You may recall that last week, The Washington Post broke tradition and offered an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton before the Democratic National Convention even started. The Post took out an unusual front-page editorial declaring Trump nothing less than a threat to the very foundations of our democracy.
Well, it looks like The Post isn’t the only newspaper to conclude that it has to render an early verdict on this election. Readers of the Houston Chronicle opened the Saturday edition to discover a ringing endorsement of Hillary for president. I thought this was snark when I saw this on my old stomping grounds at Daily Kos. But it isn’t.
This is a bombshell in more ways than one. For one thing, it is one of the first endorsements Hillary garnered from a paper that endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012; the (New York) Daily News endorsed Hillary two days earlier. Indeed, it is only the second time since 1964 that the Chronicle has endorsed a Democrat. After endorsing Lyndon Johnson in 1964–a move that came over the vehement objections of its archconservative ownership–it endorsed Republicans in every election from 1968 to 2004. It rejected Hillary’s husband, Bill, during both his campaigns.
In this way, it largely mirrored the Houston area, and Texas as a whole, turning its back on the Democrats. It endorsed Barack Obama in 2008, but appeared to revert to form by endorsing Romney in 2012.
But what is equally telling is why the Chronicle felt compelled to drop the mic and break its own policy against early endorsements. The Chronicle editorial board feels that the 2016 election represents “the starkest political choice in living memory.” It felt that it could not in good conscience support Trump, because to do so would “repudiate the most basic notions of competence and capability.”
In language that largely echoes The Post’s blistering critique of the Donald, the Chronicle denounces Trump as a clear and present danger to everything this country stands for.
“Any one of Trump’s less-than-sterling qualities – his erratic temperament, his dodgy business practices, his racism, his Putin-like strongman inclinations and faux-populist demagoguery, his contempt for the rule of law, his ignorance – is enough to be disqualifying. His convention-speech comment, “I alone can fix it,” should make every American shudder. He is, we believe, a danger to the Republic.”
The Chronicle doesn’t think it’s a coincidence many prominent Republicans–including Senator Ted Cruz, a Houston resident–are keeping Trump at arm’s length. The reason they’ve taken off their red-tinted blinders is because they’re worried not only about what Trump has turned their party into, but “more important, they are concerned about the future of this nation.”
While Hillary openly admits she isn’t a natural politician, the Chronicle believes she will be “a much better president than a presidential candidate,” in part because there is “no comparison” between her and Trump regarding their understanding of the issues. For one thing, the Chronicle rejects Trump’s “ridiculous” plans to build a wall along the Mexican border–a proposal that even Trump’s own surrogates know is baloney. However, it finds a lot to like about Hillary’s plans for comprehensive immigration reform, as well as her support of clean energy.
While the Chronicle differs with Hillary and the Democrats on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it believes that Trump would be “lost at sea” on trade. Apparently it also believes Trump would be at sea on foreign policy in general.
“On foreign affairs, the former secretary of state is knowledgeable, dependable and trusted worldwide, unlike her blusterous opponent whose outrageous remarks last week about Russia were merely the most recent bizarre outburst to unsettle our allies.”
But issues aside, the Chronicle’s support for Hillary comes down to “questions of character and trustworthiness.” While it acknowledges that these are “unsettling times,” it believes they require leadership that has “a hopeful future for this nation.”
An early endorsement is news by itself. But when it comes from a historically Republican-leaning newspaper, it’s nothing less than a game-changer. Clearly, the Chronicle has come to the same conclusion that we did long ago–Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States.