Political endorsements, an integral part of newspaper history, have been viewed as one of a newspaper’s key roles.
We at the Journal concur and consider the endorsement process a public service, especially in races and issues that don’t garner a lot of attention.
This general election season, members of the Journal Editorial Board conducted 59 candidate endorsement interviews and researched candidates and issues in 80 local, state and congressional races. For the first time, the interviews were conducted remotely rather than in person due to the pandemic.
On the news side, Journal reporters provide comprehensive coverage of candidates and issues — profiles, issue stories, campaign finance stories, etc. The newsroom also sent out questionnaires and posted the candidates’ answers on our website, www.abqjournal.com/election2020. The newsroom reporters are not involved in the endorsement interviews or decisions.
The Editorial Board combs through news stories and the Q&As, as well as the interviews it conducts with candidates. The board also weighs in on bond issues, mill levies and constitutional amendments.
“We recognize that few people have the time or access we have to compile questionnaires, comb through news coverage, ask community leaders their opinions, read the letters and columns submitted on the candidates and issues, gather up as much campaign literature as we can lay our hands on, and sit down and interview the candidates,” wrote our editorial page editor D’Val Westphal in a column she penned in recent years.
For endorsement purposes, the Editorial Board is made up of Westphal, editorial writer Jeff Tucker, senior editor Kent Walz and editor Karen Moses. Editorial cartoonist John Trever weighs in on some races, and publisher William Lang has the final say on the top-of-the-ticket races.
We hope our endorsements help readers make more informed decisions on local, state and congressional races and issues when they vote — regardless of whether they follow our recommendations.
But the presidential election is another matter.
Especially this year, we doubt through an endorsement process we would provide our readers with any valuable information to sway their opinion that they have not already seen on news pages, airwaves and social media.
Instead, here is a brief recap of the Editorial Board’s views on each candidate:
When weighing the individuals, former Vice President Joe Biden brings a more tolerant, collaborative and statesmanlike leadership style. And during this pandemic, he has been a strong role model for the country with his social distancing and mask-wearing.
In contrast, President Donald Trump is mercurial and combative and chooses to communicate through unpresidential tweets and name calling. He has displayed a flawed and dangerous leadership style regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and tone deafness on race relations.
But when it comes to policy, the Trump administration has scored what the board considers multiple successes. Among those are the revamped trade deal with Mexico and Canada, a seminal peace deal in the Middle East and getting our NATO allies to foot more of their defense costs.
The president has created the U.S. Space Force and beefed up funding for the military. His focus on energy independence has helped us break free from the grip of OPEC and put us on equal footing with other oil-producing countries. His tax cuts, criticized by many as only helping the wealthy, spurred investment in the economy and simplified tax returns for most. And before the pandemic, the country saw the lowest unemployment numbers in history, although it can be argued they continued a trajectory started under the Barack Obama administration.
However, a recent major policy misstep has been Trump’s contradictory on-again, off-again, on-again willingness to negotiate on a new COVID-19 relief package and his flouting of his own experts’ advice regarding the coronovirus, including the 150-person gathering in the Rose Garden that appears to be at the center of the outbreak in the White House and beyond.
Meanwhile, Biden has sent mixed messages on some important issues, and there is legitimate concern about whether he would stand up to the policy agenda pushed by the radical wing of the Democratic Party. Regarding fracking, during the primary campaign he was strongly against it, but a recent fact check reveals his current position is that he opposes new leases on federal lands but does not support a ban. He has been less than absolute on whether he favors packing the Supreme Court, although he has denounced it multiple times, including on Monday, when he said he is “not a fan.”
On other policy issues, there are clear differences as well.
Regarding climate change, Biden has a plan similar to New Mexico’s Energy Transition Act. Trump has rolled back some Obama-era climate initiatives and has in the past called climate change a “hoax.” He recently acknowledged a human role.
On the key issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump has initiated Operation Warp Speed to produce and deliver millions of doses of a vaccine at a record-breaking pace. He has placed the main responsibility for the COVID-19 response with the states, with the federal government as a backup and supplier of last resort. He encourages allowing more businesses and schools to open. By far Trump’s greatest weakness has been his refusal to use his presidential voice to bring Americans together to follow safety precautions — like wearing masks — instead sending conflicting messages, further endangering the public.
Biden, meanwhile, has been consistent in stressing mask-wearing and has a plan that includes listening to scientists; increased testing and contact tracing; expanding paid leave for sick workers and those caring for family members; and providing additional pay for front-line workers. His plan calls for the federal government calling more of the shots. He favors a more cautious reopening of business and says that in order for schools to reopen, the virus must be under control .
In the face of civil unrest and violence, Trump has called for crackdowns and greater support of law enforcement. He says he has condemned white supremacy, but he has refused to take a strong stand against far-right extremists who spout racism. Biden has condemned the violence, albeit not immediately, and says he does not agree with those in his party who want to defund the police.
As early voting continues at a record-breaking pace, the one thing we can all agree on is that this is a critical presidential election, and it is important that every New Mexican and American exercise their right to vote.
So who is the best person to lead our nation after COVID-19 and over the next four years?
Both candidates have track records our readers are familiar with, and the decision is in their — your — hands.