Editorial Roundup: New York

Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:

We Believe Reed Has The Best Chance To Represent Our Congressional District

The Post Journal

Oct. 28

No one should be happy with the ongoing stalemate in Congress over the latest round of COVID-19 relief funding or a host of important issues ranging from immigration reform to health care.

The office of President of the United States is powerful, but not omnipotent. Members of the Senate and House of Representatives will spend the next two years debating legislation affecting the country at large and each individual congressional district.

Mitrano ran strongly in 2018, receiving 45.8% of the 240,255 votes cast in the 23rd Congressional District. The strong early pace of early voting and the large number of mail-in and absentee ballots requested this year indicate higher voter turnout than there was two years ago, so it is certainly not inconceivable that Mitrano could win the race. The race is almost certain to be close again. Were she to win, Mitrano would surely perform well on issues like broadband expansion and cybersecurity. She would listen and be a presence in the district.

The record doesn’t show that Mitrano is the extreme Ithaca liberal she is portrayed to be by Reed, nor does the record show that Reed is the yes man for President Trump that he is portrayed to be. As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

We are disappointed in what we see as the Reed campaign’s distortion of Mitrano’s stance on public safety. Inflammatory anti-police rhetoric from a private contractor who had done work for Mitrano’s campaign is a far cry from the Mitrano campaign actually supporting anti-police groups. Support for Justice and Policing Act, meanwhile, is certainly not a sign that Mitrano supports defunding police, which we don’t see in the bill. Either way, Mitrano’s public safety stance is far from the deciding factor in the race that recent television advertisements claim it should be.

In a tight race, it is the familiar old issue of bipartisanship and gridlock that decides our endorsement. Mitrano criticizes the Problem Solvers Caucus, of which Reed is co-chairman, as a kabuki theater that didn’t play a major role in ending the 35-day government shutdown in December and January 2018-19, votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the HEROES Act, the most recent Democrat-backed COVID-19 relief bill.

Mitrano makes a good point about the caucus’ impact, but what is her alternative? Take the COVID-19 relief bill as an example. Would Mitrano simply vote in lockstep with House Democrats on a COVID bill that is far too expensive? The Democrats’ latest bill is $800 million less than the first version of the HEROES Act — or closer to the plan proposed by Reed and the Problem Solvers Caucus than the version espoused for months by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Problem Solvers Caucus has, in fact, advocated for middle ground solutions on health care, the government shutdown and a new round of COVID-19 relief.

Its efficacy problem isn’t its proposals, but the fact there aren’t enough members of Congress willing to join. Reed is in on the ground floor of a group that needs to expand, and the congressman deserves two more years to continue working with the Problem Solvers Caucus to end this interminable gridlock.

The 23rd Congressional District is a district that is, for the most part, right of the political center. We believe Reed has the best chance of more effectively representing the 23rd Congressional District for two more years given his existing connections and work with the Problem Solvers Caucus.

Online: https://bit.ly/35HsKph

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The Republican Party’s Supreme Court

The New York Times

Oct. 26

What happened in the Senate chamber on Monday evening was, on its face, the playing out of a normal, well-established process of the American constitutional order: the confirmation of a president’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

But Senate Republicans, who represent a minority of the American people, are straining the legitimacy of the court by installing a deeply conservative jurist, Amy Coney Barrett, to a lifetime seat just days before an election that polls suggest could deal their party a major defeat.

As with President Trump’s two earlier nominees to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the details of Judge Barrett’s jurisprudence were less important than the fact that she had been anointed by the conservative activists at the Federalist Society. Along with hundreds of new lower-court judges installed in vacancies that Republicans refused to fill when Barack Obama was president, these three Supreme Court choices were part of the project to turn the courts from a counter-majoritarian shield that protects the rights of minorities to an anti-democratic sword to wield against popular progressive legislation like the Affordable Care Act.

The process also smacked of unseemly hypocrisy. Republicans raced to install Judge Barrett barely one week before a national election, in defiance of a principle they loudly insisted upon four years ago.

The elevation of Judge Barrett to be the nation’s 115th justice was preordained almost from the moment that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month. When she takes her seat on the bench at One First Street, it will represent the culmination of a four-decade crusade by conservatives to fill the federal courts with reliably Republican judges who will serve for decades as a barricade against an ever more progressive nation.

This is not a wild conspiracy theory. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader and one of the main architects of this crusade, gloated about it openly on Sunday, following a bare-majority vote to move Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Senate floor. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” Mr. McConnell said. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

That’s the perfect distillation of what this has been all about. It also reveals what it was never about.

It was never about letting the American people have a voice in the makeup of the Supreme Court. That’s what Mr. McConnell and other Senate Republicans claimed in 2016, when they blocked President Obama from filling a vacancy with nearly a year left in his term. As of Monday, more than 62 million Americans had already voted in the 2020 election. Forget the polls; the best indicator that Mr. McConnell believes these voters are in the process of handing both the White House and the Senate to Democrats was his relentless charge to fill the Ginsburg vacancy.

It was never about fighting “judicial activism.” For decades, Republicans accused some judges of being legislators in robes. Yet today’s conservative majority is among the most activist in the court’s history, striking down long-established precedents and concocting new judicial theories on the fly, virtually all of which align with Republican policy preferences.

It was never about the supposed mistreatment that Robert Bork, a Reagan nominee, suffered at the hands of Senate Democrats in 1987. That nomination played out exactly as it should have. Senate Democrats gave Judge Bork a full hearing, during which millions of Americans got to experience firsthand his extremist views on the Constitution and federal law. He received an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor, where his nomination was defeated by Democrats and Republicans together. President Ronald Reagan came back with a more mainstream choice, Anthony Kennedy, and Democrats voted to confirm him nine months before the election. Compare that with Republicans’ 2016 blockade of Judge Merrick Garland, whom they refused even to consider, much less to vote on: One was an exercise in a divided but functioning government, the other an exercise in partisan brute force.

How will a Justice Barrett rule? The mad dash of her confirmation process tells you all you need to know. Republicans pretended that she was not the anti-abortion hard-liner they have all been pining for, but they betrayed themselves with the sheer aggressiveness of their drive to get her seated on the nation’s highest court. Even before Monday’s vote, Republican presidents had appointed 14 of the previous 18 justices. The court has had a majority of Republican-appointed justices for half a century. But it is now as conservative as it has been since the 1930s.

Of all the threats posed by the Roberts Court, its open scorn for voting rights may be the biggest. In 2013, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the lead opinion in the most destructive anti-voter case in decades, Shelby County v. Holder, which gutted the central provision of the Voting Rights Act and opened the door to rampant voter suppression, most of it targeted at Democratic voters. Yet this month, Chief Justice Roberts sided with the court’s remaining three liberals to allow a fuller count of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania. The four other conservatives voted against that count. In other words, with Justice Barrett’s confirmation the court now has five justices who are more conservative on voting rights than the man who nearly obliterated the Voting Rights Act less than a decade ago.

In 2015, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protected same-sex marriage, Justice Antonin Scalia angrily dissented. “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote.

The American people, who have preferred the Democratic nominee in six of the last seven presidential elections, are now subordinate to a solid 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

Republicans accuse those who are trying to salvage the integrity and legitimacy of the Supreme Court with trying to change the rules or rig the game. Having just changed the rules in an attempt to rig the game, that’s particularly galling for them to say.

The courts must not be in the position of resolving all of America’s biggest political debates. But if Americans can agree on that, then they should be able to agree on mechanisms to reduce the Supreme Court’s power and influence in American life.

Online: https://nyti.ms/2TEZFox

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Earth to Jared: Kushner’s criticisms of Black Americans show his ignorance and arrogance

New York Daily News

Oct. 28

Presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, born with a golden spoon in his mouth, went on television this week to suggest Black Americans have themselves to blame for whatever problems they face.

“One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about,” Kushner whined. “But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

His words hearken back to Ronald Reagan, who birthed a racist trope when he railed against “welfare queens” — painting poor, often Black Americans on public assistance as indolent and undeserving of government’s help.

Never mind the fact it was probably the $2.5 million gift from his father, and not just “want(ing) to be successful” that helped get Kushner, an otherwise not particularly outstanding high school student, into Harvard, a school the Trump administration is suing for using race as a factor in admissions. But when he studied there, we thought he might’ve learned at least a little about how corrosively racism has infected nearly every aspect of American life over the generations, creating persistent obstacles for Black people even when they do their darndest to succeed. Which is not to say that African-Americans can’t study, persevere and achieve great things — they can and they do — only that they don’t need a lecture on striving from the scion of a real estate development empire.

We wonder what Kushner and his father-in-law, a professional shouter of grievances who was loaned millions of dollars from his own dad, would do if they ever felt the sting of discriminatory housing, education, criminal justice, mortgage and hiring policies.

What’s especially puzzling is that the son-in-law heralds as his signature accomplishment the First Step Act, a criminal justice reform pushed by President Obama but signed into law by Trump that has shortened sentences for thousands of nonviolent offenders in federal prison.

Does he really believe for all those years, those thousands of incarcerated men and women just didn’t want freedom badly enough?

Online: https://bit.ly/35D4zIs

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Census is worth Congress’ attention

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Oct. 28

By March or April, it was clear the 2020 Census would be much more of a guessing game than in decennial population counts. COVID-19 has seen to that.

Our whole society has been disrupted in multiple ways. Responding to census questionnaires has been the last thing on the minds of millions of Americans.

Doing all that is possible to obtain an accurate count of the people living in our country clearly has not been uppermost on the minds of many federal officials, either. The decision to stop information collecting a month early makes that plain.

Evidence is mounting that this year’s census count has missed a significant number of people.

Census Bureau officials insist they have reached more than 99.9% of American households. That idea will seem laughable to veteran observers of the federal bureaucracy.

“Do not be fooled by the Census Bureau’s 99% myth,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, told the Associated Press. “If there ever was fake news, this is it.”

Do not be misled by the fact that many census skeptics, like Morial, specialize in cities. In some respects, undercounting is likely to be more of a problem in rural areas.

Just before the count was shut down Oct. 16 and all the states’ response rates were replaced with “99.9%,” the New York county that showed the lowest response rate, by far, was not the Bronx or Queens, but Hamilton, which is the size of Long Island but without a single traffic light. The second worst rate was Sullivan, which is also rural — as is the third-worst, Essex County.

This is not an issue of interest primarily to statisticians and demographers. It is of critical, concrete importance to all Americans.

Census figures are used in a variety of ways, including how tens of billions of dollars in federal funds are allocated each year. For example, money from Washington makes a real difference in the quality of our public schools.

It matters, too, in politics. Population figures are used to determine how many members of the House of Representatives come from each state. Within states, they affect how many legislators are elected from various regions.

It goes all the way to the top. Census counts affect states’ clout in the Electoral College — which picks presidents.

Census Bureau officials’ word cannot be accepted on this one. Congress — on a bipartisan basis — needs to investigate the census process and issue a report to the American people. We, not a few bureaucrats in Washington, need to be convinced this year’s population count is as accurate as humanly possible.

Online: https://bit.ly/2HMgtaS

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Voting on Long Island shouldn’t be this frustrating

Newsday

Oct. 26

The lines on Long Island have been a sight to behold. Hundreds of people snaking around buildings, across parking lots, along sidewalks and through parks. They carry chairs and books and coffee containers and cellphones in hand, chatting with one another or keeping to themselves, waiting patiently to exercise their right to vote.

It’s been inspiring to see this mass affirmation of what it means to be a citizen of this country. But it shouldn’t be this frustrating.

No one would object to a moderate wait to cast a ballot. But two or three hours or even more, as was reported in various parts of the Island last weekend as more than 55,000 people voted early, is not acceptable.

This tsunami of interest was predictable. This is a highly contentious election in profoundly partisan times, during a pandemic that allows alternate ways of voting prior to Election Day. For months there have been stories about the ability of the U.S. Postal Service to promptly deliver mail-in ballots, compounded by a president who’s attacking the integrity of the election, with a focus on absentee ballots.

The Nassau and Suffolk boards of election need to re-crunch their numbers and come up with a better plan. Are the 15 polling places in Nassau and 12 in Suffolk really enough? With elections officials predicting weekends would be the most popular time to vote, why are polls generally open the shortest number of hours on weekends? Shouldn’t polls be open longer hours every day to make participation easier?

Do polling sites have enough scanners and enough space? Do they have enough personnel to check voters in and guide them through the process? Do those workers need better training? Are nine days of early voting enough? Boards of election are notoriously recalcitrant about making changes. That must end. Remember, as people experience early voting it is likely to become even more popular.

The state needs to adopt a better metric that will determine guidelines under which county boards operate. The number of sites, their geographic locations, and the hours they are open should be proportional to the population. The state and county boards should devise a faster way to count absentee ballots than the system that leads Suffolk, for example, to start its tally seven days after the election. And ballots must be redesigned to make them more readable and understandable.

Long Island’s boards of election also require tinkering. Both are patronage pits. Staying with the two-party system where both Democrats and Republicans name a commissioner to share responsibilities might not be the worst idea given what’s happening in states with one-party rule, but jobs beneath them should be subject to Civil Service-type vetting, not awarded by party bosses. New York is the only state with such a model.

The silver lining to heavy early turnout is that voting on Nov. 3 might be smoother than it would have been otherwise. But the goal is an efficient and easy process from beginning to end, each and every November.

Online: https://nwsdy.li/34EktmJ

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