Excerpts from recent editorials in the United States and abroad:
The Washington Post on the Democrats’ return to control over the House of Representatives:
The Democrats’ return to control over the House of Representatives is much more than a victory for one party. It is a sign of health for American democracy.
Distrustful of untrammeled majorities, the authors of the Constitution favored checks and balances, including, crucially, the check that the legislative branch might place upon the executive. Over the past two years, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have failed to exercise reasonable oversight. Now the constitutional system has a fresh chance to work as intended.
The Democratic victory is also a sign of political health, to the extent it is a form of pushback against the excesses, rhetorical and in terms of policy, committed by the Trump administration and propounded by President Trump during this fall’s campaign. Turning against the dominant party in Washington even in a moment of economic prosperity, voters from Key West to Kansas refused to accept the continued degradation of their nation’s political culture. Republicans retained control of the Senate, where the map this year favored their defense. But voters nationwide refused Mr. Trump’s invitation to vote on the basis of fear of immigrants; they did not respond to his depiction of his opposition as dangerous enemies.
Now the House will be in a position to investigate any number of potential administration transgressions and demand accountability: the awful separation of migrant children from their parents; the dubious decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census; the president’s harassment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
The new majority also has an opportunity to offer a positive legislative agenda. The Democrats achieved their victory Tuesday night in large part by promising to protect health-care coverage, especially for Americans with preexisting conditions. Though effective in winning over moderate voters, the campaign did not establish a clear mandate for much beyond that – eminently valid – objective. And of course, even if the Democrats set forth a list of specific proposals for the House, before or after Election Day, the Senate and Mr. Trump’s veto pen could block it.
Still, the party can outline an alternative policy direction for the country. It can begin with measures to shore up the Affordable Care Act but then move to reforms of federal gun laws. Where the Republican majority has denied science, the Democrats can offer an approach to climate change. They can propose relief to the “dreamers” and, ideally, other undocumented immigrants, along with generous but not unlimited opportunities for future legal immigration. They should propose to restore the United States to its rightful place as a welcomer of refugees; to end the disgraceful denial of congressional representation to citizens in the District of Columbia; to repeal the most egregious giveaways to the rich in the 2017 tax bill.
Tuesday was a good day for Democrats. It may also be a good day for Republicans, if they take the lessons of their House defeat to heart and reconsider the devil’s bargain they have made with Mr. Trump. Indeed, if the results help lead to a reemergence of that party’s better angels, then it will have been good day for America as a whole.
The Telegraph on reinstated sanctions on Iran:
…Although the EU, including Britain, is sticking to the nuclear deal unilaterally repudiated by President Trump, without America’s backing it is pretty much a dead duck. Since European companies that continue trading with Iran risk being hit by secondary US sanctions, they are unlikely to keep doing so, despite promises of legal protection from Brussels.
Mr Trump made no secret of his intention to tear up the agreement while campaigning for the White House and a steady succession of EU leaders have made their way to Washington in an effort to change his mind, but to no avail. …
When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Iran deal was called, was agreed, there was always a need for caution. It was hailed as a triumph of enlightened diplomacy that made the world a safer place. Yet the Iranians, bolstered by greater oil revenues after sanctions were eased, have shown every sign of making the Middle East more dangerous, even if they have stuck to the specific agreement on nuclear arms development, which is questionable.
The collapse in the international common front on Iran is regrettable. But instead of trying to force a U-turn on Mr Trump, the other signatories need to consider ways in which to respond to his – and Israel’s – objections to the deal.
What is often overlooked by those whose dislike of Mr Trump is an all-consuming obsession is that many Iranians welcome his stand because they are desperate to see the end of the regime in Tehran. The deal was supposed to foster stability in the Middle East, help the people of Iran and encourage moderate forces in the country – but it has done none of this. The money released from the ending of sanctions has been poured into supporting militia groups fighting proxy wars, such as the Houthis in Yemen and Hizbollah in Syria.
The new sanctions target banks and the Iranian military, whose influence may persuade the ayatollahs running the country to return to the negotiating table. Everyone needs to realise that this is now the only way forward.
Dallas Morning News says Texas is not turning purple:
The question is on more than a few minds now. Did Beto O’Rourke prove the once-unthinkable – that the near future of Texas is as a purple state?
Those who hold out hope that, in fact, O’Rourke showed it is possible to repaint this red state will point to several factors. The congressman went from little-known El Paso figure to a national sensation overnight and raised $70 million in the process. He forced Sen. Ted Cruz, a national figure on the right with a dedicated core of supporters, to run hard to win. And he appeared to be in a very competitive position in a series of polls over the course of the campaign.
Political prognosticators might also point to other factors. Texas is a rapidly changing state attracting a wide swath of new voters. And just as rapid growth helped fuel a Republican takeover of Texas, such growth can change the political trajectory of a state. Colorado and Virginia are examples of states that are competitive today in part because, over time, the influx of residents can flip voting patterns. In Texas, this appears to take on added significance because of the growing number of Hispanic residents. It is presumed that in the coming years, they will break in favor of Democrats.
All of these things are true, but color us skeptical that they add up to a purple future for the state of Texas in the near term. Consider that Republicans who war with other Republicans tend to underperform. And Cruz spent the first few years of his term mixing up with members of his own party in Washington, then made a name for himself challenging his party on its principles as he ran for president. And, although anecdotal, we have met a lot of staunch Republicans who didn’t vote for Cruz because they just don’t like him.
All of that adds up to the fact that Cruz had work to do to win a second term. But there is more evidence to suggest this year’s results are peculiar to the circumstances. We’ll start with President Donald Trump’s leadership style. To the extent that this election cycle was a referendum on the president, the results broke against Republicans generally. That is especially true in our suburbs. One reason Pete Sessions won’t be returning to Congress is that he was a Republican running in the suburbs this year.
Despite all of this, however, Democrats still failed to win a statewide race. They weren’t able to defeat Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who became synonymous with divisive politics. The party of Beto also failed to unseat Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general who is under indictment. In the end, O’Rourke outperformed Lupe Valdez, who ran a lackluster campaign for governor, by just five points in a year that was supposed to be a wave election against the president’s party.
To us, what all of this shows is that there is a hunger among voters for candidates who offer a mix of optimism and who work against those who would divide us. Republicans are just as capable of offering that message. Indeed, it is the message that enabled George W. Bush to turn the state red in 1994. It’s the message Ronald Reagan used to endear himself to a generation on the right. And, we suspect, it is a message candidates will rediscover as they consider what it will take to remain competitive in the years ahead.
The Wall Street Journal on privately funded litigators working in state attorneys general offices:
With the courts and Trump Administration rolling back federal climate regulation, green activists have turned to the states. But there’s a troubling ethical twist: Instead of merely lobbying, activists are placing employees in Attorneys General offices in dubious private-public condominiums.
Consider a remarkable arrangement brokered by the NYU Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center to fund legal services for state AGs. The group was launched in August 2017 to advance a liberal climate and energy agenda, courtesy of a $6 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, which also financed the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
In August 2017 the NYU outfit emailed then-New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, offering to cover the salary and benefits of “special assistant attorneys general,” pending an application from the office that demonstrated how the new attorneys would be used. These privately funded staffers would work out of an AG’s office for two years and deliver quarterly progress reports to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center.
Those progress reports would explain “the contribution that the legal fellow has made to the clean energy, climate change, and environmental initiatives” within the attorney general’s office, according to a December 2017 draft of an agreement between the Center and the New York AG obtained by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Attorneys General do sometimes bring on legal fellows or outside help to handle unique cases. But subject-matter experts aren’t in-house or chosen with specific intent to promote specific policies, according to Randy Pepple, who was chief of staff for former Washington Republican AG Rob McKenna. In the New York case, a special interest is funding staffers who could wield state law-enforcement power to punish opponents.
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center made clear that state AG offices would only qualify for special assistant AGs if they “demonstrate a need and commitment to defending environmental values and advancing progressive clean energy, climate change, and environmental legal positions,” according to the August 2017 email to numerous AGs. Mr. Schneiderman’s office suggested in its application for the fellows that it “needs additional attorney resources to assist” in extracting compensation from fossil-fuel emitters.
That’s exactly what’s happening. The New York AG currently has two NYU fellows on staff, according to the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. …
A lack of government transparency makes this arrangement especially troubling. The New York AG’s office, now run by Acting AG Barbara Underwood, declined to comment. …
The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center said in a statement that the state offices it works with “has the authority consistent with applicable law and regulations to accept a Legal Fellow whose salary and benefits are provided by an outside funding source.” It added that it places workers with AGs who already have a long history of advancing the center’s energy priorities. “The work that NYU law fellows perform is directed by those AGs and not by the Center,” the Center said.
At least six state AG offices have already brought on board a special assistant attorney general, according to an August report by Mr. Horner. Besides New York, the jurisdictions include Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia. In September, Mr. Horner learned that Illinois and New Mexico have brought on special assistant AGs as well, which was confirmed by the NYU outfit.
The ethical problems here should be obvious. Private interests are leveraging the police powers of the state to pursue their political agenda, while a government official is letting private interests appear to influence enforcement decisions. None of this is reassuring about the fair administration of justice.
The Denver Post on Colorado electing the country’s first openly gay man as governor:
Congressman Jared Polis quietly made history Tuesday night. Early results indicate Colorado voters have made him the first openly gay governor to win election in America.
Polis’ sexual orientation was such a non-issue during the campaign that it would be easy to forget that in 2012 the question of whether same-sex couples could be joined by civil unions brought the Colorado General Assembly to a political meltdown. That six years later Polis, his partner Marlon Reis, and their two children are poised to become the first-family of Colorado is remarkable.
We went from a state where our elected officials struggled to provide even basic rights to same-sex couples to a state where a gay man ran for governor and his sexual orientation wasn’t discussed as a political liability. Faith in humanity should be temporarily restored.
Denver Post reporter Nic Garcia documented the decades of ground work it took to get to this point in his late-September analysis: “From ‘Hate State’ to Jared Polis: How Colorado led the way for gay, transgender candidates to run for office – and win.”
The story was a remarkable retrospective on how advocates responded to the 1992 passage of Amendment 2, which was a disgusting attempt to make it illegal to protect the LGBT community from discrimination. Garcia told the story of Equality Colorado, the Gay and Lesbian Fund, and One Colorado, rising up and fighting for civil rights in Colorado. And while ultimately it was the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, the grassroots work in Colorado was instrumental in fighting against the hardest thing of all to change: the hearts and minds of the 53 percent of voters who supported Amendment 2.
But as far as this state and this nation has come, it’s important that we take a moment to note the historic significance of a Polis victory because there’s much left to be done on the equality front in this nation.
Just before the midterm elections, President Donald Trump’s administration proposed rolling back policies put in place under President Barack Obama that provided protections for transgender individuals across many aspects of government. The rules in place ensured that transgender individuals would not face discrimination in gender-related programs like those in health care, schools or other benefits. There’s not a single documented case of those new rules causing anyone harm, and yet the rules have been targeted for removal.
Such political maneuvers reinforce what we already know and simultaneously fear: it is popular and easy for politicians to turn their backs on minority populations who need the protection of the law the most.
It’s a reminder too of the unresolved issues in Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court punted on the question of whether a small business owner can be compelled by anti-discrimination laws to serve all customers equally even if it violates his or her religious beliefs. That is a true point of conflict that remains unresolved for the owner and customers of Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood.
The Salt Lake Tribune on North Ogden, Utah, Mayor Brent Taylor, the Army National Guard major killed in Afghanistan:
“I am the mayor of a small city with an $18 million budget. Our city council spends two full days in budget workshops and then many hours in subsequent meetings, as they meticulously review each individual line item and make modifications. In contrast, the full UTA Board spent only two total hours on this massive $600 million budget, did not review line item details, and basically rubber-stamped management’s proposals.”
– North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor in a Jan. 5 commentary in The Salt Lake Tribune
Before he was killed in an attack in Afghanistan last week, Brent Taylor fought the battle of Utah Transit Authority.
The North Ogden mayor – who wore the hats of father, soldier and politician – couldn’t seem to do anything halfheartedly. When Taylor was chosen to represent Weber and Box Elder counties on the UTA board last year, the old guard at the transit agency was so unnerved they tried to deny him the appointment. They claimed it violated nepotism rules because his father was a FrontRunner train operator, and it took a ruling from State Auditor John Dougall to force the board to seat him.
Once he was on the board, Taylor did something other board members almost never did. He started questioning management’s financial decisions. He challenged UTA’s plan to borrow $88 million when it was already $2 billion in debt. He questioned why UTA drastically discounted passes for Utah Valley University and Brigham Young University students.
Ultimately, he fought to dismantle the board and replace it with a more functional system, and the Utah Legislature did exactly that while he was overseas.
Taylor’s tenacity in the face of so much bureaucratic inertia says mountains about a man who was taken too soon from his wife, his seven children, his fellow North Ogdenites and the entire state of Utah.
Politics for Taylor was about problem solving, not building fiefdoms or protecting turf. It’s that attitude that led the Republican to join with Oscar Mata, a former executive director of Weber County Democrats, to form “Weber County Forward.” As with UTA, Taylor and Mata were looking to replace the county’s three-commissioner government with a better system of checks and balances.
Utah will never know how far Taylor’s star would have risen. Three days after his commentary ran in The Tribune in January, he announced that he was taking a yearlong leave from being mayor to serve in Afghanistan. “Service is really what leadership is all about,” Taylor said in his Facebook announcement.
True enough, but leadership is also about courage. Brent Taylor was never afraid to do what is right.
The angels better be ready. Heaven just got a new reformer.