Apart from the fact that newspaper editorial endorsements become less and less meaningful with every passing election, the New York Times endorsements during a presidential year can still turn some heads. Not necessarily because voters or the general public wants to know what a left-leaning editorial board has to say, but more to provide insight about how some in media and journalism are viewing the race. In that vein, the New York Times Editorial Board, the part of the paper responsible for the editorial bent of the opinion pages, has endorsed not one, but two candidates in the Democratic primary.
This “break from tradition.” as the editorial starts out, is meant to offer a glimpse at the battle happening within the Democratic Party for the “radical” and “realist” track offered by different candidates. Both of the candidates receiving endorsement are female, which perhaps gives it all away.
After interviewing almost all the Democratic candidates for hours, as the Times editorial board does every election cycle on both sides of the aisle, they’ve decided that the best way they can interject an opinion on the race is to offer a split vision for the Democratic Party:
The Democratic primary contest is often portrayed as a tussle between moderates and progressives. To some extent that’s true. But when we spent significant time with the leading candidates, the similarity of their platforms on fundamental issues became striking.
Nearly any of them would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how, in whether they believe the country’s institutions and norms are up to the challenge of the moment.
Many Democratic voters are concerned first and foremost about who can beat Mr. Trump. But with a crowded field and with traditional polling in tatters, that calculation calls for a hefty dose of humility about anyone’s ability to foretell what voters want.
Choosing who should face off against Mr. Trump also means acknowledging that Americans are being confronted with three models for how to govern this country, not two. Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic.
Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.
That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.
In this case, Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the “radical” approach, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar embodies the “realist” approach, as the Times puts it. The editorial is lengthy, going into detail about the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate in the field, but ultimately settles on simply not choosing one candidate as the best option.
Chris Cillizza, writing at CNN, is dubious over the Times’ lack of a unifying endorsement:
But an endorsement isn’t about effectively laying out the arguments within a party. It’s about choosing an argument — and a candidate who embodies that argument — and then explaining to readers why that argument is superior.
Which is unfortunate, because there’s lots to praise the Times for in all of this. They took what is usually a totally secret process and made it remarkably transparent — releasing not only videos of their conversations with each of the candidates but also the deliberations of the editorial board after the interviews.
But the decision not to endorse a single candidate is what will be remembered here. Because when faced with the two competing visions within the Democratic Party to both beat Trump and lead the country, the Times decided not to choose. Which is, of course, a choice — and not a good one.
Were there scores of Democratic voters sitting on their hands eagerly awaiting the New York Times to offer marching orders? Not in this day and age with such a wide variety and broad landscape of media and opinion to be found all over the place.
In some ways, the decision to withhold an endorsement from a single candidate seems cowardly, almost a play to hedge bets against a splintered field. It’s like saying, “this is a great option, but this one over here is also a great option, so ignore what I’m saying and go make up your own mind.”
Perhaps the solution then, if you’re buying into the Times’ reasoning, is to pair these two visions on one ticket for Democrats in 2020? A Warren-Klobuchar ticket would seem groundbreaking since it would be the first all-female presidential ticket in history, but it also poses challenges of being too reliant on identity politics.
For all intents and purposes, Klobuchar is still struggling in polls around the country, though has her best chance in Iowa, and is probably running out of money soon unless she can win an early state or at least present a second-place showing in some of them. If we assume — never assume — that Klobuchar won’t be able to carry the torch, that leaves Joe Biden in the “realist” lane against Sanders and Warren in the “radical” lane, to use the Times’ vernacular.
In conclusion, the editorial board acknowledged that they will draw criticism for their lack of decision on a single candidate:
There will be those dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives. But it’s a fight the party itself has been itching to have since Mrs. Clinton’s defeat in 2016, and one that should be played out in the public arena and in the privacy of the voting booth. That’s the very purpose of primaries, to test-market strategies and ideas that can galvanize and inspire the country.
Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Warren right now are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate.
May the best woman win.
In essence, the Times’ conclusion is to let the voters figure it out for themselves as if the voters needed to be told that by a newspaper editorial board in New York. The piece in its entirety is fairly honest and forthright in explaining the chasm between the moderates and liberals in the party, or “radicals” and “realists,” and essentially applauds the battle to find a new footing for the party in 2020.
Whatever the case may be, newspaper editorials are by and large a thing of the past, but some still make waves even when they essentially are only endorsing the process itself, not a specific candidate.