EDITORIAL: Wishes for new, better year
As 2019 dawns, it brings with it a trunkload of political baggage. From calcified partisanship in Washington to end-runs around the public will at the state level to toxic politicking locally, there is room for improvement across the board.
Here are a few of the areas in which we’d most like to see progress in the coming 12 months:
End the shutdown: Before anything else can be done in Washington, President Donald Trump and Congress must come to terms on a spending plan that fully funds government operations. There is no “blame game” to be played: Trump, as he publicly promised, closed the government when a proposed, bipartisan budget bill did not include $5 billion for his long-sought, albeit useless, border wall. If he could not secure this funding with a Republican-led Congress, there is little likelihood Democratic control of the House is going to change the calculus.
Address immigration: The Trump Administration’s handling of all things immigration has been a deadly, costly disaster. From numerous efforts to establish a ban on Muslim travel into the U.S. (which was finally, inexplicably upheld by the Supreme Court), to separating young children from parents of families seeking U.S. asylum, to politicizing the military for a pre-Election Day show of force at the border, the agenda has been hateful, harmful and shameful. Congressional leaders must devise bipartisan legislative remedies to the nation’s immigration policies. Real answers will not be forthcoming from a wall-obsessed Oval Office.
Fight climate change: The U.S. policy toward climate change has been, like climate change itself, a man-made disaster. In the case of policy, that man is Donald Trump, who has appointed leaders like former EPA Chief Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke who were not stewards of the land, but stooges for Big Business. The administration’s climate-related decisions, from withdrawing from the Paris Accords to dozens of reversals of domestic protections, is little less than a war on the environment. And it is costly in a number of ways. A sounder, saner direction is badly needed.
Normalize White House press briefings: Once routine, White House press briefings have become rare and rarely productive. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has drastically reduced the number of briefings while drastically increasing hostility toward members of the White House Press Corps. Neither is conducive to informing the public. The American people would be better served by a White House spokesperson who can address the media with consistency and honesty.
Reverse of state power grabs: The actions of Republican lawmakers in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina are heinous. After Republican gubernatorial candidates in both states lost reelection, GOP-controlled state legislatures moved quickly to transfer or remove powers from the governor’s office. Such tactics are not only an insult to the will of voters, they strike at the very heart of democracy. The answer lies in more fairly drawn political maps. Absent the protection of gerrymander-insured majorities, state lawmakers will be unable to orchestrate the types of democracy-skirting power grabs that are becoming more popular with Republican office-holders.
Elevate Pennsylvania’s politics: Now that the dust has settled following a contentious and, at times, embarrassing gubernatorial contest, state lawmakers can best serve their constituents by elevating the discourse and dialing up the compromise. While the state’s government remains divided (Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will continue to work with a Republican statehouse), that’s no reason for its leaders to be divisive. State leaders will not always agree on how to negotiate these troubled waters, but they should engage in honest debate that sets aside political posturing for the public good.