Editorial: Non-endorsements of Trump fail voters
Posted October 3, 2016
Updated October 13, 2016
A CBC Editorial: Monday, Oct. 3, 2016; Editorial# 8062
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company
For doing so little, USA Today’s Thursday, Sept. 29 editorial page got a lot of attention.
In its 34 years of existence, the newspaper has never endorsed a presidential candidate and is sticking with that policy.
So, what’s the big deal?
What it did do was something of an anti-endorsement. Republican Donald Trump, in a scathing assessment, is “unfit for the presidency.” The editorial Thursday was a dirty laundry list of shame: “He is erratic. … He is ill-equipped to be commander-in chief. … He traffics in prejudice. … His business career is checkered. …He isn’t leveling with the American people. … He speaks recklessly. … He has coarsened the national dialogue. … He’s a serial liar.”
With all that going against Trump, is there someone that USA Today says SHOULD be the next president?
Well, no. In fact, the editorial makes the point it does not “represent unqualified support for (Democrat) Hillary Clinton.” Vote, the folks at USA Today recommend. “Just not for Donald Trump.”
It might be said the newspaper merely trumped Trump.
In the arena of endorsements, there’s no testing the water with a toe to swim with the sharks – it just gets nibbled off.
If you believe that Trump is dangerous and needs to be defeated, the only choice is to vote for Clinton. That is just the way elections in the United States work and for USA Today to think, or suggest otherwise is naive or disingenuous.
Votes for third-party candidates, no matter the reason, do have an impact. Look at what it meant to George H.W. Bush’s failed reelection in 1992 due to the votes that went to Ross Perot or to the victory for George W. Bush in 2000 because of the votes that went to Ralph Nader in Florida.
In an accompanying explanation, the newspaper tried to say it was taking sides. But it really didn’t. What the newspaper did was firmly plant itself on the sideline, rooting for one team’s failure but not cheering on anyone else’s success.
Other newspapers around the nation with far deeper roots in political endorsements – particularly backing Republicans -- didn’t pussyfoot. The Arizona Republic (formerly the Republican), had NEVER in its 126 year history backed a Democrat until endorsing Clinton this year. The Detroit News, for the first time in 143 years, overlooked the GOP nominee to back Libertarian Gary Johnson . The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle, all with long GOP traditions, are backing the Democrat for president.
For these papers, the decision wasn’t easy. It meant breaking with deeply rooted traditions. It upset long-standing expectations from readers. These community news organizations are local and the people they serve shop around the corner and sit in the local café. They quite literally can be in the editors’ faces with sharp disagreements or support.
By contrast USA Today has a diffused national audience. Its readers scurry through airports or kill time at free motel breakfasts.
Endorsements aren’t musing on the state of the electorate or the candidate. They are, like elections, opportunities to make a choice, make a difference and stand up FOR something and someone.
When voters go into the polling place, their ballot doesn’t ask them to pick who they’re voting against. They’re asked to make a choice, to make an affirmative statement – in this case about who should be the next president.
If USA Today – or any other editorial voice -- is going to stake such a sharp stand about who it is against, it owes its readers a statement about who, and what, it stands for and why it makes a difference.