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Hoping for better

Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Jan. 9

On Friday we said Donald Trump should not only be removed from office, but also jailed and prosecuted for inciting a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol. But what about the dozens of members of Congress, including the North Country’s own Rep. Elise Stefanik, who sacrificed principles and integrity to support his lies and imitate his name-calling and abuse?

For them, the solution has to be political. For Trump and the rioters, however, it has crossed over into the realm of criminality.

Some Democrats in the North Country are calling for Stefanik to resign. We are not. Those who think she must go should get real and work on drafting a candidate to oppose her in the 2022 election. She won the November election with roughly two-thirds of the votes, a huge margin. Like her or not, she is unquestionably the people’s choice to do this job of representing us in Congress.

Ideally, we all should respect that, and she should respect the people of this district — all of them. But this country has come a long way from ideals.

Let’s work on fixing that.

Our politics have strayed from standing for something to standing against other people. This is more pronounced on the Republican side in the Trump era, but it exists on the Democratic side as well. Instead of our parties being schools of thought, we have something more resembling gangs.

But the system stays the same. As always, the number-one job of a politician is to get elected. Politicians follow what people want, and lately, the public has been in attack mode more than any other time in our lives. More than ever, people don’t care so much about how you play the game; they just want to win at all costs.

Integrity, honesty and sympathy have gone out of style.

We hope, and we even dare to believe that they will come back. We think Wednesday’s mob raid on the Capitol might be a turning point. People are sick of how toxic our nation has become. We certainly are.

Remember how, after the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, Americans of all political beliefs came together? The fact that so many people are not doing so now — a little, but not enough — is deeply discouraging.

Yet we took hope from an unlikely place Wednesday night: U.S. senators. As they rose to speak one after the other, we could not peel ourselves away from the screen — because it was so different, so much better than what we have become used to hearing from politicians. Republicans, Democrats and others were talking about government the way it should be. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, spoke about how American democracy is not normal in a human history filled with kings and dictators, and how it must be carefully maintained. Some senators, such as Lindsey Graham, changed their minds and said they could no longer be party to the Trump train. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who never bought Trump’s nonsense, got a standing ovation for saying, “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.” Even those who objected to states’ electors — thus perpetuating Trump’s lies about votes being stolen from him — at least talked about believing in government rather than lawlessness.

Laying aside short-term goals such as election, politicians should know that in the long term, integrity will be how they are measured in history. Richard Nixon won two presidential elections, but we don’t look back on him fondly because he played dirty. When we remember great sports teams, we don’t cherish goons, bean ballers and bone breakers — those who pushed boundaries to get away with as much rule-breaking as they could. Rather, we treasure those who played with class and character, as well as amazing talent.

So yes, we dare to hope that, starting now, integrity will be voters’ top desire, along with honesty and sympathy. Be on notice, politicians at the local, state and federal levels: We might be right.

You may think this is naive, but we honestly believe most Americans are desperate for it. They are hungry for Republicans and Democrats to get over their feud and treat each other like human beings again.

It’s a tall order, but what’s the alternative?

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