Editorials from around New York
Recent editorials of statewide and national interest from New York’s newspapers:
The Wall Street Journal on the 2020 Election
The Democratic presidential candidates open their primary debate season Wednesday night in Miami with an historic opportunity: They have an excellent chance to retake the White House against a first-term incumbent if they can nominate a candidate who doesn’t frighten the swing voters who have doubts about Donald Trump.
Given the economy’s performance through two years, Mr. Trump should be a favorite for re-election. The polls show his economic approval rating is above 50%. But Mr. Trump’s overall job approval is in the low 40% range.
The reason is that millions of voters disapprove of his behavior as President_the staff turmoil, the needless insults of unimportant critics, the impulsive shifts in policy and rhetoric. Voters who dislike Mr. Trump but like many of his policies were decisive in handing Democrats control of the U.S. House last year.
These are the voters who will decide the 2020 election, and Democrats need a nominee who can appeal to them. Barring a recession or foreign crisis, they will want a return to presidential normalcy, not a “transformation” of the U.S. economy or a return to the liberal cultural imperialism of Barack Obama’s second term. If they decide to vote for change, they want it to be reassuring, not radical.
Joe Biden is the most prominent of the candidates who seem to understand this, which is one reason he continues to lead in the polls despite what the press is portraying as his recent stumbles. The question is whether the former Vice President can stand up against the “woke” assaults against his record and political style, and the debates will be an important test.
Mr. Biden’s experience is his strength. The more he apologizes for his past, or abandons his previous policy views, the weaker and less presidential he will sound. His flip-flop on taxpayer funding for abortion was a mistake because it made him look pliable on a moral position he’d held for 45 years.
He also shouldn’t apologize for his vote on a crime bill from 25 years ago merely to serve the identity politics of today. He can say the bill was needed at the time and that many then in the Black Caucus supported it because crime was a particular blight on minority neighborhoods. The bill is one reason crime is lower today, which is why we can afford to have different policies. If Mr. Biden folds under pressure from the left, voters will learn something about his leadership as President.
Another debate drama will be the battle on the left between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They’re now splitting the progressive vote, with Senator Warren gaining in the polls with the white gentry liberals who make more than $100,000 a year. She’s also the new darling of the progressive pundit class, who like her specific ideas for wealth redistribution (a French-style wealth tax) and yoking corporations to more political control (making them answer to “stakeholders” not shareholders).
If one of the two breaks into a substantial lead on the other, the odds of a left-wing nominee increase. The party’s progressive wing thinks left-wing populism is necessary to defeat Mr. Trump’s right-wing variety. We think that’s a bad bet, and certainly a risky one if your priority is defeating Mr. Trump. Our guess is that either Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Warren would have a hard time defeating Mr. Trump because their economic policies will rightly scare moderate voters in the suburbs.
Also worth watching is who, if anyone, is willing to take on the left’s most extreme ideas. All of the Democrats will attack Mr. Trump. That’s easy. But who will dare to call Medicare for All and the Green New Deal unaffordable and economically damaging? And will anyone challenge the excesses of identity politics and the Democratic habit of denigrating Donald Trump’s voters as “deplorables” or worse?
At this stage of his Presidency, Mr. Trump is arguably the most politically vulnerable first-term incumbent since Jimmy Carter. But as Democrats learned the hard way in 2016, even an unpopular candidate can win if his opponent is even more unacceptable. None of the Democratic candidates at this stage carries as much ethical baggage as Hillary Clinton, but they could also lose if they veer too far left on the culture or the economy.
The Democratic Party’s activists have moved sharply left even in the 30 months since the Obama Presidency. The debates will begin to show which candidates can temper that with the pragmatism needed to win.
Newsday on President Trump’s immigration battle on the border
For the past week, President Donald Trump has threatened “millions” of immigrants here illegally with a gigantic, probably impossible deportation action. He has done this gleefully on Twitter, as if nationwide raids were a big, exciting game: “Two weeks and big Deportation begins!”
Trump has legitimate power to direct enforcement actions against those under a deportation order. Such actions aren’t new, particularly for violent offenders who make communities unsafe. But dragnet removal of every one of the million-plus immigrants with a deportation order would be nearly impossible.
And what Trump does with brash announcements — further scaring families who have built stable lives here and contribute to their communities — is counterproductive and cruel. Especially when processing centers to hold those under such orders are overfilled and the federal agency overseeing them (without permanent leadership) is working at capacity. Premature announcements of such raids also put law enforcement at risk.
Trump appears taken with the idea of diplomacy by tweet, putting wild-man pressure on dictators and foreign trade ministers, and trying to act tough to dissuade migrants from traveling to the U.S. border. Successful or not, this method is inhumane when toying with actual lives.
Since his first tweet about a sinister deportation action, many immigrants and their family members have been in a state of preparation frenzy. Immigrant advocates on Long Island are doing know-your-rights workshops, and some local religious congregations are putting plans in place to help or house children.
At a news conference Monday in Queens, advocates talked about immigrants changing residences. One woman approached an advocate and said she had encouraged her frightened neighbor to enter her home to confuse immigration agents. Then the neighbor could go to her own home through the back.
Pair this with the crisis situation at the Southern border, where unacceptable facilities are being overwhelmed to the point that hundreds of migrant children had to be moved out of one in Texas.
Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would delay his big deportation event as a bargaining chip to encourage Democrats to work on a solution to the asylum and border crises.
Congress should indeed take action. And humane and comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, as we have written again and again, most recently on June 16.
But the emotions of people who came here for better lives are not bargaining chips, particularly when the president’s scaremongering seems so blatantly political. Trump, who kicked off his re-election campaign last week, is returning to the immigration issue that powered his 2016 run.
Newsday just published the story of “Esteban” and “María,” pseudonyms for two immigrants who built lives on Long Island who were separated when Esteban was arrested on a deportation order. Newsday could not find a record of crimes other than for his border crossing. Once he returned to the United States and María, he went back to work.
These are the kinds of families that Trump is bent on terrifying. For many, the cruel way he implements his policies is just as frightening.
Post Journal on the use of the word “concentration camps”
Give U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez credit for one thing: She is highly intelligent — enough so to understand entirely how most people interpret the term, “concentration camp.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a frequent critic of U.S. immigration policy, posted this on Twitter a few days ago: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying .”
In part because liberals in Congress blocked funding President Donald Trump’s administration had hoped to improve how immigrants are handled, conditions under which some have been housed are lamentable. Another factor in that is the increase in the number of people attempting to come into the United States illegally.
But they are not “concentration camps” as most people understand the term. It is used frequently to describe the death camps in which Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews and millions of other people.
“Such ignorant comparisons trivialize the Holocaust and thereby undermine the lessons of history we must learn,” said Abe Foxman, director of the Center for the Study of Antisemitism, of Ocasio-Cortez’s comment. Many others, including some who have supported Ocasio-Cortez on other issues, agreed.
For her part, Ocasio-Cortez refuses to retract her words. She insists they are accurate, and she resorts to semantics to defend herself.
It is true enough that many nations, including the United States, have operated concentration camps. Before the extent of Nazi atrocities became evident, the term meant simply a camp where civilians are concentrated for detainment purposes.
But that changed, as Ocasio-Cortez is well aware. Now, “concentration camp” has come to mean a place where human beings are sent to be worked to death or exterminated immediately.
Ocasio-Cortez knows that. In using the words for political purposes, she indeed does trivialize the Holocaust. For that, she should be ashamed.
The Post Star on vaccinations in New York
A key constitutional concept that those opposed to vaccines don’t seem to appreciate is that rights have limits, and you don’t get to exercise your rights at the expense of someone else.
If, for example, your free exercise of religion involves human sacrifice, that isn’t protected by the First Amendment.
Likewise, you don’t get to put other people’s babies at risk of contracting dangerous diseases because you want your kids to prance around unvaccinated.
New York has done the right thing in passing a law that eliminates religious exemptions from the requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated. Exemptions for medical reasons, such as allergies and autoimmune diseases that make vaccines dangerous, will still be granted.
A good argument could be made that parents should not be allowed to endanger the health of their children by refusing to have them vaccinated. Just as parents are required by law to feed their kids something besides Twinkies and to buckle their seat belts, they could also be required to take the minimum steps to protect them from diseases.
But New York, like all the other states, isn’t going that far. Anti-vaxxers in New York can continue to risk the health and the lives of their own kids for no good reason if they choose.
What they will not be able to do, from now on, is to send their kids to public school, where diseases they may be carrying can be transmitted to other families.
One myth in this myth-heavy field is that anti-vaxxers aren’t putting anyone else — just themselves — at risk. But those folks who for medical reasons cannot get vaccinated will always be at risk of infection. Also, babies who haven’t received all their shots yet are at risk. Vaccinations get spaced out over the first year or two of a child’s life, and it’s easy to see how a baby could be infected in a public place like, for example, a pediatrician’s office.
Keeping unvaccinated kids out of public school doesn’t solve the problem, because children mingle in many public places, and it’s easy for unknowing transmission of childhood diseases to occur. Measles, for example, can live in the air for hours and is highly contagious. Also, it can be spread for days before and after symptoms are obvious.
But it’s very difficult to ban unvaccinated kids, or adults, from the grocery store or movie theater or park. It’s easy for schools to require the submission of vaccination records (they already do), and making vaccines mandatory for schoolkids should persuade most parents to be sensible.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled both that states can require vaccinations of citizens and that school districts can require them of students.
“There are manifold restraints to which each person is necessarily subject for the common good,” wrote Justice John Marshall Harlan on this issue in 1905.
Utica Observer-Dispatch on New York State libraries
Usually when bureaucrats come to town they have ulterior motives of a political nature. But when New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia visited earlier this month, she was selling something that was tough to pass up: A summer reading program.
If you have a student in your life, we suggest you buy into it, too.
Elia was in Utica to pitch the summer reading program backed by her department and the New York State Library in partnership with 1,100 public libraries and neighborhood branches across the state. The free program gives children the opportunity to access the vast resources the state’s public libraries have to support summer reading.
More than 2.4 million students participated in the program last year, said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa, and they’re hoping to better those numbers this year.
And why not? Our libraries are fascinating places with an abundance of diverse resources. Kids, being the curious critters that they are, love going there. But in most cases, they need a way to get there. That’s where you come in.
The best way for kids to experience the library is with their family. Children are greatly influenced by parents, siblings, grandparents and others who show a particular interest in the local library. And what’s not to like? You can find everything from daily newspapers and periodicals to the latest best sellers, not to mention special exhibits, story hours for kids of all ages, films, videos, art classes, book clubs ... the list is endless.
Libraries are true community centers.
Reading, of course, is their bread-and-butter. This year’s summer reading program, A Universe of Stories, is open to young ones and teens - those participating receive book recommendations and are able to engage in creative and fun educational activities. Library staffers will help them select reading materials and provide literacy-enhancing programs such as storytelling, music, creative arts and performances.
At the end of the program, participants receive formal recognition and celebrate their summer reading goals and achievements at special public library events.
Get your kids involved. It’s easy for cobwebs to clutter summer brains. Without regular stimulation, little minds can slip into neutral. Reading can keep the gears lubricated, and regular trips to the library can help.
Others partnering with the state Education Department and State Library include the state Senate and Assembly, Hunger Solutions New York, the New York State Reading Association, the School Library Systems Association of New York State, 4-H and the New York Council for the Humanities. And for the second year, Elia’s department is partnering with myON by Renaissance - a personalized digital library - to provide thousands of enhanced digital books to children from birth to 12th grade and their families all around the state.
Readers can log into myON via one statewide login to access a digital library of more than 6,000 e-books using any web-enabled device. There’s an option to download up to 20 books at a time through a free app for reading offline, as well as resources and tips for parents and educators, including on-demand videos, tip sheets, strategies and more to support meaningful family literacy experiences. This access to free digital children’s books is available for New York state students and families through Sept. 30.
“It’s so important for children to continue learning during the summer and our summer reading program helps them stay engaged and prevent the summer slide,” said Elia. “Whether it’s print books, e-books or audio books, there’s something for everyone to read and enjoy at their local library. I encourage children and families to visit their local library and sign up for a summertime of free reading, learning and fun.”
We agree. We hope you do, too.