Generations of politicians have coveted the endorsement of the New York Times. Candidates – especially Democrats – breathlessly wait to see whom the editorial board will choose. This year, the Times made history.
The newspaper has made the unprecedented step of endorsing two Democratic candidates: Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.
That’s right. The Times sees their endorsement as a way to placate both wings of the Democrats – the radicals and the realists. But as the editorial admits, the two candidates are cut from more of the same cloth than they’re willing to admit.
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.
Interestingly enough, the editorial board also admits that the 2020 election isn’t really a binary choice. In fact, there are three choices, they say: Trump’s GOP, the radicalism which Warren represents for them, and a somewhat less extreme leftism that Klobuchar stands in for.
Are the Democratic choices that much different? We’re all aware that basically all the Democrats in the race have doubled down on progressivism. Just because Amy Klobuchar doesn’t quite burn the barns like Warren and Sanders want to, is she really a moderate?
And what about Joe Biden? The former vice president seems to shake up to the top more often than not despite the ups and downs of the race, and the Times admits this fact. But they stopped short of endorsing Biden for a number of reasons.
Few men have given more of their time and experience to the conduct of the public’s business than Joe Biden. The former vice president commands the greatest fluency on foreign policy and is a figure of great warmth and empathy. He’s prone to verbal stumbles, yes, but social media has also made every gaffe a crisis when it clearly is not.
Mr. Biden maintains a lead in national polls, but that may be a measure of familiarity as much as voter intention. His central pitch to voters is that he can beat Donald Trump. His agenda tinkers at the edges of issues like health care and climate, and he emphasizes returning the country to where things were before the Trump era. But merely restoring the status quo will not get America where it needs to go as a society. What’s more, Mr. Biden is 77. It is time for him to pass the torch to a new generation of political leaders.
Their “new generation” is passing the torch from one boomer to another in both cases, by the way.
Klobuchar and Warren both reacted favorably to the endorsement(s).
One question hangs over this historic endorsement: can either woman defeat President Trump? The editorial board sort of sidesteps that question and seemed to admit that they would rather make a statement about the divide in the party. They also seem to want to say, “May the best woman win” (as long as it’s not Tulsi Gabbard).
This endorsement says more about the 2020 race than anybody – including the Times – would ever be willing to admit. The Democrats have an uphill battle against Donald Trump, and that’s why too many voices on their side are content to make statements rather than picking a winner.