Views on the News: New York Times Democratic Endorsement
In an editorial published on Jan. 19, the New York Times took an unorthodox approach to their traditional endorsement of a Democratic nominee for president. The editorial board chose to endorse not one, but two candidates: a progressive, Elizabeth Warren, and a moderate, Amy Klobuchar. The Times cited them as the candidates best equipped to handle the myriad issues that Americans and the world face, as well as the most likely candidates to defeat President Trump on the national stage. Do you agree with the decision to endorse two candidates, and do you think endorsing two candidates changes the significance of the endorsement itself? What are your thoughts on the Times’ choice of candidates?
Prof. Eileen McNamara (JOUR)
Democratic primary ballots are not restaurant menus. Voters do not get to choose one from Column A and one from Column B. They are expected to make a single choice. The failure of the editorial board of The New York Times to do so is a failure of leadership. It renders the newspaper’s endorsement meaningless. But it is questionable whether readers in 2020 look to the editorial writers of The New York Times, or any publication, for guidance about their vote. That influence has long been waning.
Eileen McNamara is a professor of the Practice of Journalism and the director of the Journalism Program.
In choosing to endorse two candidates, the Times has made perhaps a precedent-breaking journalistic stance but hardly, as I see it, a noteworthy political statement. Choosing two candidates within an unusually crowded Democratic primary is reflective of the chaos and identity crisis the Party is facing: moving towards either progressive or centrist values. Does the endorsement of two candidates change the significance of the Times' endorsement? Perhaps for some, but for the many who have already aligned with a candidate, such an endorsement is further noise in a crowded field of opinion. As to the choice of candidates I will not comment, except to urge my fellow Brandeisians to vote in the coming months for whom they believe will best represent their values and the American ethos.
Daniel Ruggles is a Ph.D candidate in the Politics Department specializing in American Politics.
Prof. Zachary Albert (POL)
The Times’ decision to endorse two candidates was certainly unusual. It probably reflects two considerations: a desire to avoid feeding into the divisions within the Democratic field, and an attempt to appeal to the varied (though mostly liberal) attitudes of their readers. Unfortunately, in the effort to offend no one, it seems like they’ve upset everyone. And, to the degree that the left/moderate divide among Democratic candidates is a meaningful one, the Times’ endorsements don’t offer much guidance for undecided voters. In fact, the twin endorsements likely dilute the influence that the decision might have on voters looking to choose a nominee. This, to me, is a mistake, especially as more and more groups are attempting to influence the nomination through their own endorsements. If the Times wants to have a say, then they should say something meaningful. Otherwise, there are plenty of other actors willing to shout over them.
Zachary Albert is an assistant professor in the Department of Politics.
Donnie Weisse ’20
It may not win someone the nomination, but in a crowded field—and before such an important election—I think an endorsement from the Times editorial board can help give undecided voters some direction. While endorsing two candidates doesn’t necessarily defeat this purpose, given the divided state of the Democratic party I think that’s exactly what the Times did in choosing both a moderate and a progressive. It’s a cop-out, and it side steps the big question of which direction the Democratic party should go. The main goal is to beat Donald Trump, and I think to do so the Democrats need a candidate that can: 1. Shut him down in a debate; and 2. Excite voters and draw a big turnout. I don’t know if Elizabeth Warren can do that, and Amy Klobuchar, who I’m pretty sure is polling below Mike Bloomberg, definitely won’t get the chance to.
Donnie Weisse ‘20 is the UDR for the Journalism Program and is majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism and Legal Studies.