Last weekend, The Commercial Appeal endorsed presidential nominees for the two major parties. The paper recommended Democrats vote for Hillary Clinton and Republicans cast their ballots for John McCain.
Do you care? Will the CA's recommendations influence the way you vote? Is there any argument the paper could bring to bear for either candidate that you haven't already read or heard? I seriously doubt it. That's not a knock on the CA, which is only doing what almost every major daily in the country does when elections roll around. It's an American journalistic tradition that goes back 200 years.
When the tradition of endorsements started, there was some rationale behind it: Newspapers were the public's surrogate eyes and ears. They were closer to the candidates — reporting on them daily, following them on the campaign trail, interviewing them in editorial boardrooms.
But in this age of multiple televised debates, political websites, nightly cable news shows, and Sunday morning interview programs, endorsements come off more as hubris than expertise. Anyone who wants to analyze a candidate for themselves can easily do so. An official endorsement from a newspaper is just one more element to consider — and probably not a defining one — at least in non-local elections.
And by recommending one candidate over the other, a newspaper opens itself to criticism that it is biased toward that candidate — or against his opponents — in its subsequent news coverage. Which is why the Flyer doesn't endorse.
As editor, of course, I have my opinions. I would never, for example, endorse a candidate whose husband was overbearing and a potential embarassment when further revelations about his sexual antics come to light. Nor would I endorse anyone who supports the disastrous policies of the current Republican administration. And I hate guys with perfect hair.
I would endorse a man who excites young people and brings fresh hope for real change and who isn't a tired baby-boomer. I could endorse someone who's been opposed to this war from its inception and who's shown he can win handily in places as disparate as Iowa and South Carolina. But that's just me.