Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
Trump Still Says He Won. What Happens Next?
The New York Times
The Republican effort to derail Congress’s electoral vote count on Wednesday will fail, and President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in at noon on Jan. 20, as the Constitution commands. What will persist, however, is an existential crisis: a political party that is no longer committed to representative democracy.
On the one hand, there are the Republican officials, such as Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, who have stood up against President Trump’s efforts to keep this reality at bay.
Two months after a majority of voters rendered a decisive verdict against him, the president is still pretending he didn’t lose. At first it was baseless tweets about fraudulent ballots in Detroit and Philadelphia. Next it was demands that Republican-led state legislatures disregard the will of their voters and flip their electors from Mr. Biden to Mr. Trump. Then, on Saturday, the president spent an hour attempting to extort Mr. Raffensperger, whom he threatened with criminal prosecution unless the Georgia official helped “find” 11,780 votes for Mr. Trump — one more than the margin by which he lost the state to Mr. Biden.
Mr. Trump went on and on about dead people voting and burned or shredded ballots. He unleashed a stream of specific-sounding numbers — 4,502 unregistered voters! 18,325 vacant address voters! — which Mr. Raffensperger, who certified Georgia’s vote total in November, after a hand recount of nearly five million ballots, calmly parried. “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong,” he said.
Thanks to Mr. Raffensperger and his team’s decision to record the call, there is no contesting what Mr. Trump was seeking: the disenfranchisement of millions of American voters. “The Trump campaign had ample opportunity to challenge election results, and those efforts failed from lack of evidence,” Paul Ryan, a former Republican House speaker, said Sunday in a statement. “The legal process was exhausted, and the results were decisively confirmed.”
For the record, falsifying vote totals, or soliciting someone else to do so, is a crime under both federal and state law. It is without question an impeachable offense. Even though he has only two weeks left in office and the country’s focus should be on stopping the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a strong argument that Mr. Trump — perhaps the most lawless and least qualified chief executive in the nation’s history — should be not only impeached for a second time but also convicted and disqualified from ever again holding public office.
The most chilling part of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Raffensperger was the president’s threat of prosecution if Mr. Raffensperger didn’t fall in line. “You know what they did, and you’re not reporting it,” Mr. Trump warned him, in reference to people who had supposedly destroyed ballots. “That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.” (Ryan Germany, Mr. Raffensperger’s general counsel, was also on the call.)
Why does all this sound so familiar? Mr. Trump was impeached a little more than a year ago for doing essentially the same thing, only that time the call was to a foreign leader rather than a state official, the demand was to manufacture dirt on his political opponent and the threat was the withholding of hundreds of millions of dollars in badly needed military aid. But the ultimate goal of both calls was the same: the use of corrupt means to hold on to power.
The first time, Republicans in Congress were more than happy to let him get away with it — all Senate Republicans but one voted to acquit Mr. Trump of the two articles of impeachment approved by the House of Representatives. Susan Collins of Maine defended her not-guilty vote by claiming that the president had learned “a pretty big lesson.” She pointed out that his extortion effort had earned him rebukes from both Democrats and Republicans. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future,” she said.
Ms. Collins was right about the first part: Mr. Trump did learn a pretty big lesson. He learned that he can break the law and undermine democracy with impunity. He learned that he can do the political equivalent of shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, and he won’t lose the support of Republicans. So, naturally, he pulled the trigger again.
This time, many Republicans have again swarmed to the president’s defense. As of Monday night, more than 140 House members and at least 13 senators were expected to object to electoral vote results on Wednesday, when Congress officially counts the ballots. That is, more than 150 Republican lawmakers have signed on to reject the votes of tens of millions of Americans.
On what grounds are they taking this stupefying step? Overwhelming evidence of voting fraud and irregularities, they claim. When called to present such evidence in a court of law, however, they’ve got nothing. In dozens of lawsuits filed over the past two months, Mr. Trump’s lawyers and allies have been unable to document more than a few isolated cases of fraud in any state, much less the hundreds of thousands of cases in multiple states that would be necessary to change the outcome. That’s no surprise in an election that was praised by election officials as “the most secure in American history.”
There are lawmakers who understand the grave danger in what their colleagues are doing. Several Republican senators — including Ms. Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Mitt Romney of Utah — have urged Congress to “move forward” and certify Mr. Biden’s victory. In choosing any other path, warned Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, “Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress.” The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has also urged his colleagues not to object.
In a sense, this is all political theater. Every state long ago certified its vote totals without contest. On Monday, Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia election official, publicly and painstakingly debunked every one of Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud. “This is all easily, provably false,” he said. The objectors know this; many won their own seats on the same ballots that they are attempting to invalidate. What they are really objecting to is the fact that Mr. Trump lost.
But there are many Americans who believe their claims who are not in on this disingenuous, cynical game — and who believe that their votes for Mr. Trump are the ones being invalidated. That mistrust will have consequences that extend far beyond Wednesday’s certification, including the creation of a generational myth of a stolen election, the discrediting of Mr. Biden’s presidency from the outset and the passage of stricter voting laws that target Democratic-leaning voters, under the guise of electoral integrity.
That’s a big problem, because a republic works only when the losers accept the results, and the legitimacy of their opponents. All the more reason to commend Republican officials like Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Sterling — and the handful of Republican Congress members who have spoken out, however wanly, about Mr. Trump’s scheme — for resisting the immense corruption and pressure from their leaders.
If only that weren’t extraordinary in the Republican Party today.
The attack on America: Jan. 6 marks one of this country’s darkest days
The New York Daily News
A mob riled up by a demagogue storming the seat of government and forcing elected leaders inside to flee is the stuff of the Third World. It is how Mussolini and Hitler got started. It was not part of the American story. Until Donald Trump. Until Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, when thousands of Trump thugs took over the U.S. Capitol as Congress was counting the votes of Joe Biden’s victory.
Teach this day of infamy to our children. Teach it so they never forget the depths to which a great democracy can sink when deluded and divided and led by a narcissistic agent of chaos. Teach it so they feel the deep embarrassment, so that they never let it happen again.
It was Trump who delivered us to this day. He invited the crowds, incited them, fed them a steady diet of lies and seething grievance about how their nation was being robbed in an elaborate plot ripped from a fever dream. Then, when the mobs claimed the Capitol, he went silent, letting them run roughshod over the seat of government.
Finally speaking for a minute on Twitter hours after the breach, he repeated vicious falsehoods about a rigged and stolen election, then finally told his lemmings “to go home now.”
The president is and always was the insurrectionist in chief.
Shame on him, and shame on his lawbreaking followers — the very same people who claimed to revere law and order and loathe anarchy have looted the U.S. Capitol, broken down doors and shattered the glass.
They call themselves patriots, then they spit on the American character. They say Make America Great Again, then project an image to the world that this great representative republic has fallen into shambles, incapable of a peaceful transfer of power. Trump and these followers, who once took umbrage at being labeled deplorable, are would-be destroyers of democracy.
Ownership for this deepest disgrace is shared by the House and Senate Republicans who objected to the lawful counting of Biden’s electoral college votes; they deliberately encouraged the fantasy of a stolen vote in states that Trump lost. They knew exactly what they were doing.
The beast they created doesn’t respond to reason. Even as those lawmakers were debating their nonsensical objection to Arizona’s vote, they were forced to evacuate just like their upright GOP and Democratic colleagues when the mob took over the building, breaching the House and Senate chambers.
Trump lost on Nov. 3. His supporters lost. And now the nation is a risk of being lost. This most noble experiment in self-government of free people, begun by a ragged band of farmers and merchants in 1776, must not end with mobs and police and VIPs hustled away to undisclosed secure locations.
To explain how they came up short in state after state after state, the votes counted and recounted and challenges considered and dismissed, Trumpites needed to concoct a grand conspiracy. And so, digging deeper and deeper into the bowels of the internet, they did. The Deep State became the Deep Nation, with sworn enemies in every corner manufacturing votes. Facts connivingly twisted to tell a story. As usual, Democrats were the villains. As usual, Trump was the hero.
The practiced huckster in the White House knows how this works: Bring out bucket after bucket after bucket of lies, pouring them all out, one after the other. The debunkers and factcheckers will be bamboozled, the furious few will have their false preconceptions confirmed. The lies won’t matter, because the parallel reality, the dangerous delusion, will be more powerful.
A thousand times no. Joe Biden is president-elect of these United States, duly elected by the people of the 50 states, to be sworn in on Jan. 20. He will lead with decency and dignity.
As for Trump, he should be impeached and removed from office immediately. He should be ousted via the 25th Amendment. But with just days left in his term, neither of those things will come to pass. He must leave the White House on Jan. 20 standing on his own two feet. If he won’t, drag him squealing.
School Zone Camera Proposal Needs More Work
Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, and Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, are being asked by Jamestown to shepherd a bill through the state Legislature allowing the city to install speed cameras in school zones.
Borrello and Goodell should not introduce the bill as proposed by Mayor Eddie Sundquist and approved by the Jamestown City Council.
The cameras would be activated if someone drives 30 miles an hour in a 20 mile an hour zone, with drivers receiving a $50 ticket. The city would receive $32 from every fine. Signs are required to be installed notifying drivers the cameras are being used.
First, it doesn’t appear Jamestown has done the necessary work to merit speed cameras in all school zones. The city justifies the cameras with statistics of incidents in school zones. But those statistics are not limited to school hours, which makes us wonder how bad the problem of school zone speeding really is.
Second, it makes little sense to allow drivers to drive up to 30 miles an hour in a school zone that had been limited to 20 miles an hour. All the bill actually does is eliminate the 20 mile an hour school zone, which makes one question the effectiveness of the existing 20 mile an hour school zones in the first place.
Those first two problems, coupled with the Sundquist administration’s plan to increase parking fees and fines, a plan to increase city revenues with school zone safety an ancillary consideration. Borrello and Goodell should craft legislation that deals with those two issues.
There is a third issue that has arisen from Buffalo and its experience with Sensys Gatso, the company Jamestown proposes to hire. In early December, Sensys Gatso had a clerical issue that resulted in 20,000 citations to be mailed too late, making them invalid and leading to refunds to drivers. Some Buffalo residents have complained about receiving tickets several weeks after a citation was written, which violates the enabling legislation passed by the state Legislature. There have also been complaints about tickets being issued when school isn’t in session and drivers receiving multiple tickets for the same infraction.
Borrello and Goodell have been handed a bad bill by Sundquist and the City Council. While we think the region’s state legislators can write something better, shouldn’t that work be done locally with an eye toward making trips to school safe for parents and children as well as common sense?
Community’s actions are key to keeping in-person school
The Auburn Citizen
As hard as local educators and public health officials worked last summer to come up with plans that would allow students to return to classrooms in the 2020-21 school year, there was still plenty of apprehension about how it would go.
Would the health and safety protocols be followed by students and staff? And even if they were, would they be able to keep COVID-19 from spreading within school buildings?
The answer turned out to be yes. Students and staff, perhaps motivated by their desire to continue in-person learning as long as possible, followed the guidance. Evidence collected through contact tracing has shown that spread within school buildings was minimal.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been enough to keep several local school buildings and in some cases, entire school districts, from needing to temporarily shut down facilities and shift to all-remote learning models.
The culprit wasn’t anything that happened behind the doors of school buildings or buses. It was a wave of community spread that’s been driven largely by unsafe private social gatherings, starting roughly in October when weather began to turn colder. And it was exacerbated by too many local residents ignoring safety measures while holding gatherings at Halloween, Thanksgiving and, data is beginning to show, Christmas.
The resulting public health impact has been all too real. The death toll has climbed considerably in the past two months and hospitalizations have skyrocketed from summer levels. That also affects local health care beyond people suffering with the virus; just look at how Auburn Community Hospital had to postpone elective procedures because of the wave of COVID-19 patients needing care.
Faced with these grave concerns and the need to at least flatten the local COVID-19 curve, public health officials have no choice but to continue scrambling to contact trace and put people in isolation and quarantine. We now have roughly 10% of the county’s population unable to leave their homes because of the viral spread.
And that brings us back to schools. Even if health and safety measures can keep COVID-19 from spreading within school buildings, in-person classes cannot take place if too many staff members or students cannot attend because they are sick with COVID-19 infection caught outside of school, or because they need to quarantine as a result of close contact with someone who has a confirmed case.
Indeed, that is precisely what has happened, as several Cayuga County-area school districts decided to postpone reopening schools after the holiday day break, and county officials now recommending that districts wait even longer.
The key to allowing these schools to get back to in-person learning, and making sure they and all districts can continue through the rest of the academic year, has nothing to do with decisions by superintendents and board of education members. Those decisions will make themselves based on the efforts we all make at stopping the spread.
Keep social circles small and controlled, wear masks, wash hands, stay home when not feeling well, avoid large gatherings. It’s not that difficult, but it’s been proven to be effective when there’s enough of the public willing to do it.
State announces right decision wrong way
Adirondack Daily Enterprise
The news that the state plans to close prisons in Dannemora (the Clinton Annex, not the main Clinton Correctional Facility), Watertown and Gowanda is another shot in the gut to our region economically.
It is absolutely understandable that employees at the facilities are upset. State officials have said staff at the three prison facilities will receive priority placement for transfers to other state prison facilities, but who wants to receive the news that they are either out of a job or uprooting their family at Christmastime? The timing stunk, a fact brought up at a rally outside the Gowanda facility by state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay.
In the grand scheme of things, though, the prison closures are the sort of downsizing that New York state needs to do as its population — both prison and taxpaying — shrinks. There are fewer people in prison now than at any time in recent memory. The state is facing a budgetary shortfall caused by COVID-19’s hit to state revenues and New York’s decades-long profligate spending habits. Saving money by closing prisons makes financial sense.
We can’t argue over and over and over again for the state to make tough decisions on spending and then complain when the cuts come our way.
That said, Borrello does make a good point about the process the state used in closing the three prisons. The 2020-21 state budget gave the governor the authority to close an unspecified number of prisons with 90 days’ notice. In eight months, the state made the decision to close the prison but did little else regarding the Gowanda Correctional Facility. Borrello said he would have liked to see more work in transition planning and facility repurposing.
“It is a poor way of managing what is arguably one of the state’s most critical operations and a terrible way to treat public servants who have devoted themselves to the important work and rehabilitation that takes place inside these walls,” Borrello said.
The state needs to make difficult decisions, but it needs to make them the right way. These three communities will soon find themselves left with big buildings that need new purposes, plus a large number of residents added to the already long list of county residents struggling through pandemic-fueled economic doldrums. Gowanda, with 600 employees, is the biggest of the three facilities being closed.
The state has made the right decision for the state budget, but it did so in a heartless way, both for the employees involved and the communities that have long depended on these prisons for employment.