Editorial Roundup: US

Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:

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Nov. 4

The Washington Post on how Election Day 2020 played out across the U.S.:

For everyone anxiously awaiting final results in this year’s presidential race, the process feels anything but painless. But there is much to be thankful for in how Election Day proceeded, particularly given earlier fears about what could have happened.

Yes, there were glitches: power outages at a few polling places; a water-main break that disrupted vote-counting; the occasional bad voting machine; lines at some polling locations; partisan troublemakers who tried to hassle voters; disputes about some poll workers failing to wear masks. None of these things reflect well on our democracy.

But President Trump’s exhortation to “go into the polls and watch very carefully” did not lead to the wide-scale vigilantism that was feared. Social distancing precautions because of the coronavirus did not cause chaos or interminable delays, as they did earlier this year in several primary elections. Voting was, on the whole, calm and efficient. It will take time to fully evaluate, but states generally did not let themselves be overwhelmed by the massive and relatively abrupt shift toward absentee voting, and the shift no doubt diminished the crush that would have occurred if voting in person had been the only option. As far as is known, malign foreign actors seem to have been deterred or prevented from interfering in the voting process.

The biggest election-night problem came from Mr. Trump himself, as he claimed victory based on incomplete tallies and kicked off his push to delegitimize continued vote-counting in states in which he held an early lead. Of course, his campaign wanted all votes counted in the states in which the president was trailing. Encouragingly, though, some prominent Republicans broke with Mr. Trump to support fair vote-counting. “All these votes have to be counted that are in now,” former New Jersey governor Chris Christie said. “Tonight was not the time to make this argument.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said, “Claiming you win the election is different from finishing the counting.”

Meanwhile, social media sites executed their plans to respond to the president’s misinformation. Twitter placed a warning screen in front of a tweet from Mr. Trump declaring that “they are trying to STEAL the Election.” Facebook took slightly longer to add a “votes are being counted” label to posts from each candidate, in addition to running notifications at the top of users’ feeds indicating a winner had not been projected. Their job is far from complete — at least as long as Mr. Trump’s efforts to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election continue. #StopTheSteal was trending Wednesday, with a boost from far-right influencers, and allegations have only picked up in volume and in tone.

As the nation girds for what could be a tortuous process of vote-counting, recounts and legal challenges, it can breathe half a sigh of relief that Election Day voting itself was largely orderly, after such a heated, divisive campaign. Americans can thank the election officials and volunteers who worked to make that happen — and give themselves a pat on the back for turning out in record numbers to do their duty as citizens.

Online: https://www.washingtonpost.com

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Nov. 4

The Wall Street Journal on polling and the 2020 election:

A surge of unexpected votes for Donald Trump has confounded the forecasters — again. Whether it’s enough to carry him to victory in the Electoral College, as it did in 2016, was uncertain at this publication Wednesday morning. But by making the 2020 race close, and perhaps taking it into overtime, Mr. Trump has pulled off a second huge political surprise. At least a few pollsters might be looking for a new line of work.

The analysts called Florida for President Trump, as he outperformed his numbers from 2016. Georgia and North Carolina were trending red, but Arizona seemed to have flipped to Democrats from four years ago. The revenge of the John McCain Republicans? …

… Either candidate had a path to win by our deadline. But it’s already clear that the biggest early losers are the pollsters. The mainstream media polls all had Mr. Biden winning in a walk with a popular vote margin in the upper single digits. They were off in particular on Florida. The outlier pollsters like the Trafalgar Group, often derided by their colleagues, seem to have better judged the electorate.

Mr. Biden still seems likely to win the popular vote, but the margin will be narrower than predicted and the Electoral College was still up for grabs. Lamenting the Electoral College is a hardy perennial, but both parties know that it’s the measure of victory or defeat. Both campaigns focused on those swing states.

The tight race reminds us that democracy is surprising, and humility is good journalism practice. Especially in this year of Covid-19 and an economic recession, Democrats thought they were set up for a blue wave. But while they looked set to retain a House majority, a Senate Democratic majority was moving out of reach as GOP incumbents held on to win in Iowa and North Carolina.

Another surprise was Mr. Trump’s apparently strong performance among minorities, especially among Hispanic-Americans. He did especially well with those voters in Miami-Dade County in Florida.

The reasons will take some study, but our guess is that one was the economy’s strong performance before the pandemic. This lifted wages for low-skilled workers in particular after the slow growth Obama years. If Mr. Trump does win a second term, his late focus on the economy will be part of the explanation.

Online: https://www.wsj.com

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Nov. 4

The Guardian on the divisions highlighted in the U.S. presidential election:

Whoever wins this year’s election, America remains a country bitterly and evenly divided. It has been more than three decades since the last presidential landslide. Despite polls suggesting that Donald Trump was poised to suffer a sweeping rejection by the voters, there was no repudiation of the president. Rather, just a fraction of the popular vote separates Joe Biden and Mr Trump.

Our view was that Mr Trump deserved to lose and in a big way. His mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis, which cost hundreds of thousands of American lives, was cause enough. But there were numerous reasons for Mr Trump’s ejection from the White House, given he ran the worst administration in modern US history.

It is small comfort that Americans understood the threat that Mr Trump represented and turned out in record numbers to vote against him. Yet, as this election depressingly revealed, there was an almost equal and opposite reaction from Mr Trump’s base. The president’s appeal, it seems, has only widened and deepened since he took office. Mr Trump received so many more votes than he did in 2016 that his tally is only surpassed by Mr Biden this year, and Barack Obama in 2008.

Should he depart, and there are few signs he will do so without a fight, Mr Trump’s legacy will be the politics of anger and hate. It is a tragedy for America that a poisonous division is becoming the norm rather than the exception. The concern in the US is that cultural divisions have gone past the point of no return. The priority for Americans must be to work out a way to stop the political rift from yawning so wide that the two hostile, sometimes armed, camps are incapable of talking to each other.

The national conversation will not be easy to start, especially given the venomous way in which President Trump conducts politics. If there was any idea that the country could pick up after the election where it left off in 2016, it vanished the moment Mr Trump declared a victory he obviously had not yet won. His claim that his legal team would attempt to block states from counting all the votes that have already been cast, ballots which are widely viewed as certain to skew Democratic, was as outrageous as it was expected.

Republicans have embraced their inner Trump, which is why democracy itself was on the ballot in 2020. Under Republican control, the US Congress, for the first two years of Trump’s presidency, did not check Mr Trump’s assault on the norms of democratic governance as much as enable it. The Grand Old Party has increasingly turned to policies designed to constrain the majority electorate. Faced with unfavourable demographic change, Republicans have cemented minority rule across American political institutions. The question that Mr Trump now poses is whether Republicans would go as far in their pursuit of power to undo a presidential election.

The president may be counting on Republicans to subvert longstanding election norms or hope that the supreme court, to which he appointed three justices, will make the final call. If permitted, the ensuing constitutional crisis would dwarf Trumpism’s outrages. It would also play out against a background of heightened political mobilisation, which would bring with it the threat of civic strife.

There is a real worry that the two main US parties appear locked in a dangerous and ferocious power struggle for control of the government. Mr Trump’s divisive politics have seen elections become a source of volatility in the world’s leading democracy. The margin of control of the Senate is so narrow that it would be foolish to predict who may end up in charge. Democrats retain their hold on the House of Representatives, but with a looser grip than before. This is a zero-sum game, where one party’s loss is another’s gain. Government in America, and its people, will be the losers.

A critical 48 hours lies ahead as the votes for the next US president are tallied. The coming hours and days represent a crucial test of American democracy. Over the last four years, many of the values the Guardian holds dear have been threatened: democracy, civility, truth, the sovereignty of the free press. Four years of Trump have eroded faith in institutions, emboldened white supremacists, accelerated climate change and undermined America’s standing in the world.

Yet despite orchestrated voter suppression – and the surging pandemic – Americans have turned out in record numbers to vote. Now we are in the final stretch as the votes are counted. At a time like this, an independent news organization that fights for truth and holds power to account is not just optional, it is essential. The Guardian will report the election results with caution and transparency, avoiding premature projections and countering misinformation with facts and informed analysis.

Like many news organizations, the Guardian has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. We rely to an ever greater extent on our readers, both for the moral force to continue doing journalism at a time like this and for the financial strength to facilitate that reporting.

We believe every one of us deserves equal access to fact-based news and analysis. We’ve decided to keep Guardian journalism free for all readers, regardless of where they live or what they can afford to pay. This is made possible thanks to the support we receive from readers across America in all 50 states.

Online: https://www.theguardian.com

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Nov. 2

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on cultural proficiency education in U.S. schools:

At what age are children capable of understanding the dynamics of racism? Pennsylvania’s Lower Merion School District is kick-starting the process in kindergarten.

“A Kids Book about Racism,” which is part of the curriculum for 5-year-olds, includes a list of actions that can be perceived as personally harmful to a person of color, such as “a look, a comment, a question, a thought, a joke, a word, or a belief.” The book challenges kindergarteners to “call it racism” whenever they see it.

Fourth- and fifth-graders are required to read “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” which encourages white children to see themselves as beneficiaries of “stolen land,” “stolen riches” and “special favors.”

These components of the Cultural Proficiency Curriculum have been embraced by district officials and many community stakeholders. But, not everyone was pleased. One mom, Elana Fishbein, argued to the local school board (and in many public forums) the classes are “designed to inoculate Caucasian children with feelings of guilt for the color of their skin and the ‘sins’ of their forefathers.” She moved her children to a private school.

Cultural competency and cultural proficiency are worthy goals for students and staff. But, the state Department of Education should be guiding the entire school community through such an important evolution in teaching. Autonomous school districts should make the final call, but the seasoned guidance of state education experts is in order, not just in Lower Merion but throughout the public school systems of Pennsylvania.

Online: https://www.post-gazette.com

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Oct. 29

New York Times on COVID-19 and the holidays:

In some ways, the coronavirus is still a mystery. Scientists can’t say for certain why it’s deadly or debilitating in some people but has virtually no effect in others. They don’t know exactly how long immunity lasts or whether (or when) a vaccine will stop its spread and bring this wretched chapter to a close.

But they do know this: The virus spreads most rampantly between people who gather indoors, in close quarters, to talk or laugh or sing, without wearing masks. Experts say the wave of outbreaks now sweeping the nation has been caused by precisely these types of gatherings.

As gut-wrenching as this may be, one of the most obvious ways to mitigate further viral spread will be for as many people as possible to stay home this holiday season. Even before the recent spike in cases, scientists knew that holidays were risky business. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend were all followed by measurable spikes in case counts. The fall and winter holidays are likely to be much worse, because they tend to involve more travel and indoor gatherings.

In normal times, some 50 million Americans usually travel at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving dinner, according to AAA and as noted in The Atlantic. This year, especially, the need to draw loved ones close feels urgent, and the idea of sacrificing one more sacred tradition in a year when we have already sacrificed so much feels deeply unfair. But skipping or severely curtailing in-person holiday celebrations now is as much a civic duty and an act of solidarity as wearing a mask in public or standing at least six feet apart.

The coronavirus is surging again, not just in a few hot spots but across the country, with an average of 59,000 new cases per day — as high as that number has been since August. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have labeled indoor gatherings with far-flung relatives as “higher risk” and is advising people to keep these get-togethers as small as possible and to hold them outdoors if they can. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s leading infectious disease control expert, has said that, for safety’s sake, he won’t be seeing his own children this Thanksgiving.

It’s tempting to view the coming holiday season as a well-earned respite from a year filled with hardships. But, as others have argued, those hardships are precisely the point. Children have all but lost a year of schooling, small business owners have seen their livelihoods destroyed, people everywhere have watched loved ones die alone, in nursing homes and hospital wards where restrictions related to Covid-19 prohibited visitors. Failed leadership and failed policy have exacerbated all of these tragedies. Individual or family sacrifices, made for the greater good, have helped.

Taking unnecessary risks now would be an affront to all those sacrifices. What will have been the point of closing schools, hobbling industries or swapping so many human interactions for so many virtual ones? So much of it will have been for naught if a surge of holiday travel gives way to a tsunami of outbreaks and, ultimately, more death.

It’s true that not all gatherings are the same and that individual families can minimize their risks by taking precautions — by keeping gatherings small, by holding them outdoors and by testing and quarantining before and after travel. But those things are all much easier to do for families of means, who are more likely to have spacious, easily ventilated kitchens, space to gather outside, easy access to diagnostic testing and the ability to quarantine.

What’s more, low risk is not the same as no risk, and when it comes to the coronavirus, all risk is ultimately shared. The danger is not individual — it’s collective. The decisions you make are not only about whether you might infect your own grandmother, they’re about whether your family gathering will seed an outbreak that could ultimately infect someone else’s grandmother. The more people gather from far and wide, around densely packed tables, to eat and talk and occasionally shout, the more the coronavirus will spread. That’s an indisputable truth that no amount of wishful thinking or careful planning can undo.

Zoom gatherings will never fully match the intimacy of in-person ones. But they can help keep families connected and maybe even preserve some traditions. Social media is full of suggestions for how to make virtual holidays more festive, like pie-baking over FaceTime and cooking and eating the same meal across different tables and time zones.

It might also help to remember that, with vaccines and therapeutics progressing through the pipeline, there’s every reason to hope that next year’s holiday season can be celebrated in person again.

If the past nine months have made anything clear, it’s that nobody is coming to save us. That’s scary and enraging, but it’s also liberating — because we’re learning how to save ourselves.

Online: https://www.nytimes.com

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Oct. 28

The Seattle Times on the enduring effects of the Trump administration’s ‘immigration crackdown’:

The needless trauma inflicted on children in President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown remains alive. Court-appointed advocates cannot find the parents — still — for 545 children taken away from their families in 2017 and 2018. That includes about 60 who were under age 5 when forcibly separated.

That’s years of growing, learning and loving missed out on, forever. That’s a tragedy that must remain in this nation’s consciousness. Those responsible must be held accountable.

Trump has tried to obfuscate the cruelty of the decision to separate families to deter migration. Information that trickled out for more than two years makes the harm, and its cause, clear.

An October court filing by American Civil Liberties Union lawyers shows why a full reckoning is overdue. Amid a pandemic and widespread violence in Central America and Mexico, court-appointed researchers are relying on incomplete federal records to search remote areas for missing parents.

The separations began in 2017, around El Paso, Texas. A secret Department of Homeland Security pilot program there took 1,500 children away from parents attempting to migrate to the U.S. When families crossed the border, the parents were detained for official proceedings. The children were spirited off to migrant shelters.

Trump officials expanded it to a full “zero tolerance” policy in May 2018. More than 2,700 children were taken into federal custody in that expansion. Weeks later, a federal judge ordered those families reunited.

But in January 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General revealed the separations were more extensive than the ruling. Further investigations found more than 5,500 children had been separated. Hundreds of these families have now endured years apart.

Deported parents were forced to choose between taking their children back to dangerous countries or permitting the government to assign them to “sponsors” — usually, relatives or family friends — in America. That’s the limbo the 545 children went into. Federal officials said they were with sponsors in 2018 when the judge ordered children in custody reunited with their families. Today, advocates can only definitively say that 183 of the children are still in the U.S.; contact information is no longer valid for sponsors for the other 362. So even if their parents turn up and want the children back, they cannot easily be reunited.

The consequences resonate across the hemisphere. A father and son from Guatemala now living in Seattle sued in federal court Oct. 15 over their ordeal, alleging that the father was tricked onto a deportation flight from Texas after officials told him he’d get to see his son. The son, a teenager, was being held in a New York state shelter, where he alleges sexual abuse. They were kept separate for nine months, said attorney Matt Adams of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. Four more families are working with the agency toward filing similar cases, he said.

“We should never forget that at the end of the day, these are still human beings,” Adams said. “Shoving aside human rights to send a political message puts us in history right in line with the worst offenders of human rights.”

America can and must do better.

Online: https://www.seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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