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EDITORIAL: Pa. politics: Reality vs. conspiracy

York Dispatch Editorial Board

Talk about a contrast in priorities.

If one were interested in what animates the major political parties in Pennsylvania, a gander at this weekend’s headlines couldn’t offer a more stark — or revealing — example:

“Pennsylvania Democrats propose COVID-19 relief bill.”

“64 Pa. GOP Lawmakers Ask Congress to Throw Out State’s Electoral Votes.”

That’s right; one party’s trying to save your life, the other’s trying to steal your vote. The disparity highlights the increasingly separate worlds inhabited by the nation’s two leading political ideologies: an understanding of, and effort to reckon with, the realities of life on the left; a cauldron of conspiracy and manufactured grievances on the right.

If this sounds like painting with too broad a brush, consider the topics highlighted by the headlines above, the coronavirus pandemic and the presidential election.

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Democratic state leaders, including Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, have acted forcefully to quell the worst effects of the virus. Public health guidelines including mask-wearing and restrictions on large gatherings are commonsense responses to a virulently contagious and potentially fatal virus.

But rather than likewise focusing on the virus, Republicans too often made public-safety efforts, and those proposing them, their targets. Led by President Donald Trump — whose response to the pandemic has devolved from dismissive to destructive to, in the days since his election loss, criminally negligent — party leaders and their rank and file turned what should have been a unifying challenge into a partisan war.

The result, sadly, is that today, almost a year into the pandemic, daily infection and fatality rates in Pennsylvania and across the nation are at record levels. The economy continues to struggle with some 10 million still out of work, and federal unemployment benefits and housing protections are about to expire.

The lack of federal leadership has been so profound that members of the Pennsylvania Democratic Caucus have taken it upon themselves to put together a $4 billion relief package. 

State Republicans, meanwhile, again taking a page from the White House, can’t even protect themselves.

An all-GOP gathering last month at a Gettysburg hotel, intended to promote baseless allegations of voter fraud, saw safety protocols such as masks and social distancing largely ignored. Two of those in attendance have since tested positive for COVID-19, including meeting organizer state Sen. Doug Mastriano of Adams County, who — talk about bringing lack of regard for the coronavirus full circle — learned he had the virus during a White House meeting with President Trump.

“Clearly, mistakes were made,” said interim Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre. That could be the title of a book about Republican lawmakers’ response to the pandemic.

That the Gettysburg gathering was held to push reversal of Pennsylvania’s vote underscores the party’s preoccupation with abetting the president’s fantasies about the election.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally for Senate Republican candidates, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., at Valdosta Regional Airport, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Valdosta, Ga. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Against considerable odds and no small amount of Republican gamesmanship in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, the Nov. 3 elections were free, fair, safe, secure and surprisingly well run. That elections officials across the state and nation were able to organize and execute balloting for a record turnout amid a deadly pandemic ought to be celebrated, not denigrated. Kudos, likewise, to the tens of millions of citizens who made their voices heard.

Still, efforts continue to overturn the election in Pennsylvania, where dozens of GOP lawmakers signed a statement Friday urging Congress to block the state’s electoral votes from being cast — that is, to disenfranchise nearly 7 million voters — on the basis of nothing more than the failure of their candidate.

And that candidate continues attempts to strong-arm state officials, like Georgia’s GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, to throw out election results and simply declare him the winner.

So, to repeat: one party’s trying to save your life, the other’s trying to steal your vote. The former deserves public support; the latter needs a political intervention.