The New York Times' editorial broke with the conventional endorsement of one presidential candidate. Instead, they decided to endorse two Democratic candidates: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MN).
"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," the editorial board wrote.
The Times admitted that any of the candidates in the Democratic field would be the "most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources."
The editorial board decided to endorse two candidates because of a "weakness of the institutions" they trusted:
The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country. But the events of the past few years have shaken the confidence of even the most committed institutionalists. We are not veering away from the values we espouse, but we are rattled by the weakness of the institutions that we trusted to undergird those values.
Interestingly enough, the editorial mentions "the radical and the realist models" for transforming America. Clearly Warren is the radical and Klobuchar is the realist.
They do, however, express concern over some of the candidates' ideas.
"We worry about ideological rigidity and overreach, and we’d certainly push back on specific policy proposals, like nationalizing health insurance or decriminalizing the border. But we are also struck by how much more effectively their messages have matched the moment," the editorial read.
Although the editorial board liked Warren's progressive ideas, especially on things like Medicare for All and a wealth tax, they admit she would face legal challenges and struggle to get things passed in Congress.
"At the same time, a conservative federal judiciary will be almost as significant a roadblock for progressive change. For Ms. Warren, that leaves open questions — ones she was unwilling to wrestle with in our interview. Ms. Warren has proposed to pay for an expanded social safety net by imposing a new tax on wealth. But even if she could push such a bill through the Senate, the idea is constitutionally suspect and would inevitably be bogged down for years in the courts," the board admitted. "A conservative judiciary also could constrain a President Warren’s regulatory powers, and roll back access to health care."
According to the editorial board, Warren has already faced backlash on Medicare for All.
"There are good, sound reasons for a public health care option — countries all over the world have demonstrated that. But Ms. Warren’s version would require winning over a skeptical public, legislative trench warfare to pass bills in Congress, the dismantling of a private health care system. That system, through existing public-private programs like Medicare Advantage, has shown it is not nearly as flawed as she insists, and it is even lauded by health economists who now advocate a single-payer system.
The Times believes Warren can appeal to Republicans and independents because of her past political affiliations "but she needs to draw on practicality and patience as much as her down-and-dirty critique of the system."
Although Warren's ideas are considered bold and progressive, the editorial board acknowledged the possibility of more reforms taking place under a moderate president, like Klobuchar.
"Given the polarization in Washington and beyond, the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration," the board wrote. "The senator from Minnesota is the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness. Her lengthy tenure in the Senate and bipartisan credentials would make her a deal maker (a real one) and uniter for the wings of the party — and perhaps the nation."
Specifically, the Times applauded Klobuchar's climate change policy, desire to expand the earned-income and child care tax credits and addressing mental illness. She has also pushed for a $15 an hour minimum wage, free community college and a public health care option.
"Ms. Klobuchar speaks about issues like climate change, the narrowing middle class, gun safety and trade with an empathy that connects to voters’ lived experiences, especially in the middle of the country," the editorial read. "The senator talks, often with self-deprecating humor, about growing up the daughter of two union workers, her Uncle Dick’s deer stand, her father’s struggles with alcoholism and her Christian faith."
The Times liked Klobuchar's experience on the Senate Judiciary Committee and subcommittee on border security and immigration.
"In 13 years as a senator, she has sponsored and voted on dozens of national defense measures, including military action in Libya and Syria," the board wrote. "Her record shows that she is confident and thoughtful, and she reacts to data — what you’d want in a crisis."
The editorial board acknowledged Klobuchar's ability to get legislation passed on a bipartisan basis.
"All have helped Ms. Klobuchar to be the most productive senator among the Democratic field in terms of bills passed with bipartisan support, according to a recent study for the Center for Effective Lawmaking. When she arrived in the Senate in 2007, Ms. Klobuchar was part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers that proposed comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for 12 million undocumented immigrants, before conservative pundits made it political poison," the editorial read. "Her more recent legislative accomplishments are narrower but meaningful to those affected, especially the legislation aimed at helping crime victims. This is not surprising given her background as the chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county. For example, one measure she wrote helped provide funds to reduce a nationwide backlog of rape kits for investigating sexual assaults."
The Times' biggest concern is about how Klobuchar treats her staff.
"They raise serious questions about her ability to attract and hire talented people. Surrounding the president with a team of seasoned, reasoned leaders is critical to the success of an administration, not doing so is often the downfall of presidencies," they wrote.
Although Klobuchar hasn't gained the same momentum across the country, she is popular amongst her constituents.
"In Minnesota, however, she is enormously popular. She has won all three of her Senate elections by double digits. In 2016, Hillary Clinton carried nine of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Ms. Klobuchar carried 51 in 2018," the Times wrote. "And it’s far too early to count Ms. Klobuchar out — Senator John Kerry, the eventual Democrat nominee in 2004, was also polling in the single digits at this point in the race."
The board acknowledged that people will be upset that they didn't endorse one candidate.
"Any hope of restoring unity in the country will require modesty, a willingness to compromise and the support of the many demographics that make up the Democratic coalition — young and old, in red states and blue, black and brown and white," they said. "For Senator Klobuchar, that’s acknowledging the depth of the nation’s dysfunction. For Senator Warren, it’s understanding that the country is more diverse than her base."
"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," the board wrote.
"Ms. Klobuchar and Ms. Warren right now are the Democrats best equipped to lead that debate," the board concluded. "May the best woman win."