Sen. Brewster should have been seated

While the eyes of the nation narrowed on Georgia, Republican senators in Pennsylvania snatched the session from the state’s lieutenant governor and blocked the swearing-in of a duly-elected Democratic senator in what amounts to an insurrection that threatens American democracy and rule of law.

Despite state certification of the re-election of Sen. Jim Brewster of McKeesport, the Pennsylvania Senate refused to swear him in with the other contestants who had won election.

All because of a federal court challenge by his electoral opponent in the razor-thin race.

Well, the race was razor thin, indeed. A mere 69 votes secured the election for Mr. Brewster. But, he won.

He won.

And he should have been sworn in with the two dozen other victors.

Failing to do so amounts to a slap in the face to the voters of the 45th District, who have been represented by Mr. Brewster the last decade. And it is a slap in the face to democracy.

His Republican opponent, Nicole Ziccarelli, is challenging the election in federal court. That is her right. Because, in the United States of America, anyone can sue anyone for anything. And she will have her day in court, barring a dismissal of her anemic legal action. She wants the federal court to cancel votes in the race, thereby swinging the win to her. In the meantime, the duly elected Mr. Brewster — and he was duly elected, according to state election officials, whether the Republican senators like it or not — should have been allowed to take his seat.

Last week’s antics didn’t end with the GOP majority refusing to seat Mr. Brewster. Interim Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman added insult to injury by wresting control of the proceedings from Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the official presiding officer. Yes, Mr. Fetterman violated Senate protocol. But the Senate violated the rule of law.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa called it a “hostile takeover” of the Senate. And he was right. Gov. Tom Wolf called the proceedings “a shameful power grab that disgraces the institution.” And he was right.

Hostile. Shameful. They are good words to describe last week’s unprecedented unfoldings. But the more crucial assessment came from the governor, who pointed out that “it is simply unethical and undemocratic to leave the district without a voice simply because the Republicans don’t like the outcome of the election.”

It is a sad state of affairs but, soberingly, not surprising. It is in keeping with the equally disgraceful behavior of some Republican lawmakers in Washington who, Wednesday, thumped their chests and put on a meaningless and cynical show objecting to certifying the election of President-elect Joe Biden as violence erupted outside the U.S. Capitol between supporters of President Donald Trump and police.

Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Senate has abused its power. Party-line votes nullified Mr. Brewster’s election and Mr. Fetterman’s rightful position as presiding officer. This is the tyranny of the majority our Founders warned against.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


What we thought we knew about 2020 was wrong

Many of us began 2020 taking for granted the relative comfort and freedom we enjoyed—to get whatever we wanted, when we wanted it; and to do what we wanted to do, when and with whom we chose.

While not everyone experienced the same level of wealth, health, luck and happiness, most of us expected or hoped to do as well or better in the coming year as we had done in the last. But in a dramatic fashion, we learned that we didn’t know what we thought we knew.

So many truisms about daily life went out the window in 2020 — and larger lessons about ourselves and our fellow man and woman were forced upon us, like it or not. Musing about the lessons learned in a pandemic may seem like the province of the privileged — especially while others around us are too exhausted or stricken to think at all. Yet, those of us privileged to emerge from 2020 having escaped great loss surely have a duty to do so as better people.

So, here’s a reflection on what we thought we knew about both the mundane and the important, which often seemed to merge.

We thought we preferred sleeping in on Sundays. We learned how much attending church in person meant.

We thought we’d always dread switching from weekend to work mode on Sunday nights. We learned that it was better than having no work at all or too much “essential” work.

We thought we had to “do something” on weekends that was worth telling coworkers about or posting pictures of on social media. We learned to appreciate things we once deemed boring, such as jigsaw puzzles and board games with family.

We thought the elections and the superiority of our side were the most important topics of 2020. We learned that personal relationships and communities are more important than political opinions.

We thought we’d always buy our bread at the grocery store. We learned how to bake sourdough bread — and to cook more of our meals rather than relying on convenience food.

We thought we were immune to panic buying. When supplies seemed to be dwindling, we found ourselves grabbing extra items — or things we didn’t even normally buy — with no thought for our neighbors.

We thought we’d never tire of binge-watching Netflix until we did — and we learned that a book can still be absorbing and mind-expanding.

We took for granted the people who: teach public school (glorified babysitters), work in checkout lines (too slow), run small businesses (charge too much), drive trucks (too fast), provide health care (don’t listen), respond to emergencies (always asking for donations), volunteer (it would be nice to have the time), deliver mail (too slow). We had a complaint about nearly everyone — until we learned how wrong we were.

To the above list, we could add hairstylists, tech support, veterinarians, plumbers and all types of repair people; pastors who’ve kept congregations connected; and local farmers who’ve given away truckloads of eggs and milk, no questions asked.

We thought we needed so many things: the latest fashions, kitchen gadgets and digital devices; our favorite food and beverages always at hand; our preferred product brands. We learned to use what we already have.

Most important, we thought we were in control. Now we know that whatever is the “new normal” will continue to change regardless of our wishes.

Who knows how long the lessons of 2020 will stick. But our best possible resolution for 2021 might be to welcome the new year with a lot more humility, patience, empathy and gratitude.

— Harrisburg Patriot News/

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