The Corner

Elections

With Endorsements Like These, Who Needs Denunciations?

(Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

The New York Times editorial board announced that it is endorsing both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar in the Democratic primary. Their decision — and inability to endorse just one candidate — is receiving some mockery on Twitter, and it’s fair to wonder just what message the editorial board is trying to send. Board member Mara Gay said on Morning Joe today, “an endorsement isn’t about supporting a candidate necessarily.”

Perhaps the most important paragraph in the endorsement, and one that explains the division, is this one:

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… Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration.

The Times is not confident that electing a standard-issue Democrat — presumably Klobuchar — is sufficient to fix what they see as broken. They concur with Warren’s contention that the country’s systems are “rigged” and endorse her in part because she offers a “sweeping expansion of government support for Americans at every stage of life, from universal child care to free public college to expanded Social Security.”

Warren is not interested in trying to enact changes through the Constitutional structure, and this appears to be what appeals to the Times editors the most. During the course of this campaign, Elizabeth Warren declared that she will use executive orders to:

  • Impose a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases.
  • Ban fracking entirely.
  • Cancel almost all student debt.
  • Expand background checks for gun purchases.
  • Increase wages for women of color.
  • Unilaterally reduce drug prices.

Even tax law professors who agree with the objectives behind her wealth-tax proposal think its constitutionality is “doubtful at best,” and think it would be likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court. But nothing to worry about; Warren said she is open to the idea of expanding the size of the Supreme Court.

In fact, portions of the endorsement read like they were written by some board member who is pretty strongly opposed to nominating Warren:

She sometimes sounds like a candidate who sees a universe of us-versus-thems, who, in the general election, would be going up against a president who has already divided America into his own version of them and us… Warren often casts the net far too wide, placing the blame for a host of maladies from climate change to gun violence at the feet of the business community when the onus is on society as a whole. The country needs a more unifying path.

Maybe we shouldn’t chuckle at Mara Gay’s statement above. This endorsement really does sound like they don’t necessarily support the candidate!

In fact, the second half of the endorsement, focusing on Klobuchar, is really the most persuasive and full-throated argument on behalf of the Minnesota senator you’ll find, touting her ability to work across the aisle, deep policy knowledge, empathy, and humor. They call her “the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness.”

All in all, this reads like an editorial board that largely wanted to endorse Klobuchar, but who recognized that not endorsing Warren would be seen as driving a stake into the heart of her candidacy. The board may also have concluded that endorsing only Klobuchar would be a “waste,” as the prospects for the Minnesota senator don’t look good. (She’s still not hitting double digits in Iowa, where she’s focused almost all of her recent attention.) Without saying so explicitly, the Times offered two separate criteria: their favorite candidate, and their favorite candidate with a realistic shot at winning the nomination.

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