Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

___

Jan. 20

The Advocate on President Joe Biden's inauguration:

Presidential inaugurations are designed to be reassuring. They are proof that our system is strong and stable, and can transcend even the most vicious of political campaigns. They are national celebrations of our democracy, no matter who wins.

After four years of wrenching division, culminating in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol spurred by President Donald Trump’s false claims about the election, has there ever been a better time to refocus on what unites us?

Incoming President Joe Biden pledges to be a healer, a fixer, a no-drama doer who will buckle down and get the coronavirus response and vaccination program on track, reconnect with the country’s historic allies, and take on huge challenges from crumbling infrastructure to climate change to entrenched inequality. He is an institutionalist, at a time when our nation’s institutions desperately need shoring up. He has assembled a diverse team of veteran government officials who won’t face a learning curve.

He will surely try to keep promises to the more ideological wing of his party, as any incoming president would, but the reality of a closely divided Congress will pull him toward the center. We urge members of the Louisiana delegation, especially those who cynically perpetuated the fiction that he was not the legitimate winner of the election, to meet him there.

Even before Wednesday’s swearing in, a change in tone was already underway.

Biden has known grievous personal loss, and on the eve of the inauguration, he set out to properly memorialize the 400,000 Americans who’ve died during the coronavirus pandemic. It was an overdue acknowledgment from the top of COVID-19’s immense toll, and also a signal that the new administration will confront the deadly virus head-on, with sufficient resources and without conflicting signals from the government’s medical experts and its political leadership.

Biden has vowed to be a president for all Americans, including those, like the majority in our state, who voted for Trump. We welcome that and are ready to support him when we agree, and criticize in good faith when we disagree.

Some of his policies will be unsettling around here, including his promised pivot from fossil fuels to clean energy, but the change also presents an opportunity to create jobs in the new energy economy. We’re encouraged that, with former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans heading to the White House as a senior adviser and head of the administration’s office of public engagement, someone from Louisiana will have the president’s ear.

And so we congratulate Biden and new Vice President Kamala Harris, and wish them well as they take office during this fraught time.

We’ll close with an old sentiment but a good one: If they succeed, so will our state, and our country.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com

___

Jan. 17

The Advocate on the surge in COVID-19 cases in Louisiana:

Ten months into a pandemic that has cost too many lives and forced frustrating restrictions on our daily activities, one grim warning can sound like the next. Even so, the tone that Gov. John Bel Edwards took during his most recent update was stern enough to get anyone’s attention.

There has never been as much COVID-19 in Louisiana as there is right now, Edwards and one of his top health officials said. Test positivity is topping 10%, and there are more hospitalizations than during either previous spike. There’s also no indication that the current surge has peaked.

Dr. Joseph Kanter, who heads the coronavirus response for the state Department of Health, said many patients are telling their doctors that they think they were exposed at informal gatherings. One of the saddest things they see, he said, is “when a family does not really internalize the risk until their loved one is in the ICU bed. It’s really heartbreaking.“

The bottom line, Edwards said, is that “the state remains in a precarious place. ... It is time to buckle down.”

He’s right. Nobody wants to live this way, but letting the virus spread puts the state in danger of having its resources overwhelmed, and will cost more lives.

And so Edwards announced he was extending restrictions, limiting most businesses to 50% capacity, and banning indoor service at bars. He urged employers to let their employees work remotely, if possible, and alternated between sharply scolding residents who aren’t following the rules and appealing to them, once again, to be good neighbors.

It’s a message that’s being echoed by leaders at the local level. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell kicked off the new year by toughening restrictions amid a surge of new cases. Businesses are now limited to 25% of their pre-pandemic indoors capacity, and gatherings larger than a single typical household are banned.

“We have been repeating the same message for 10 months; nothing’s changed. We’ve seen progress when people heed the message and the warnings, and we’ve also seen impacts when they don’t,” she said.

Baton Rouge may not be far behind. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome warned (last week) that she could impose new limits if residents don’t do a better job of complying, and said she’s ready to send police in to break up large gatherings.

The winter surge was long predicted, with cold weather pushing people indoors, holidays tempting family and friends to gather, concern over the economic hit businesses are absorbing, and understandable fatigue.

The good news is that vaccines are slowly being rolled out and the incoming presidential administration is promising a 100-day push to beat the virus back. So help is on the way, just not quite yet for most people.

Until then, we, like Edwards, will say it one more time: Wear masks, keep social distancing, avoid crowds. Be vigilant, and try to be patient. Times are tough, but there is an end in sight.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com

___

Jan. 17

The Houma Courier and The Daily Comet on Louisiana ties to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol:

The deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol after a rally Jan. 6 in support of President Donald Trump’s attempts to negate the results of the recent presidential election has become the subject of local controversy.

One of the owners of Schriever-based Rouses Markets, Donald Rouse Sr., responded to a backlash after a photo circulated on social media showing him and the company’s former human resources director, Steven Galtier, at the rally.

In a statement released the day after the attack, Rouse said he attended the rally to support the president, which is his right, but was not part of the ransacking of the Capitol, which is nobody’s right.

“I left before the violence began and was shocked and saddened to see it unfold on TV,” the statement read. “I condemn the actions of those who unlawfully entered and damaged our hallowed institutions and threatened our public servants. Violence and destruction do not represent our country’s values, or the values of Rouses.”

There is no reason to doubt Rouse’s word or to limit his ability to express his opinion. Nor is it right, as some have done, to paint Rouse with the same brush as the rioters or hold him responsible for the sickening scenes Americans watched in horror.

Just as with protests by Antifa and Black Lives Matter, which are also largely peaceful and sometimes descend into violence, vocal dissent should not only be tolerated but encouraged in a democracy. But the distinction should be clearly drawn between protest and violence, and those who engage in violence in the service of any cause should be held accountable for their actions.

The reaction to Rouse’s participation in the Trump rally was predictably polarized. Those on social media who have advocated a boycott of Rouses and those who have expressed a desire to support Rouses by patronizing them more than they already do have, and should have, every right to express their opinions in a peaceful way.

Many of those who attacked the Capitol like to think of themselves as patriotic, but it’s hard to apply that label to those guilty of ransacking the seat of our democracy and seeking to disrupt or overturn the work being done by their freely elected representatives in the halls of Congress.

Peaceful protest and assembly are and should be vigorously protected. One could argue the United States of America was created specifically for that purpose, and that its greatness depends on the zeal with which we promote and enforce those protections.

But violence and vandalism should not be protected, or even tolerated, by anyone on either side of the political divide.

Online: https://www.theadvocate.com