The convention of endorsing one individual isn’t merely a “convention,” but an acknowledgement of a fairly basic point, you can only vote for one person at a time. By indulging its dual personality disorder, the Times might seem to be defeating the point of an endorsement. But by understanding the curious division in the Times’ approach, it makes more sense even as it makes no sense at all.
The Democratic primary contest is often portrayed as a tussle between moderates and progressives. To some extent that’s true. But when we spent significant time with the leading candidates, the similarity of their platforms on fundamental issues became striking.
Nearly any of them would be the most progressive president in decades on issues like health care, the economy and government’s allocations of resources. Where they differ most significantly is not the what but the how, in whether they believe the country’s institutions and norms are up to the challenge of the moment.
In other words, regardless of which way you turn, you can’t go wrong with your choice unless it’s Bernie Sanders.
Both the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration. If there were ever a time to be open to new ideas, it is now. If there were ever a time to seek stability, now is it.
It’s immediately notable that both candidates are missing something, and some wags will suggest that the fact that they’re women plays into the endorsement, if not dictated that whomever would get the endorsement, she would not have a penis. And so what, given that there are women running who more than satisfy the Times’ criteria for competence and worthiness?
Rather than draw distinctions based on policy perspectives, they seem to have made choices designed to appeal to the split personality of the Democratic Party, informed by their lack of faith in America and its institutions.
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.
There are legitimate questions about whether our democratic system is fundamentally broken. Our elections are getting less free and fair, Congress and the courts are increasingly partisan, foreign nations are flooding society with misinformation, a deluge of money flows through our politics. And the economic mobility that made the American dream possible is vanishing.
This is a fantastical claim, given that America elected Obama president, twice. That Hillary Clinton didn’t give Trump an 80-20% whupping can only be explained by systemic and institutional weakness, for it would be impossible if “our democratic system [wasn’t] fundamentally broken.” What else could possibly explain it?
In light of these interesting times, the Times decided to be interesting by running through Warren’s totally right but radical plans to reinvent America, while noting that a Republican Senate and politicized court will make her unconstitutional schemes hard to implement.
In contrast to the “right” candidate whose brilliance will be thwarted by the untrustworthy institutions of America that will stymie her at every turn, there’s the centrist compromise candidate.
Good news, then, that Amy Klobuchar has emerged as a standard-bearer for the Democratic center. Her vision goes beyond the incremental. Given the polarization in Washington and beyond, the best chance to enact many progressive plans could be under a Klobuchar administration.
It might be premature to say Klobuchar has “emerged” as anything, given that she hasn’t managed to break past 15% in the polls, far behind the boys. And what progressive plans is Klobuchar pushing such that she would entice the radical wing of the
New York Times Democratic Party?
Ms. Klobuchar speaks about issues like climate change, the narrowing middle class, gun safety and trade with an empathy that connects to voters’ lived experiences, especially in the middle of the country. The senator talks, often with self-deprecating humor, about growing up the daughter of two union workers, her Uncle Dick’s deer stand, her father’s struggles with alcoholism and her Christian faith.
Wild stuff? Not really, but even the Times has come to grips with the fact that the candidate of its dreams lacks the support of the Democratic Party, no less a nation, so it’s doing its best to make Klobuchar come off more progressive-y than she is, to make her at least palatable to the social justice warriors who take no prisoners.
Any hope of restoring unity in the country will require modesty, a willingness to compromise and the support of the many demographics that make up the Democratic coalition — young and old, in red states and blue, black and brown and white. For Senator Klobuchar, that’s acknowledging the depth of the nation’s dysfunction. For Senator Warren, it’s understanding that the country is more diverse than her base.
For the New York Times, Warren is the president they want. Klobuchar is the woman whom they will take.
May the best woman win.
At least they didn’t endorse a man.