This election cycle has witnessed an unusual trend. Newspapers well known for being strongly Republican–reflexively so in many cases–are running away from Donald Trump in droves. Even more surprisingly, many of are so convinced that Trump is not qualified for the presidency that they’ve gone as far as to endorse Hillary Clinton.
It started just days after the Democratic National Convention, when the Houston Chronicle made Hillary only the third Democrat to get its nod in 64 years. Earlier this month, The Dallas Morning News made Hillary the first Democrat to get its support in 76 years. And last weekend, The Cincinnati Enquirer jettisoned a 100-year legacy of supporting the GOP to endorse Hillary. On Wednesday morning, The Arizona Republic joined the list, making Hillary the first Democrat to get its endorsement for president ever.
The Phoenix-based Republic rolled off the presses for the first time on May 19, 1890 as The Arizona Republican. It shortened its name to The Arizona Republic on November 11, 1930. However, that didn’t change its partisan lean. It has only turned its back on a Republican presidential candidate twice. In 1912, it endorsed the insurgent run of Theodore Roosevelt, and it refused to endorse anyone at all in 1968. Otherwise, it has supported the GOP through good times and bad. From 1946 until its 2000 purchase by Gannett, it was owned by the Pulliam family, maternal relatives of Dan Quayle.
What changed this year? Well, The Republic’s editorial board makes it clear in the fourth sentence.
“The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.”
Translation: The GOP insulted our intelligence by foisting a manifestly unqualified candidate on this nation, so we’re not going to insult our readers’ intelligence by giving him our endorsement.
So how can The Republic declare that Trump is not a true conservative, and then turn around and endorse a Democrat? Well, the editorial board believes that this country needs someone with “a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.” As has been amply demonstrated throughout this campaign, Trump doesn’t have either of these qualities.
While The Republic criticized Hillary for making “serious missteps,” it praises her record of bipartisanship and her “mature, confident, and rational” approach to governing–an approach that it believes will allow her to “reach out to those who feel left behind.” It also notes that she has had to endure a level of scrutiny that would “wither most politicians.”
It also notes that Hillary’s flaws are nothing compared to those we’ve seen from the Donald, who has the tendency to hurl “verbal spit wads” at the tiniest slight. If Trump were to become president, The Republic fears that Trump’s tendency to shoot from the lip could have “devastating consequences.” It also isn’t pleased with Trump’s history of demeaning comments, suggesting that they are evidence of “deep character flaws” and a lack of the “sense of propriety” we expect from our president.
It isn’t impressed with Trump’s more restrained attitude of late on the campaign trail, bluntly calling it “phony.” While The Republic believes that a Trump presidency could bring “permanent civil discord,” Hillary would offer the chance to “move us beyond rancor and incivility.”
The Republic was particularly unnerved at Trump’s rampant xenophobia, since it brought uncomfortable reminders of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070–the so-called “your papers, please” law. As The Republic sees it, that law didn’t even begin to solve the “real problems with undocumented immigration.” For that reason, it supports Hillary’s proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.
It should come as no surprise that this endorsement hit a lot of Arizonans from somewhere around root level. On Facebook, the endorsement is drawing the usual attacks from right-wingers about how The Republic has become just another librul rag. Au contraire. Clearly, The Republic believes that this is a question of temperament and decency–and has the integrity to realize that these are not partisan.
My first thought when I saw this endorsement was that The Republic was trying to atone for its endorsement of Barry Goldwater. But whatever you may have thought of Goldwater’s platform, you could not deny that he was qualified to be president. Trump doesn’t come close to being qualified for the job. As I have said before, any paper that believes he does owes an apology to its readers.
(featured image courtesy Sean Davis, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA-ND license)