Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:


Feb. 16

The Greensboro Record & News and the Winston-Salem Journal on the North Carolina Republican Party’s decision to censure U.S. Sen. Richard Burr for voting to convict Donald Trump at his second impeachment trial:

In our imagination, we picture Sen. Richard Burr, older and grayer, sitting by a campfire, holding forth to a young audience.

“Back in my day, we had a thing called the Republican Party. It stood for fiscal restraint, due deliberation and adherence to tradition, and local control of small government, allowing people to make decisions about their own lives.

“But then came Trump. And everything changed.”

That fanciful vision is an oversimplification, of course, but perhaps not by a great deal. It’s hard to argue that the party as a whole isn’t motivated today by blind allegiance to former President Trump, now impeached for a second time for his role in trying to overthrow the will of the American people as expressed in a free and fair election. Why else are state parties across the country censuring Republicans who stood and said, “No more”?

The North Carolina Republican Party did so to Burr Monday night via unanimous approval of a censure resolution. It’s a symbolic gesture, for sure — it will have no effect other than to say it was done — but it may one day be seen as another steppingstone along the path to the dissolution of the once mighty and influential party.

If it does dissolve, as some suggest is inevitable, it won’t be because of Burr. He stood, as they say, on the right side of history, following the dictates of conscience and integrity.

We can’t help but join others in praising Burr for his vote. We’ve not always agreed with Burr — though we’ve often praised his support of wise environmental stewardship — but in this matter, his view is right. As his colleague, Republican Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, said, “I voted to convict Trump because he is guilty.”

Cassidy was also censured by his state’s GOP.

In Pennsylvania, as we write, Sen. Pat Toomey also faces the possibility of censure.

“He urged the mob to march on the Capitol for the explicit purpose of preventing Congress and the vice president from formally certifying the results of the presidential election,” Toomey said.

A Pennsylvania GOP official explained to the press on Monday, “We did not send (Toomey) there to vote his conscience. We did not send him there to ‘do the right thing’ or whatever.”

It’s a telling statement, but not in the way the speaker intended.

For Burr, Cassidy, Toomey and their colleagues, the censure will be a badge of honor.

Burr did initially vote against the constitutionality of the impeachment trial, citing the fact that Trump was no longer in office.

But then he accepted the majority vote, as well as the judgment of many legal professionals, that the Constitution allowed putting Trump on trial. That’s not worth holding against him.

Nor should he be punished for his vote to hold Trump accountable — that’s part of his job.

What’s really happening is that Republican officials are scrambling to retain the voters Trump brought to the party — the voters they might have dismissed as readily as the fringe John Birch Society followers in the 1970s, if they didn’t need them, along with methods of voter suppression, to hold power.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro, who’s running for Burr’s seat in the 2022 election, is hoping to make bank by fundraising on Burr’s vote.

“Wrong vote, Sen. Burr. I am running to replace Richard Burr because North Carolina needs a true conservative champion as their next senator,” Walker tweeted Monday.

He illustrates that Republicans have moved a long way from President Ronald Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment — “Thou shalt not speak ill of thy fellow Republican” — to a new dictum: “Thou shalt not speak ill of Trump.”

But it’s a shortsighted tactic that has already cost the party support.

There’s a parable with which most Republicans will be familiar, about a man who built his house on shifting sands, and when the rains came, the house collapsed. Another man built his house on a rock, which stood firm in the storm.

Trumpism — supporting whatever warped fantasy this charismatic former-TV star pushes at the moment — is shifting sand. It won’t hold.

The bedrock principles by which the party once stood still stand, waiting to be reclaimed.

There’s not much to be done about the party’s direction until Republicans en masse begin to reject Trumpism. Unfortunately, that’s not likely to happen until the party suffers enough losses.

Burr has done his part to reclaim his party’s legacy. Who’s next?

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Feb. 11

The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer on voter suppression laws:

Election law disputes have dominated North Carolina politics for a decade as Republican lawmakers have sought to restrict voting and Democrats have sought to make it easier.

But the results of the 2020 election have raised a question that complicates the debate: What if higher turnout helps Republicans?

That appears to be the case according to patterns analyzed by Bob Hall, a voting rights advocate and former head of Democracy North Carolina. New Republican voters, largely drawn to the polls to support President Donald Trump, used same-day registration at early voting sites more than Democrats, 43,100 to 39,100. (32,800 unaffiliated voters also used same-day registration.)

“The white working-class voters who are not super regular voters, they are really helped by these methods,” Hall said.

The margin favoring Republicans may have made the difference in the race for chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Republican Associate Justice Paul Newby edged incumbent Chief Justice Cheri Beasley by 401 votes out of more than 5.5 million votes cast. Early voting and same-day registration, two ideas favored by Democrats, may have handed Republicans control of the state’s judicial system.

Now, with state victories in-hand and the pandemic appearing to wane, Republicans will have to decide how to approach voting laws with the 2022 election on the horizon. Do they revert to making it harder to vote under the guise of preventing fraud, or do they embrace opening the process to reach more white, working-class residents, the state’s largest block of non-participating voters?

For now, they’re not saying. Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan, a vice chair of the House Election Law and Campaign Finance Committee, told the Editorial Board that discussion of election law changes is “premature.” He said, “While it is to be expected that some election-related legislation will be offered, I am not aware of any initiatives that have been started at this time.”

Rep. Susan Fisher, D-Buncombe, a House Democratic whip and a member of the House Election Law Committee, is hopeful that the 2020 results will show Republicans the benefits of making it easier to vote.

“What needs to be highlighted is that access to the vote is used by all parties and the bottom line is we should not be restricting folks’ ability to vote in any case,” she said. “It might be worthwhile to show that either party can benefit from less restrictive voting.”

Around the nation, Republicans aren’t getting that message. They’re reverting to voter suppression. A January roundup of election law legislation published by the Brennan Center for Justice reported that “In a backlash to historic voter turnout in the 2020 general election, and grounded in a rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities, legislators have introduced three times the number of bills to restrict voting access as compared to this time last year.”

The proposed restrictions include limiting voting by mail, stricter voter ID requirements, limiting access to registration and more aggressive purging of voters rolls.

On a positive note, the Brennan Center also found that 35 states have pending legislation that would expand voter access. Among the proposals are calls to let all voters vote by mail, make it easier to correct flawed absentee ballots and restore the voting rights of individuals with past convictions.

We hope North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers don’t revert to voter suppression – and its cousin, gerrymandering – in the coming session. Suppressing votes and skewing elections with gerrymandering is ultimately a losing course. North Carolina Republicans need to find a way to win not by stifling democracy, but by engaging it.

After all, it worked in 2020.

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Feb. 9

The Salisbury Post on the difficulties of the coronavirus pandemic and getting a vaccine:

The coronavirus pandemic shows people with a support system and resources — particularly a tank of gas, a car and a reliable internet connection — have an easier time getting around in the community.

Need to get tested for COVID-19? Chances are it’s in a parking lot or at a clinic outside of a comfortable walking distance.

Unless you live in one of the nearby apartment complexes, it’ll be hard to walk to West End Plaza for the drive-thru vaccination clinic.

Public transit could be a good solution for either, but services have been scaled back during the pandemic, with hours limited during the weekdays and non-existent on the weekends.

That public transit isn’t a priority in local government budgets compounds problems being experienced now. To get from China Grove to West End Plaza for a vaccination appointment, for example, you’ll need to visit the county’s transit website, find options that work for the time you hope to arrive, walk or get a ride to the China Grove Town Hall or Food Lion, transfer to Salisbury Transit at the bus stops on Depot Street and wait for the route No. 2 bus.

Then, how does getting vaccinated work? Do you stand in a line of cars until it’s your turn?

If you don’t have reliable internet, the list of logistical considerations gets longer. You’ll need to make a trip to the nearest branch of the library at 10 a.m. Monday to reserve a vaccination appointment for that week. You could call the Rowan County COVID-19 information line at 980-432-1800, but county staff warn that wait times could be long.

Smartphones have become fairly ubiquitous, but not everyone can easily navigate the internet to sign up for a vaccination appointment. Data limitations on cellphone plans also are a consideration.

A son, daughter, grandchild or other family member who’s more technologically savvy or has a car solves any one of the aforementioned problems, but they aren’t always immediately available. Some people live alone and far away from family members.

When officials talk about inequities related to COVID-19, it’s worth considering structural barriers people need to scale. It’s important to sort out details of public transit bringing people to vaccine and testing sites. And it’s equally critical to get vaccine availability to the point that the Rowan County Health Department can resume first-come, first-served drive-thru events and churches, pharmacies and family doctors can offer doses. Otherwise, inequities will persist even if people decide they want to be vaccinated.