Many newspapers around the country have begun the process of deciding which candidate they’ll endorse for president. And the end result, at least this election cycle and for too many newspapers, will be a combination of hubris, self-service and disservice to their readers.
Never mind that more and more research suggests these endorsements matter less and less to the reading electorate. And never mind that, in a delicious irony, a certain cohort of that electorate appears to use newspaper endorsements as a guiding beacon to vote for the candidate not endorsed.
No, newspapers that have editorial boards, and those guided by an editorial board of one (the owner/publisher), are busy slicing and dicing and dissecting and, in some cases, resecting the candidacies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
For, in a matter of a few short weeks, they must translate their research into verbiage -- sometimes verbose prose harkening a long-gone era, sometimes wry, matter- of- fact statements full of faux scholarship -- and snap their braces and anoint a new commander in chief.
Some of these endorsements, typically the ones determined by committee, will say everything but nothing at all. They’ll rationalize their candidate’s clear faults and inflate his or her ability to lead the nation and the free world.
Others, usually those made by the strong owner/publisher, will pull no punches and weasel no words -- until the facts force them to do just that to present some artificially cogent recommendation. Still, they’ll be dismissed by those who believe socialized presidential endorsements are as right and proper as is socialized medicine.
It goes without saying that all will argue, perhaps not in so many words, that their endorsements reflect the values of their newspaper and, by extension, those of their readership, if not the community at large.
And let’s not forget the free advertising aspect of all this, from news reports to candidate commercials that tout their endorsement.
Sadly, not many newspapers will be honest in their endorsement process this year. Despite the fact that neither Trump nor Clinton is qualified to be president, few will have the guts to say so, say why and endorse no one. After all, newspapers must endorse, mustn’t they?
In a word, no.
Newspapers do a grave disservice to journalism, their readers, themselves and intellectual honesty when they endorse the proverbial lesser of two evils to satisfy the misguided notion that they have a responsibility to endorse.
No newspaper should endorse a bloviating buffoon (Trump), no matter his supposed business acumen and no matter what “populist” and perverted chord he strikes. His campaign has been the proverbial heat and with no light, the oversized bun with little meat.
Trump promises to make America great again. But governing by slogan -- with little substance to back it up -- hardly is encouraging. Some argue he speaks truth to power. But his truths are warped and the power he projects would be a corruption of republicanism.
And those who laud tyrants (think Vladimir Putin) only can be tyrants.
No newspaper should endorse a recidivist prevaricator (Clinton), no matter her years of government service and no matter what history will be made should she be elected as the first female president.
Clinton promises an America that is “stronger together.” But how can America trust a “leader” whose default position is to parse and to lie and to dissemble? Her track record is clear. And it is a record that can be measured in lie after lie, parse after parse and dissemble after dissemble -- over many decades.
To update the axiom, fool America once, shame on you; fool America scores of times, shame of America. How does “strength” through lies work? How do lies bring us “together”?
But endorse, most of America’s newspapers will. The little credibility they have will be eroded even further. And American discourse will be cheapened for their error.