Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers:


Jan. 6

The Decatur Daily on Congress convening to confirm the Electoral College vote won by President-elect Joe Biden amid objections from President Donald Trump:

Today, the United States Congress will meet for what normally is a perfunctory duty: accepting the results of the Electoral College.

Some Republican congressmen — led by Huntsville Rep. Mo Brooks and including newly minted Sen. Tommy Tuberville — will attempt to dispute the legal outcome of the 2020 election, which Joe Biden won decisively. They will waste time, and they will continue to spread wild theories of election fraud that have been rejected both by Republican election officials and by courts stretching all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately they will fail.

Most of them, we hope, know they will fail. For some, the entire exercise seems about not so much keeping President Donald Trump in office, but candidates positioning themselves for the 2024 presidential race. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, for one, has vaulted from obscurity to early contender by getting as close to Trump as possible. Brooks may well have his eye on Sen. Richard Shelby’s Senate seat, should Shelby, who is now 86, not seek reelection in 2022.

These cynical ploys, however, could do lasting damage. The only thing keeping the country from a genuine constitutional crisis right now is the fact Trump’s supporters in Congress are outnumbered. Our system is built not just on the letter of the Constitution, but on institutional norms, which have been under assault during the past decade, the past four years especially.

Historians may long debate whether Trump ever really wanted the presidency or whether he saw running for office as just a way to enhance his brand. Having gotten it, however, Trump refuses to give it up without claiming until the bitter end that he was cheated. Whether he believes that or not is irrelevant. His doing so, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, has eroded confidence in the system, at least among his core supporters.

In a phone call last week, Trump even tried to convince Georgia’s secretary of state to find enough votes to give him a victory there, which likely violated federal and state law. Were Trump not so close to leaving office, he likely would be impeached again.

One wonders if all this is Trump’s real objective: sowing distrust. Trump has claimed all sorts of elections have been rigged, including the 2016 and 2020 Democratic primaries (against Sen. Bernie Sanders) and the 2016 general election — which he won.

If one assumes President Trump believes his claims — and there is more reason to think he does than doesn’t — then the president sees the world as rife with phantom conspiracies out to get him. Being the leader of the free world and arguably the most powerful man on Earth counts for little. Everyone, from the “deep state” to elected members of his own party to his own court appointees, has betrayed him.

This is not a rational way to see the world, which is full of chance, screw-ups, competing interests (even among the so-called “Elites”) and, most of all, things that don’t go as planned.

As he heads out of office, we are seeing the president laid bare. All of those years listening to conspiracy theories like those concocted by Alex Jones were no accident. They were simpatico. It is ironic that some people who rightly believe socialism and communism cannot work, that central planning is doomed to fail, also believe secret, centralized cabals run the world behind the scenes.

On Tuesday, Trump was again on Twitter, trying to overthrow the will of the people and the electoral mechanism established by the Constitution: “The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.”

The electors were not fraudulently chosen, but even if they were, the vice president does not have this power. Sitting vice presidents have lost bids to become president on numerous occasions, including Richard Nixon in 1960 and Al Gore in 2000. Both had better reason to dispute their election results than Trump does, but both also knew they didn’t have the power to unilaterally make themselves president. Nor can Vice President Mike Pence keep Trump in office.

Today, this sideshow needs to end.



Jan. 5

The Dothan Eagle on the spike in coronavirus cases in Alabama:

From the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials and government leaders beseeched the public to follow a set of guidelines and practices in an effort to “flatten the curve,” a reference to charts tracking the number of cases of COVID-19 over time.

Ten months later, we seem to have achieved that goal; the problem is that we’ve flattened the curve along the wrong axis of the line chart.

The recent surge in cases appears on the chart as a long spike, a chilling representation of a reality that’s clogged hospitals across the state.

Meanwhile, many of our leaders have fallen victim, as have many health care professionals. This week, mayors of at least four Alabama cities — Birmingham, Decatur, Auburn, and Florence — have tested positive for COVID-19.

“I made a mistake and spent time with our family,” Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling told the Decatur Daily. “We had Christmas together. We had meals together and sat around the table and we were not practicing the guidelines,” he said. “With that, now we have sickness. I believe that (family members outside our household) were the last to get it, so quite likely they received it from us. I certainly hope they’ll be OK.”

In Dothan this week, Mayor Mark Saliba and commissioners reminded residents that following the recommended guidelines is imperative — “whether you agree with them or not.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Gov. Kay Ivey effectively shut down the state, ordering stores and restaurants closed and issuing a stay-at-home order. At the time, the situation was far less dire than it has become in recent weeks.

There’s been no public discussion of another shutdown thus far, but logic would suggest it isn’t out of the question.

Alabamians must redouble efforts to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control to keep more restrictive measures off the table.



Jan. 3

The Decatur Daily on COVID-19 vaccines that are being distributed across the country:

“It’s always darkest before the dawn,” or so they saying goes. If that bit of old folk wisdom is true, there is cause for hope, indeed, with the dawning of 2021.

After a year roiled by pandemic and political turmoil, the traditions associated with the changing of the calendar offer us a fresh start — and there are real reasons for optimism.

Two vaccines for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 have received government approval, and a third — already approved in the United Kingdom — is on the way. The two vaccines already now being distributed in the U.S. offer hope not only for beating back the coronavirus, but combating other diseases, too.

Both the vaccine created by Pfizer and the one created by Moderna use new technology that could help fight other illnesses that have, until now, proved resistant to conventional treatments. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are what is known as “messenger RNA vaccines.”

Despite what some conspiracy theorists on the internet claim, mRNA vaccines do not “rewrite” your DNA. They are simply a new way of priming people’s immune systems to fight disease.

“To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ into our bodies,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not mRNA vaccines. Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein — or even just a piece of a protein — that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.”

There is no danger the mRNA vaccine will change a person’s DNA, the genetic code that makes all of us who we are.

“The fact that mRNA is genetic material might lead you to think there’s some risk of genetic side-effects,” writes Adam Finn, professor of pediatrics at the Bristol Children’s Vaccine Centre, University of Bristol, in The Guardian. “However, in human cells, while DNA is regularly transcribed into RNA, the reverse doesn’t happen — RNA can’t make it back into DNA and alter our genes.”

If the new mRNA vaccines prove as successful as researches hope — and the preliminary studies have shown better than expected results compared to vaccines using traditional methods — then mRNA vaccines could potentially be used against other diseases.

“Already, mRNA vaccines are being tested for other infectious agents, such as Ebola, Zika virus, and influenza. Cancer cells make proteins that also can be targeted by mRNA vaccines: Indeed, recent progress was reported with melanoma. And theoretically, mRNA technology could produce proteins missing in certain diseases, like cystic fibrosis,” writes Dr. Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School.

Just as spin-offs from the space program have led to technologies that have revolutionized how we live, the fight against COVID-19 could revolutionize how doctors fight all sorts of illnesses, not just the new coronavirus.

Out of the dark of the coronavirus pandemic, we could be stepping into the light of whole new ways of fighting diseases that kill and debilitate, not only in the Third World but in the First World, too.