Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:
Winston Salem-Journal and The Greensboro News & Record on a group of Republican lawmakers from North Carolina who joined the unprecedented challenge to President-elect Joe Biden’s election win:
It’s unfortunate that some of North Carolina’s Republican legislators were playing along with President Trump’s runaway claims of a stolen election by voting against accepting the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. It was a cynical ploy with no chance of success, but it sure did encourage the president’s base.
And it fanned the flames for the deadly insurrection that occurred that day.
Of our 13 district representatives, eight are Republicans and seven of them voted against accepting the certification in at least one of two incidents. In some cases, they did so even after they were chased from their chamber by extremists.
They include Dan Bishop, Ted Budd, Madison Cawthorn, Richard Hudson, David Rouzer, Virginia Foxx and Greg Murphy.
Patrick McHenry of the 10th Congressional District, which includes part of Forsyth County, was the only Republican to refrain.
The majority of the N.C. delegation argued that their objections were justified by public mistrust of the election results. But some of them, like Cawthorn, had been hard at work increasing that mistrust. Cawthorn followed Trump’s lead by calling the election “rigged,” “flawed” and “a fraud.” This, despite ample opportunities for Trump’s claims to be investigated and aired in courts - and despite continued debunking by officials in his own party.
It’s not likely our representatives thought the day’s protests would result in violence. They couldn’t have anticipated that one insurgent would carry a Confederate flag through the Capitol halls, or that several would build a gallows with a noose and chant, “Hang Mike Pence!” They certainly didn’t suspect that an extremist would climb a pole, remove the American flag and replace it with a Trump flag.
And they couldn’t have known that the rioters would beat a police officer, or leave the deaths of five people in their wake.
On the other hand, they’d observed President Trump and his cult-like followers, many of them their own constituents, for years. They knew that Trump had instigated violence in other settings. And they knew that his claims of voter fraud were phony.
A poem comes to mind. Something about a snake.
They simply should have known and acted better.
Some have tried to distract from the Republicans’ obstruction with the cry, “The Democrats did it, too.”
Yes, some one or two Democrats did. And their challenges were quickly slapped down by congressional leadership, including, in 2016, then-Vice President Joe Biden. These were minor blips among noisier issues.
And they weren’t performed against the backdrop of a presidential attempt to overthrow a democratic election.
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri, plans to introduce a bill that would expel lawmakers who attempted to overthrow the U.S. presidential election results.
These representatives should definitely face consequences from their constituents - especially those who are tired of being lied to.
Some Republicans who objected to the certification, like Sen. Ted Cruz, now say that removing the president would be too divisive. They’re pleading for national unity.
They apparently didn’t think that undermining a presidential election and encouraging a rowdy, dangerous mob would be divisive.
But unity is definitely a worthwhile goal.
As we write, the U.S. House is voting to impeach the president again. There are still slim-to-none chances that Trump could resign or his Cabinet might employ the 25th Amendment against him. One way or another, a president who has instigated a violent mob to try to overthrow an election, resulting in death, must be removed before he has the opportunity to do worse.
If they’re truly interested in unity, here’s what Republican legislators, individually, could do today:
Cooperate with efforts to remove Trump from office - and no grousing about it. It’s necessary.
Put out a statement congratulating President-elect Joe Biden on his historic win while strongly repudiating claims of a stolen election.
Pledge to work with Biden as closely as they can for the betterment of the country.
And it wouldn’t hurt to start calling “the Democratic Party” by its proper name.
The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on COVID-19 vaccinations in North Carolina:
The push to develop vaccines for COVID-19 was called Operation Warp Speed, but the delivery of two vaccines approved so far might be called Operation Hurry Up and Wait. The delay is especially pronounced in North Carolina, which late last week ranked 42nd in the nation in the percentage of its available vaccines that has been administered: 21.5 percent.
Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday that the rankings fluctuate daily because many state rates are closely bunched. But she said North Carolina’s performance is improving. “The rate of vaccinations has really picked up,” she said.
Much of the blame for the bumpy start belongs to those who allowed the pandemic to explode - President Trump and his senior officials. While the president can take credit for getting a vaccine rapidly developed, his administration bungled the delivery by handing the vaccines to the states and essentially saying: “Don’t look to us for help.”
But North Carolina has made a similar move by handing much of the responsibility for distribution to county health departments and hospitals. Local health departments have been strained by soaring COVID-19 cases and for some the added demands of distributing the vaccines have been overwhelming.
“In North Carolina, it does seem like county health departments are a big piece of the puzzle,” said Josh Michaud, an epidemiologist and a global health expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). “It has been hard to meet the demand with limited health department resources.”
North Carolina, like other states in the South, has also been stymied by resistance to getting the vaccine. A KFF survey released last week found about a quarter of the public is hesitant and the doubts are even higher among Blacks and rural residents.
The slowness of the rollout also reflects the state’s decision to vaccinate the most vulnerable first. Following CDC guidelines, the state began with frontline health-care workers and long-term health facility residents and staff. Some counties are now moving on to the next group, people 75 and older.
Julie Swann, an N.C. State University professor whose research includes health-care supply chains, said North Carolina’s vaccination plan is one of the best in the Southeast. But she said it has taken a more methodical and targeted path – and thus a slower one. Florida, for instance, took a less focused approach by starting with people 65 and older.
“Reaching a priority population takes more time,” Swann said, “but you’ll save more lives.”
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the rollout isn’t so much a shortage of vaccine – that was expected – it’s a shortage of information. Too many North Carolinians don’t know when their turn will come and where they should go to get the vaccination.
Charles Edwards, who recently retired as a logistics expert at NCDOT and now teaches planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said state officials should not be working so much in the dark about who wants the vaccine and how to find them. He said there are data bases that can be used to better shape the distribution and keep people informed about their access to a vaccination.
Gov. Roy Cooper needs to assume more leadership in the vaccination effort. He and state health officials should develop a clearer map of the need, allow more flexible protocols for distributing the vaccine and find a way to inform every North Carolinian about where they stand in line and when their time will come.
On a positive note, President-elect Joe Biden said Friday his administration will increase states’ vaccine allotments by releasing all available doses, instead of holding half back to ensure the required second doses are available. He has also promised to provide the states with more funding, equipment and help with logistics. Until then and surely beyond, North Carolina officials will need to be more resourceful and flexible in finding ways to expeditiously get the vaccine - and information about it - to all who want it.
The Salisbury Post on the violent siege of the U.S. Capitol:
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 will forever be a stain on American democracy.
During a joint session of Congress that’s almost always a routine step in the country’s peaceful transition of power, Wednesday was everything but. Instead of members of Congress debating the presence of election problems or, as is the case, lack thereof, politicians gripping gas masks were evacuated from their chambers shortly after objections were raised about Arizona’s electoral votes.
Images from the U.S. Capitol showed a portion of a Trump-supporting crowd gathered to protest 2020 presidential election results breaking windows, entering the U.S. Capitol, rummaging through offices and entering the chambers of the U.S. House and Senate. The Associated Press reported Wednesday night that one woman was shot and killed.
Republican lawmakers who protested election results likely envisioned fierce (but democratic) dissent would follow their statements that fraud stole the election from President Donald Trump. Instead, the halls of Congress were the scene of a riot.
It was the lowest point in a deepening rift between people in America with different political views - pushed further apart by widespread conspiracy theories about a legitimate election for the nation’s top office.
Words are more than ink on a page or text on a screen. They can inspire those listening or, for better or worse, serve as a call to action. So, when the president and other elected leaders tell people to take back the country, that the election was stolen and to march on the Capitol there should be no surprise when some of their supporters act.
The trouble is there’s been no widespread evidence of voter fraud that would change the outcome of election results. Judges across the country, including Trump appointees, have tossed out lawsuits about election fraud.
The burden of leadership is being able to tell the truth and speak truth to power when it’s difficult. It means taking angry criticism from people with whom you might have previously agreed. It means examining your own language to see how it affects the actions of your supporters and doing more than condemning mob rule.
Politicians quickly and often point fingers at perpetrators of riots and out-of-hand protests when they disagree with their political views, calling for prosecution. The same is not true when political views align.
The words of the president matter. So, too, do the words of our congressmen.
Rep. Ted Budd, Rowan County’s congressman, moved in the right direction Wednesday, but he only condemned the effect rather than the cause. There was no call for prosecution of those who participated in the riot.
“Mob rule is not representative of our country. That is not how we do things,” Budd said.
Immediately after House members were evacuated, Rep. Richard Hudson, who represented parts of Rowan County until this week, did the same. He only condemned the violence rather than why the violence occurred.
A good example is Republican Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina’s senior senator, who said America’s core principles “were threatened by those seeking to forcibly stop our electoral process and overturn the results of a presidential election with which they disagreed.”
“No evidence of voter fraud has emerged that would warrant overturning the 2020 election,” Burr said. “The president bears responsibility for today’s events by promoting the unfounded conspiracy theories that have led to this point. It is past time to accept the will of American voters and to allow our nation to move forward. “
To be clear, there must be room for debate about election reforms that make the country’s elections more secure, but having a debate about the need to implement voter ID, move up ballot deadlines or implement signature verification laws is light years from fictional rhetoric that results in vandals and rioters storming the Capitol. The former are matters on which reasonable people should be able to disagree, sometimes vehemently, without thinking the other side is evil. The latter has no place in America. Sometimes the line is thin between the two.
In another time, an incident like Wednesday’s would be a moment of unity - when the country and its politicians stand in support of American democracy through their words and actions.
The reality is that years of political polarization, which has roots predating Trump, mean there are few reasons to be optimistic this will become a national turning point.
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