Editorial Endorsements part of dialogue with voters
Newspaper endorsements are not about telling people how to vote.
But how can we encourage people to vote if we don’t take a stand?
Endorsements can be informative or polarizing. Clarifying or divisive. They can tilt the see-saw, or force a voter to become entrenched in a position.
Our role is that of a facilitator. Editorial boards have something in common with elected officials: We can’t please everyone, and anger many. Such are the moods of Democracy.
We maintain a fair measure of respect for candidates who graciously accept our annual invitations to discuss their qualities for office. Some return every few years even though their political rival won our support in the previous round.
We rarely encounter a candidate who rejects an invitation to meet. The only person who has declined an invitation from the Hearst Connecticut Editorial Board this autumn is Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski.
Stefanowski did sit with us in advance of the August primary, for which we did not endorse candidates. As a rookie candidate dealing with the process for the first time, he repeatedly joked that he found the exchange “therapeutic.”
His spokesman cited an email exchange between Hearst Connecticut columnist Dan Haar and a reader as evidence that we are “a deeply biased editorial board.” Haar drew ire for referring to Stefanowski’s supporters as “low information voters.” Stefanowski’s camp emailed their decision and Haar’s exchange, to supporters Monday night.
Haar is not a member of the editorial board, but he is a news columnist. Offering opinion is high on his list of job duties.
Part of our role is to remain independent from the news operation, who have no voice in our endorsement process. We research the candidates and seek to provide clarity for voters facing skewed messages from campaigns that become nothing more than static and graffiti.
Even Stefanowski’s decline is informative. Our primary criticism of him on the editorial page has been a repetition of vague statements and resistance to respond to requests for specifics.
At least a “no” is an answer.
We won’t endorse in every race this fall, instead focusing our resources on the most competitive ones.
Newspaper endorsements have fallen out of favor in some quarters in recent years. They have also served as a reminder of the role of editorial pages as the public square, a place where all voices are welcome.
The Wall Street Journal got out of the endorsement game 90 years ago and didn’t blink two years ago when USA Today shifted a mirror policy to back Hillary Clinton for president. The conservative Arizona Republic reported a record number of web hits when it backed a Democrat for president for the first time in its 126-year history.
A handful of newspapers backed Trump two years ago. Don’t expect them to change stances based on outcomes. Our votes don’t count.
But yours do. Research the races, here and elsewhere, and make a decision.
We hope Bob Stefanowski changes his decision. He’s still welcome here.