Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Exponent Telegram on national healing, energy policy and President Joe Biden's administration:
“Enough of us, enough of us have to come together to carry all of us forward. We can see each other not as adversaries, but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace — only bitterness and fury. No progress — only exhausting outrage. No nation — only a state of chaos.”
— President Joe Biden
As we embark on a new year, a new presidential administration and hopefully a return to at least a “new normal,” we, like many others, are anxious for what lies ahead.
After the year most of us experienced in 2020, it is easy to understand why there is an added layer (or two) of concern. The past year was like no other that most of us have experienced in our lives.
And with 2021 beginning with the startling assault on the U.S. Capitol and the continued effects of the pandemic, it’s easy to feel there is no relief in sight.
We hope and pray that isn’t the case. We hope President Joe Biden and his administration can begin to heal this country in a way that unifies and doesn’t further divide.
Much is already being made of some of the president’s first steps, some of which could be viewed as anti-business, especially in terms of the natural resources industries.
Undoubtedly, the slim margins Democrats hold in the House and Senate are owed in part to environmentalists and others who felt the Trump administration was too lenient.
The trick for Biden will be to balance those concerns with the obvious gains that were made under Trump in regard to national energy policy.
As we’ve written often, the ability for the United States to be energy independent is key to greater national security and frees us from the need to have ties with countries that have questionable work and human rights policies.
Make no mistake. Renewable energy must have a seat at the table of any energy policy discussions — but for the foreseeable future, so must coal, oil and natural gas.
Hopefully, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who chairs the Senate committee that oversees energy policy and has long advocated for a sound national energy policy, can hold sway in this key area.
While we raise this concern, we also caution that a few days of executive orders do not make a presidency. And while we wouldn’t necessarily agree with some of President Biden’s actions to date, we wouldn’t disagree in total.
And just like the 45 presidents who came before him, the next four years will present plenty of opportunities and challenges. He will get things right. He will make mistakes. But we do believe he will try his best to bring the country together.
For that to happen, we, the citizens of these United States, must be willing to be open to change. That doesn’t mean we have to surrender our principles or agree.
But in a country of laws and freedom, we must be willing to allow our leaders to make decisions, then measure the results and fairly assess the outcomes.
President Biden has been around long enough to know what happens if the measures he and Congress put in place aren’t successful and are met with strong resistance.
It is a delicate balance between proper regulation and overregulation. Get the mix right, and you’ll see a successful economy, an improvement in quality of lives and a rise in the nation’s happiness index.
Get it wrong, and companies will take the steps necessary to be successful, whether that means cutting jobs or raising prices, and that puts pressure on individuals.
It is an age-old battle that will continue to play out, and when the pendulum swings too far and a majority of American feel that they have been negatively affected, they will take action.
We’ve seen it unfold over the years, but in the past year especially, with the BLM movement of the summer, the election and even the riot at the Capitol.
President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are positioned to be game-changers, arriving at their positions of leadership in a time when this country is evolving and changing at speeds not previously recalled.
But like all change, it will be paramount to communicate, to be willing at times to push forward and at other times to pull back. While their supporters may want to see rapid change and their detractors are against any change, somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot where our nation’s “better angels” gather to move us forward.
All of this will unfold in the next four years, but only if the Biden administration can get a proper handle on the COVID-19 pandemic and begin to address the obvious shortfalls in vaccines and other needed support.
While the president has acted quickly on many fronts, and will continue to need to, we urge him to turn even more focus and effort to COVID-19. For without quicker and better success on that front, nothing else will matter.
If President Biden is able to tame the pandemic quickly, the course will be set. If not, he will find it difficult to move us forward. We must hope that he — and we — are successful.
“‘Will we rise to the occasion?’ is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour? Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world to our children? I believe we must.”
— President Biden
The Intelligencer on statements from West Virginia's U.S. senators and members of Congress following the presidential inauguration:
It has been more than a decade, but once again the Democratic Party holds the White House and both houses of Congress. For some, that might mean expectations of a change in the way our elected officials interact with one another. But not for West Virginians. We know our congressional delegation has a reputation for cooperation across the aisle, hard work and compromise when it is necessary — whatever it takes to do what is right for the people they were elected to serve.
It was no surprise, then, to hear from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., that her attitude isn’t changing. In congratulating President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, and saying she stands ready to work with the administration, Capito said, “Our country faces many challenges ahead and we cannot let the issues that have divided us keep us from making progress.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., too said he understands it’s time to get to work – together.
“I will do everything in my power to work with President Biden to help heal our country and to govern in the most bipartisan way because it should be about our country, democracy, the rule of law and saving our republic,” he said.
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-1st District, already has a reputation as one of the most bipartisan members of Congress. He knows the letter after a colleague’s name makes no difference when it comes to finding the right solutions to our nation’s toughest problems.
“I look forward to working together to find bipartisan solutions that will strengthen the future of our nation,” McKinley wrote, after the inauguration.
U.S. Reps. Alex Mooney, R-2nd District, and Carol Miller, R-3rd District, both expressed hope of finding common ground and looking for solutions that will benefit the Mountain State and the nation as a whole.
Good. The men and women we send to Washington understand who they work for, and that there is no time for sulking or stubborn obstructionism while Americans wait for help and hope. Assuming they are true to their word, let us hope members of Congress from the rest of the country will follow the Mountain State delegation’s example.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on West Virginia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and recent comments by Gov. Jim Justice:
Gov. Jim Justice has been making the rounds on cable news talking about West Virginia’s coronavirus vaccine rollout, which has been, in large part, more successful than other states. True, the state isn’t getting as many doses as it needs. Yes, people are having to call their local public health offices multiple times in an effort to get through. But West Virginia has been doing a good job of, as the buzz phrase now goes, “getting shots in arms.”
What’s more, Justice announced during a briefing Thursday the state would be setting up a new online registration system to better organize its response. The governor also said he had been on the phone with President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 czar, Jeff Zients, about plans to produce more vaccines and get them out to West Virginia and the rest of the country.
It’s encouraging that the Republican governor of a state that voted for former President Trump by nearly 70% is eager to work with the new administration. It shows Gov. Justice realizes political differences matter little during a pandemic that has killed more Americans than those who died fighting in World War II.
Also, while case and hospitalization numbers in the state aren’t great, they’re trending downward for the first time in months.
There is reason for hope, and Gov. Justice and his administration deserve credit for what they’ve done. Good governance and leadership encourages unity.
Then the governor was asked about the situation at public schools. A mandated return to in-person learning has created some friction between school employees, who question whether it’s safe, and Justice and the state Board of Education, who clearly want kids back in classrooms. Apart from some pending litigation, the problem has more or less solved itself for now. Almost all of the few districts that were holding out have resumed in-person classes.
Justice noted the state board had the power to make the decision. All well and good. Then he went into everything his administration has done to make things as safe as possible, and mentioned the science his administration is following shows the risk is minimal. There’s some room for debate there, but the argument is consistent and has merit.
It should’ve stopped there, but Justice couldn’t avoid fixating on the matador’s waving, red cape.
The governor went after the teachers’ unions, saying he didn’t understand why teachers were following leaders who had, in his view, failed them so badly. He also added a dig about the November election. The teachers’ unions are largely Democratic in their political affiliations, and the GOP won a supermajority in the state Legislature. Things got much worse, when the governor lowered his voice, looked into the camera and said “If you don’t want to go to work, I can’t help that.”
That was out of line. To suggest teachers don’t want to go back to in-person learning because they’re lazy is mind-boggling. Most teachers in West Virginia work extremely hard, and want to be in the room with their students if at all possible.
In his own argument for in-person classes, Gov. Justice has noted many children in West Virginia rely on school beyond education. It’s a stable environment for those with a turbulent life at home. It’s a place to be fed when there isn’t money at home for proper nourishment. It’s a place where neglect and abuse are spotted and reported. Teachers, administrators and school service personnel are essentially parents and social workers to these kids, on top of the job for which they’re compensated — often poorly.
It was disappointing to see Justice, whom just minutes before had been exuding competence, leadership and hope, drag teachers down into the political muck for no reason but his own ire. Gov. Justice was preaching unity at the top of the briefing, then went out of his way to divide. You’d think a governor who has two teacher and school service personnel strikes on his record would know better. Now a matter that seemed on its way to a solution could get worse, and it was completely avoidable.