North Carolina has taken some hard knocks on the national front in recent years. Most infamous may be the so-called “bathroom bill,” which made our state the laughing stock of the nation with comedians, both television and online, and cost millions in business development and tourism dollars. Now, North Carolinians and the rest of the nation are awaiting the disposition of the last remaining congressional race in the nation, which should have been decided over three months ago along with the other 434 House seats.
The outcome of North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District race remains uncertified because of possible election fraud. At the end of election day, the Republican candidate led by just over 900 votes with more than 282,000 votes cast. Both the state elections board and state courts have declined to declare a winner, as criminal inquiries into election fraud continue.
Our 9th Congressional District is a long, snaky gerrymander that runs from Charlotte to Fayetteville and on to parts east. Voting irregularities involving absentee ballots and a Republican political operative alleged to have handled them illegally are under investigation in Bladen and Robeson counties, with no resolution in sight. It is difficult to imagine that we will ever know what happened. He said, she said — you get the picture.
The only way to get this straight is a new election. It will involve eight counties, and it will be expensive.
There is no other satisfactory option. If the Republican were to be seated, critics would say he won the election through fraudulent voting. If the Democrat were seated, critics would say he stole the election from the winner. Either way, the people of the 9th district — more than three quarters of a million of them — would not be sure that the person representing them is the person who rightfully won the voters’ confidence.
Meanwhile, as investigators investigate and election board members debate and ponder, the people of North Carolina’s 9th District remain voiceless in the “people’s House.”
The only thing certain in life is change, of course, but many Americans, including this one, worry about the diminution — some would say the demise — of hard news at the local and state levels. We all see how local daily newspapers have become shadows of their former selves.
The main reason for this is the migration of advertising dollars from print to digital, many of those involving national outlets. Not only does this shift translate into more national news and fewer stories about what local city councils, county commissions, school boards and legislatures are up to, it means that local dollars are heading out of town to places as far away as Silicon Valley.
What we don’t know can — and does — come back to bite us.
My favorite news story this week involved Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos. He’s said to be the richest person on the planet with a net worth at least a googol of more than $136 billion. That is surely more money than he could spend even if he tried.
Not so much to his credit, Bezos admits to having an affair while married, an affair that involved body part selfies. Some of these photos made their way to the tabloid The National Enquirer, which allegedly threatened to print them if Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, did not call off Post reporters working on a story about the tabloid and its unusual media practices.
To his credit, Bezos not only did not flinch at the threatened embarrassing exposure, he accused The Enquirer of extortion. Since then, Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker magazine has also accused The Enquirer of blackmail.
It takes self-confident and strong people to stand up to bullies, whether in person or in print. As Theodore Roosevelt might say if he were still here, “Bully for Bezos and Farrow.”