Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


WHERE DO YOU STAND? GET CANDIDATES ON THE RECORD ON SUPPORT FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Every legislative candidate must be on the record as to whether they will support and will work for full implementation of the Comprehensive Remedial Plan – a multi-year program worked out and agreed to by the plaintiffs and defendants in the landmark Leandro case. This plan – that a judge has ordered implemented – will provide a solid foundation to make sure the state does what it promises. The non-partisan Public School Forum of North Carolina is working to help voters and candidates know where those seeking office stand on the most crucial public education issues. Every legislative candidate has been offered the opportunity to respond – and every one should. Regardless of the answers, it will be a crucial resource to help voters – and candidates. Voters will be more fully informed when they vote and candidates will clearly let voters know where they stand. The Forum expects to start posting answers to its six key education questions later this week with early in-person voting starting Thursday, April 28 and concluding on Tuesday, May 17 – primary election day.

WOMEN'S REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM IS ON THE BALLOT IN NC: A lot of Republican women voters, I’m guessing, have long voted primarily to secure economic inequality — continuing to deliver rich folks’ government; legislatures of, by and for the wealthiest among us. They didn’t worry much about their own reproductive freedoms, or those of their daughters, because they assumed the Supreme Court and/or Democrats would take care of that. Or, even more cynically, they could always rest assured that abortion would be guaranteed by a plane ticket to a less hypocritical state. Sure, that leaves poor women in the cruelest cold; but the central, most enduring tenet of Republicanism is that poor people don’t count. The dispatching of Roe will disturb these near-settled expectations in unpredictable ways. One possibility is that more Republican women will decide all women should have the liberties they themselves take for granted. Not likely, perhaps, but possible. And maybe more realistically, as Roe approaches 50, it’s clear many millions of us, women and men, politically engaged and chronically disaffected, have come to believe that essential reproductive freedoms will always be ours. I don’t know if most readers of this paper are actually familiar with the folks who represent them in the N.C. General Assembly. Given my odd career, I’ve come to know a lot of them. I can say, with unyielding certainty, that there are not many human rosters I would so profoundly distrust to make important decisions about my life, or the lives of my loved ones. Like Twain put it, these budding authoritarians are convinced that “nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.” Vote like your freedom depends on it. You guessed it. Gene hits the nail on the head (once again). Many voters (regardless of affiliation) simply don't believe the authoritarian threat to democracy is real. What's even worse, they don't believe that Republican candidates will actually do the things they promise they will do in their fear-mongering speeches and campaign mailers. "They're just saying that to get elected, they would never do that." Really? Even if that were the case, why vote for a liar?

YES, I'M "WOKE." WE CAN'T RID OURSELVES OF RACISM IF WE AREN'T: I rise today to advocate for the state of being awake. That is, I’m happy to be thought of as “woke,” especially considering the presumed opposite state: “asleep.” It’s a cliche of news writing to say “Mr. Webster defines” some word as this or that. But I’m talking specifically about one word, and so will put forward the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2017 rationale for including a different definition of “woke” in 2017: “ the mid-20th century, ‘woke’ had been extended figuratively to refer to being ‘aware’ or ‘well informed’ in a political or cultural sense,” the OED opined. “In the past decade, that meaning has been catapulted into mainstream use with a particular nuance of ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.’” As an older white man, I remember seeing separate drinking fountains for Black and white people at the Sears in the former Cameron Village, a wooden barrier for the same purpose at the Seaboard Station, both shadowed by the purposefully slow integration of classrooms during the 12 years I spent in Raleigh public schools. Through the years, I’ve learned more bitter facts about the treatment of people of color that trace back, of course, to the years when white people were allowed by law to own Black people. And how do I know this shameful history? There is an ideal world in which every American, from kids to increasing numbers of centenarians, is treated equally in schools, hiring, employment, real estate, wealth and salary equity, day-to-day interactions, and general social mobility. But that’s not a reality for all of us — as decades of reporting and daily observation show. And out of all that we worry about someone’s “discomfort” upon hearing this story laid out? There’s no way to rid our country, our state and our towns of the awful burden of racism without being woke — studying the tracks it has left and continues to lay on us. Just like "Social Justice Warrior" and "Black Lives Matter," the term "Woke" has been twisted into an insult by right-wing ideologues. They did it because of fear; not the fear they try to impart to the masses (fear of radicals), it's fear of losing the power their white skin has granted them for centuries. There is nothing shameful about any of those designations, and we need to stop running from them.

HOW TUCKER CARLSON STOKED WHITE FEAR TO CONQUER CABLE: Alchemizing media power into political influence, Carlson stands in a nativist American tradition that runs from Father Coughlin to Patrick J. Buchanan. Now Carlson’s on-air technique — gleefully courting blowback, then fashioning himself as his aggrieved viewers’ partner in victimhood — has helped position him, as much as anyone, to inherit the populist movement that grew up around Trump. At a moment when white backlash is the jet fuel of a Republican Party striving to return to power in Washington, he has become the preeminent champion of Americans who feel most threatened by the rising power of Black and brown citizens. To channel their fear into ratings, Carlson has adopted the rhetorical tropes and exotic fixations of white nationalists, who have watched gleefully from the fringes of public life as he popularizes their ideas. Carlson sometimes refers to “legacy Americans,” a dog-whistle term that, before he began using it on his show in the fall, appeared almost exclusively in white nationalist outlets like The Daily Stormer, The New York Times found. He takes up storylines otherwise relegated to far-right or nativist websites like VDare: “Tucker Carlson Tonight” has featured a string of segments about the gruesome murders of white farmers in South Africa, which Carlson suggested were part of a concerted campaign by that country’s Black-led government. Last April, Carlson set off yet another uproar, borrowing from a racist conspiracy theory known as “the great replacement” to argue that Democrats were deliberately importing “more obedient voters from the Third World” to “replace” the current electorate and keep themselves in power. But a Times analysis of 1,150 episodes of his show found that it was far from the first time Carlson had done so. There is almost no traditional news at all on Fox Nation, but lots of Carlson — a thrice-weekly talk show called “Tucker Carlson Today” and goading documentaries like “Patriot Purge,” which presented the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as a false-flag operation by shadowy actors determined to persecute innocent Americans; two longtime Fox contributors quit in protest. And as long as top-ranking Republicans like Mitch McConnell lend their tacit approval to this nonsense, it will continue to get worse.

REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME FOR MADISON CAWTHORN: It was quite a month for young Madison Cawthorn. The 26-year-old Republican congressman from North Carolina was caught bringing a loaded gun through airport security, his second such incident. Police released footage of him getting pulled over for driving with expired tags and being told to surrender his revoked license. The Washington Examiner reported allegations against him of insider trading. Politico published photos of him partying while wearing women’s lingerie. And a former congressional aide filed a workplace complaint against him. Most public figures would call a stretch like that good reason to resign. Cawthorn might just call it “April.” Earlier this year, Cawthorn called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and his government “incredibly evil.” He alleged that his congressional colleagues engage in coke-fueled orgies. He committed the latest of many driving offenses (three court dates are pending). Earlier, four women accused him of sexual misconduct, in a BuzzFeed article; Cawthorn denied the allegations. Ousting Cawthorn in his May primary won’t cure this Republican illness; the North Carolina congressman is just a symptom. More than 50 QAnon believers have run for Congress as Republicans in 2022, the liberal watchdog Media Matters reports. Several who participated in the events of Jan. 6, 2021, have run for Congress. If Republicans succeed in taking the House in November, the new majority could make the current Congress — with Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Lauren Boebert and the rest — look like Periclean Athens. Cawthorn and the many rising oddballs and extremists are the inevitable result of Republican leaders’ choices: drawing increasingly uncompetitive districts, blessing unlimited dark money, exercising timid leadership, embracing disinformation, flirting with white nationalism, stoking conspiracies and undermining elections. Yep, they own Madison's behavior, no matter how hard they try to dodge it.


SUSAN MARUYAMA: BRING BACK THE CACS: Fifty years ago when Raleigh’s first and only Black mayor, Clarence Lightner, created Citizen Advisory Councils he did so for a simple, powerful reason: to give all Raleigh residents a voice in city affairs. Until then, Raleigh’s growth had been decided by powerful brokers in backroom meetings, keeping citizens without money or influence in the dark, leaving them to bear the brunt of growth decisions. Lightner’s vision of a better balance of democracy and capitalism endured in the form of city-supported CACs until the current City Council, without notice or public input, abolished support for them on Feb. 4, 2020. It has been two years. Will the mayor and City Council that sacked CACs bring back authentic voices of community leaders elected by their own neighbors? To restore Lightner’s vision, Raleigh voters must turn out to vote in record numbers to elect candidates who have the courage to revive Lightner’s essential balance by inviting residents’ voices into city affairs and controlling the powerful forces of capitalism. After my diatribe last week, you may think I disdain feedback from citizens. I do not. Such feedback is an asset that should be tapped, a voice that should be heard. They shouldn't always get what they want, but developers shouldn't either.

NANCY SWISHER: HEARTBREAK OVER UKRAINE: I am enraged, sickened and profoundly saddened by Putin’s murder of thousands of innocents in Ukraine. The world stands by and observes and mutters about “sanctions” and depriving oligarchs of money and being unable to help a non-NATO nation. Of course, there is no easy answer; Putin has his evil finger on the nuclear button. For the Ukrainians, Armageddon has arrived. For the rest of the world the genocide in Ukraine is lamentable, a major inconvenience, but thank God it is "not in my back yard." It is frustrating and heartbreaking. But we also need to keep in mind that wars were raging before Putin invaded Ukraine. In the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia. Tens of thousands slaughtered, millions displaced. It's when we forget those people that tyrants like Putin feel encouraged.

GINNA INGRAM: STOP BLAMING BIDEN FOR COVID: Alyssa Rosenberg’s April 22 Friday Opinion column, “Biden’s team should stop treating parents like idiots,” exemplified the self-centered anger poisoning coronavirus discourse today. Earth to Ms. Rosenberg: You are not being picked on by the Biden administration. You are not being “insulted” by anyone. You are not alone in having faced wrenching decisions during the pandemic. If you are outraged, be outraged by the coronavirus. It has strained all of us, including public health experts. Be outraged by those who trumpet false facts to everyone, including parents. They force public health experts to make decisions for the greatest number of people while trying to counteract a torrent of misinformation. Many people demand public health decisions that speak to their individual biases and proclivities, while too few make individual decisions focused on protecting others. Consider the angry, self-centered whining about wearing a mask without regard for how wearing a mask might keep others safe. What is a public health expert to do? Rely on science and experience and seek to protect the greatest number of people, knowing that what is decided will make someone unhappy. It’s not personal. What she said. I'm tired of the self-righteous indignation, and the childish behavior. Grow the f**k up.



Primary concerns...

There are some fierce battles going on right now between Democrats (and Republicans), as candidates vie to be placed on the November ballot. While it is an integral part of the process, it's also (very) easy to devolve into subjective (ad hominem) attacks and reductive reasoning.

What is reductive reasoning? At its core, it reduces issues and people to an often incorrect yet "comfortable" classification. As voters, we (maybe inadvertently) reward those candidates who rake in the largest pile of campaign donations; while we also, en masse, rail against the negative effects of money in politics. There are some exceptions to this; occasionally a low-dollar candidate will win a race. But it doesn't happen often enough to alter the Rule. And when it does, there is usually something heinous that has been discovered about the leading candidate.

It's that last part that concerns me.

Too often those who support long-shot candidates in Primaries are hungrily searching for said heinous behavior or associations with which to tar the leading candidates, and sometimes this serves democracy well. It helps us avoid losses in the General Election, or (maybe worse) a reckoning down the road for those who win elections, and subsequently soil the reputation of the party when their true nature comes to light.

But luckily those cases are rare. They may not seem rare when high-profile Democrats come crashing down, but again, those are exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself.

So...we fight vigorously for our preferred candidate, but we must be prepared to fight just as vigorously for their opponent, once the Primary is over. That is often a hard transition (I've had to make it numerous times), and it's even harder if the ad hominem attacks pushed the right buttons and got on the right nerves. The temptation to disengage, wash our hands of the entire bloody affair, is front and center. Why should we encourage mediocrity, support somebody who (apparently) doesn't share our vision for the future?

Because our very democracy is at stake. If you don't already know this, you've been living under a rock. Fascism, sexism, racism, bigotry. All of these things that were previously too shameful to rise above the radar, are rising up shamelessly now. We don't have the luxury of Progressive purity tests anymore, if we ever did.

And it's not enough that you cast your own vote in any particular way, while remaining mute. They say that democracy requires sacrifice, and they are correct. You have to swallow your pride sometimes, and avoid using phrases like "lesser of two evils." It's reductive and subjective, even if it makes you feel superior.

I'm sure this will piss off many readers. That's fine, take it out on me if you need to, I'm not running for office this time. But (please) be prepared to transition after May 17th. Democracy needs you.