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With the primary season getting underway, it’s also time for the traditional round of newspaper endorsements. Few people seem to believe that those endorsements hold anywhere near the influence they did fifty years ago, but some traditions have to be maintained, I suppose. That’s not the case at the Philadelphia Inquirer, however. They are publishing their picks for the Democratic races as they normally do. But instead of listing endorsements for candidates in Republican primary races in Pennsylvania this week, the editorial board of the Inquirer decided to publish a long-winded explanation of why they refused to endorse a single GOP candidate in any race.
The board begins with what could be seen as a refreshing bit of honesty. They write, “It is no secret that this board, for decades, has leaned toward Democrats.” Really? We never could have guessed. (Insert sarcasm emoji here.) Of course, like so many other large papers, they’ve done a lot more than “lean,” but that point is far too self-evident to spend much time on here. They next walk through the rest of their decision-making process – which we’ll address in a moment – before reaching this despondent conclusion:
There is no inherent virtue in supporting the policies that this board supports — but that’s not the point. The question isn’t how can more people agree with us, but how can this nation come to a place where we reach different conclusions and hold different opinions while operating from the same commonly shared set of facts? We don’t have an answer.
Here is what we do know: It is through discussion, debate, and the interrogation of ideas that we develop a shared story. We hold on to the words of Thomas Jefferson — one of this nation’s flawed but fundamental founders — that “truth is great and will prevail” unless “disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate.”
That is why we wanted to speak with all of the candidates this primary. That is why we will invite the Republican nominees in both races to endorsement meetings in the fall. That is why we wanted to help provide guidance to Inquirer readers with an endorsement in the Republican primaries this year — but we couldn’t. Nevertheless, we will not stop engaging in free argument and debate until truth prevails.
The process that the board went through probably says a lot more about the general state of journalism today than it does about this particular editorial board. They began by sending the candidates in various races what should have been a standard set of questions. The first one, however, asked “Who won the 2020 presidential election” with two options as answers. That seems like a fairly silly question to ask, but among the Senate GOP candidates, all but one refused to answer, calling the question “biased” or unfair. It also seems like a silly question to refuse to answer. Many troubling issues about the 2020 elections were brought to light, particularly when it comes to the practice of mass mail-in ballot use. But unless someone can eventually prove some sort of national, illegal scheme on the part of the voting machine manufacturers (something that has yet to be definitively established), it shouldn’t have been that hard to check the Biden box for the newspaper and move on. One of the Senate candidates did that.
The next issue the board tackled was whether or not any of the candidates, particularly those for governor, would consider new laws in Pennsylvania restricting abortions if Roe is overturned. All of the gubernatorial GOP candidates support such laws. That was a bridge too far for the Inquirer board and they concluded that they could not offer up a name to their readers as the best choice.
There was a time back in the day when newspapers actually made an effort to deliver real news and facts to the public, leaving the reader to make up their own mind on the issues. (For some of our younger readers, I realize that’s probably hard to conceive of, but it’s true.) There were always editorials and opinions, but the news was still the news, not a value judgment on the newspaper’s customers.
That’s no longer the case. The board should take a moment and remember that their views are not “facts” with opposing viewpoints being “wrong.” They serve a community of people that includes many Republicans and conservatives. And many of those people do not consider abortion a “right” and they oppose the procedure strongly. And some of them probably still read the Philadelphia Inquirer (for reasons that escape me). Those readers might find a gubernatorial candidate’s plans on potential abortion restrictions to be valuable information when considering who to back in the primary. But in the view of this editorial board, those people don’t exist. Or if they exist, they clearly don’t matter. They are to be dismissed because of their position on an issue that still strongly divides the nation and invites a wide range of opinions.
There are other races and other issues to be considered. And the board even found one Senate candidate who was willing to say Joe Biden won the presidency. And yet they will not endorse a single person in a single primary race from that side of the aisle. The Inquirer is canceling all of those candidates for the sin of being from “the wrong party.” If you still take the opinions of this board seriously, I don’t know what to tell you at this point.