Arizona Republic defies its name, endorses a Democrat for president

The endorsement upset many of the newspaper's conservative readers, but can it also help bridge partisan divides? 

Julio Cortez/AP
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton laughs during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

The Arizona Republic has defied its history, its conservative editorial slant, and even its name.

For the first time in the newspaper’s 126-year existence, it has endorsed a Democrat for president.

The announcement by the editorial board, posted online Tuesday night, is as much an evisceration of Republican nominee Donald Trump as it is a praise of Mrs. Clinton. But in this hyper-partisan era, their choice shows how some conservatives and leading Republicans have started to look past party labels to choose a presidential candidate. The newspaper hopes its readers will too.

“No matter who we endorse, we’re bound to upset someone. Especially in these times, when partisanship runs high and society is more polarized than ever,” the editorial board wrote in an accompanying editorial.

“You might find after reading our endorsements that you like the other candidates better. And that’s fine. Our goal simply is to parse the issues and tell you who we think would best address them based on research, interviews, and analysis,” it continued. “If we can make readers think critically about the issues and help them vote with confidence, we’ve done our job.”

In the endorsement, the board lauds Clinton’s knowledge and experience as a first lady, senator, and secretary of State. It also praises her record of fighting for human rights abroad and at home. The board acknowledges both that some readers might be concerned with Clinton's Supreme Court nominees and that Trump has tapped into the frustration of Americans, but it calls Clinton a “centrist” who can unite the country.  

“This is Hillary Clinton’s opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns,” it said. “She can move us beyond rancor and incivility.”

At the same time, the editorial board fillets Mr. Trump. It criticizes his immigration plan, comparing it to missteps made by Arizona's own state government with the 2010 “show me your papers” law “that earned Arizona international condemnation and did nothing resolve real problems with undocumented immigrants.”

When the endorsement was posted online Tuesday night, the Republic was “flooded with angry responses, threats to cancel subscriptions, and confessions of perceived betrayal from the traditionally conservative editorial board,” reported The Washington Post.

The Arizona Republic isn’t the only historically conservative newspaper to endorse Clinton over Trump. It is joining the ranks of the Dallas Morning News, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Houston Chronicle.

Meanwhile, Trump has received no endorsement from a major newspaper since the primary season, according to the Post.

A number of prominent Republicans have also endorsed Clinton. George H.W. Bush privately said he will vote for the former Cabinet member, according to a Facebook post from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Maryland lieutenant governor. Other big names include former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, former Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, and former Sen. John Warner of Virginia who also served as secretary of the Navy.

Several other newspapers have decided to endorse Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, including the Manchester Union-Leader in New Hampshire. The endorsement continued the feud between the newspaper and Trump that started during the primary.

Of course, endorsements don’t always convince readers.

“They can help sometimes, and hurt with others,” Dianne Bystrom, a political scientist at Iowa State University, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldmann in November, when the Union-Leader endorsed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for the Republican presidential ticket.

But they can persuade voters to reconsider a candidate.

“They will say, 'Boy, maybe I ought to take another look at this guy,'” former New Hampshire GOP chairman Fergus Cullen told the Monitor in November. “That's why it's really helpful. It gives cover to others to come on board."

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