently scrutinized – and Trump’s lawyers did file “lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit” – but they failed to show any fraud. The danger of persisting in this illusion should be clear enough after Trump supporters stormed the U.S Capitol to “stop the steal.” That didn’t give pause to Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union who moderated the discussion. He said at the start, “There was widespread voter fraud in way too many states, most especially in big cities run by the Democrat machine. That is a fact.” No, that is a lie, a lie that weakens democracy by undermining confidence in elections. Republicans need to repeat it because it lays the foundation for another serious wave of voter suppression laws. Republicans have been busy proposing 253 bills in 43 states that would restrict voting access in upcoming elections.

SAFE CLASSROOMS SHOULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN EMBARRASSING THE GOVERNOR: What has North Carolina learned over the last month -- when first Senate Bill 37: “In-Person Learning Choice for Families” was filed in the state legislature and then on Monday when Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the bill was sustained? That the true motivation of the legislation was primarily about, once again, legislative leadership’s efforts to embarrass and defeat the governor. Getting the state’s school children and teachers safely back into classrooms was merely coincidental. That’s become even more obvious with indications from legislative leaders that today there may be an attempt, through a parliamentary maneuver, to resurrect the matter and make another go to override the veto. So, all of this demonstrates that these legislative leaders who had a chance at a major legislative win – and bring the governor into their camp – instead will go into the ashes of their defeat to ignite more flames of wrongly placed anger and derision. Rather than reaching out, legislative leaders attacked Cooper and sought to make it a partisan matter. Insults were repeatedly hurled toward the state’s teachers’ organization that echoed rhetoric from former President Donald Trump.

REPUBLICANS AREN'T FIGHTING DEMOCRATS. THEY'RE FIGHTING DEMOCRACY: Trump’s overt racism turned the GOP into, essentially, a white-nationalist party, in which racial animus is the main motivator of Republican votes. But in an increasingly multicultural America, such people don’t form a majority. The only route to power for a white-nationalist party, then, is to become anti-democratic: to keep non-White people from voting and to discredit elections themselves. In short, democracy is working against Republicans — and so Republicans are working against democracy. You don’t have to study demography to see that race is at the core of the GOP’s tilt toward the authoritarian. You need only look at what happened this week. On Monday, the Georgia state House passed a bill brazenly attempting to deter Black voters. The bill proposed to scale back Sunday voting — taking direct aim at the longtime “Souls to the Polls” tradition in which Black voters cast their ballots after church on Sundays. The bill also would increase voter I.D. requirements — known to disenfranchise Black voters disproportionately — and even would make it illegal to serve food or drinks to voters waiting in long lines outside polling places; lines are typically longer at minority precincts. The foundation of a white-nationalist GOP has been building for half a century, since Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy, through Ronald Reagan’s welfare queen and George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton. But Trump took fear of non-Whites and immigrants to a whole new level. Researchers have repeatedly documented that racial resentment is the single most important factor motivating Republicans and Republican-leaning voters. They have also shown that White evangelical Christians, a huge part of the GOP base and Trump’s most reliable supporters, are highly motivated by appeals to white supremacy. By contrast, Democratic voters — White and non-White — are primarily driven by their favorable views toward a multiracial America.

BIDEN IS THE ANTI-TRUMP, AND IT'S WORKING: American politics feels quieter with Joe Biden in the White House. The president’s Twitter feed hasn’t gone dark, but it’s gone dull. Biden doesn’t pick needless fights or insert himself into cultural conflicts. It’s easy to go days without hearing anything the president has said, unless you go looking. But the relative quiet is deceptive: Policy is moving at a breakneck pace. The first weeks of the Biden administration were consumed by a flurry of far-reaching executive orders that reopened America to refugees, rejoined the Paris climate accords and killed the Keystone XL oil pipeline, to name just a few. Now the House has passed, and the Senate is considering, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a truly sweeping piece of legislation that includes more than a half-dozen policies — like a child tax credit expansion that could cut child poverty by 50 percent — that would be presidency-defining accomplishments on their own. Trump’s communication strategy was successful in getting Trump what he actually wanted: Attention, not legislation. Biden wants legislation, not attention, and that informs his team’s more targeted approach. “You can be all over every newscast and insert yourself in every conversation, but if you aren’t driving that conversation toward a focused agenda, it isn’t doing you a lot of good,” Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, told me. So far, Biden’s quieter strategy appears to be working. As these charts show, he gets far less media attention than Trump — even after Election Day, the share of news stories with Biden’s name in the headline was less than half of what Trump got — and Google records far less search interest in his administration. But Biden is polling at about 54 percent, around 10 points higher than Trump at this stage of his presidency (or any stage of his presidency). More tellingly, the American Rescue Plan is polling between 10 and 20 points ahead of Biden, making it one of the most popular major pieces of legislation in recent decades. When I talked to Bedingfield, she kept circling back to Biden’s preference for rhetoric and strategies that turn down “the temperature” on American politics. But Biden isn’t taking the usual Washington strategy toward that goal, which is to retreat to modest bills and quarter-measures. Instead, his theory seems to be that if you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy.


CATHY SAULS: A SALUTE TO ALL THE SOCIAL WORKERS IN NC: March is National Social Work Month and I am extending a high-five to fellow social workers. As I reflect over this past year, it has been taxing for this and many other professions. But social workers have specifically been inundated with the escalation of mental health crises, domestic violence, unplanned pregnancies, substance abuse, child abuse, students failing school due to at-home learning, financial concerns, homelessness, elder abuse, and the unfortunate health issues and deaths related to the pandemic. I salute all of you. You’re my heroes!

GARY PARKER: REPUBLICANS FEAR THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE JAN 6 INSURRECTION: The Jan. 6 Capitol riot was inspired by Donald Trump and was an attack on our national government and our democracy. Republicans fear investigating the Capitol riot. It’s likely to reveal that Trump was indifferent to the consequences of the events of that day, if not complicit in ensuring that violence occurred. They also fear that the Trump supporters who committed the crime are representative of the “Republican base.” That base of voters might not storm the Capitol steps, but they probably sympathized with it because they, too, believe the lie that the election was stolen. The priority is investigating the attempted overthrow of our government, not loss of reelection hopes. Let’s get our priorities straight.

RANDY STURGILL: BIDEN'S PAUSING OF OFFSHORE DRILLING LEASES IS A RELIEF: On his first day in office President Biden paused new leases for offshore oil and gas drilling. It was a critical step toward permanently protecting our coasts. He showed that he’s listening to those in North Carolina who’ve loudly and publicly opposed drilling off our shores for years. Our climate is in crisis, with sea levels rising and devastation from extreme weather accelerating. It’s estimated that permanently ending new offshore drilling could prevent 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions and more than $720 billion in damage to people, property, and the environment. We cannot afford more drilling.

SUSAN WHITLEDGE: HELP THE ECONOMY BY HELPING THE POOR: After decades of trying to prove that “trickle down economics” works, perhaps it’s time to try “trickle up economics.” If poor and low-income people receive additional income, whether by raising the minimum wage, higher unemployment payments, or a straightforward check from the government, they aren’t likely to use it for a trip to Cancun or even an expensive new car. The extra funds will churn throughout the economy, most likely the local economy. They can spend more at the local grocery, fill needed prescriptions, and perhaps even eat out occasionally. Local business will have more income and perhaps hire back some workers they laid off during the pandemic. Landlords will do better when tenants can pay their rent. I don’t understand how Republican leaders can constantly stand up against the poor with a straight face. We all do better when we all do better.



Bloody Sunday remembered

Many reading this are likely familiar with what happened when voting rights activists tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma on their way to Montgomery. State police used brutal tactics to disrupt the march, but it's the events that precipitated that march that many overlook.

The year after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended legal segregation, whites in the South were still barring African-Americans from not only voting sites, but also the only places where they could even register to vote. The Constitution guaranteed them that right, but their geographic location in a White Supremacist stronghold made that right nothing more than a cruel joke.

So they protested. In public right-of-ways (owned by elected governments supposedly to ensure access by all citizens), and in the early evening, because of course their white bosses would not allow them time off during the day to advocate for rights that should have been easily accessed.

One night, a group was chased off by law enforcement, and sought refuge wherever they could, in a church or an open cafe. When police followed them inside and started beating his mother, Jimmie Lee Jackson tried to protect her, and he was shot in the stomach. When he fled outside, the police followed him and beat him until he couldn't move. He died from those wounds a week later.

Jimmie was an Army veteran, and he was also the youngest deacon in his church. He was a farmer who inherited the family farm when he was 18. He was not a criminal, he was not a "thug" as today's conservatives would gladly try to label him.

But none of that matters to White Supremacists.

I take that back, it actually does matter to many of them. Just like Wyatt Outlaw almost a century before him, Jimmie Lee Jackson was a productive and influential member of society. He strived, and thrived, and worked hard to make society better.

And to White Supremacists, that is much more frightening than anything else.