Democracy Dies in Darkness

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In historic first, Arizona Republic backs a Democrat for president, citing Trump's 'deep character flaws'

By Katie Mettler

September 28, 2016 at 3:04 AM

In 1890, when the Arizona Republic first started printing from Phoenix, before it published photographs or crossword puzzles or won a Pulitzer Prize, the newspaper was called the Arizona Republican.

It later changed its name, but not the political slant of its editorial page.

For 126 years, the Republic has endorsed candidates for president of the United States. For 126 years, they have always been Republicans.

That changed Tuesday.

In a historic first, the newspaper's editorial board announced online their unequivocal endorsement of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — and eviscerated her opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, along the way.

The state's largest newspaper acknowledged its own bold and uncharacteristic move in the editorial:

Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That's why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.

The Republic is not the first newspaper with a traditionally conservative editorial slant to deviate from historical norms and endorse the Democratic candidate this election. Earlier this month, the Dallas Morning News threw its support behind Clinton, the first Democratic presidential candidate it had endorsed since before World War II. The Cincinnati Enquirer, which has supported Republicans for president for nearly a century, endorsed Clinton, as did the Houston Chronicle.

Related: [Another conservative newspaper editorial board just endorsed Hillary Clinton]

Several have even decided to endorse long-shot Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who did not qualify for the general-election debates, instead.

Trump, as of this writing, has received no endorsements from major publications since the primary season.

Watch more!
The list of Republicans who reject their presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and support his Democratic opponent keeps growing. (The Washington Post)

Like most of those nontraditional endorsements for Clinton, the Republic acknowledged she has made "serious missteps." The newspaper critiqued her use of private email servers while serving as secretary of state and wrote that although there was no evidence of wrongdoing, Clinton should have created a firewall between herself and her foundation to prevent the concern that donors were trying to buy access.

"Yet despite her flaws," the newspaper wrote, "Clinton is the superior choice."

The editorial continues:

She does not casually say things that embolden our adversaries and frighten our allies. Her approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.

That cannot be said of her opponent.

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She's tough. She doesn't back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.

That's beneath our national dignity.

When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.

Related: [Gary ‘What is Aleppo?’ Johnson has more newspaper endorsements than Donald Trump]

The editorial praises Clinton's diplomatic work with foreign countries friendly and not, and it cites her long record of public service — as a senator, secretary of state and first lady — as evidence of her commitment to furthering the nation's collective ideals. They touted her temperament, an area in which, just 24 hours before, at the first 2016 presidential debate, Trump proclaimed he was far superior. The Republic disagreed.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the first presidential debate on Sept. 26. (Paul J. Richards/AFP) (David Goldman/AP)

They wrote:

Trump mocked a reporter's physical handicap. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family. Insulted POWs. Suggested a Latino judge can't be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration.

Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn't grasp our national ideals.

Trump, the editorial claims, "hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to take a swing." The endorsement criticizes his insults toward women as "not just good-old-boy gaffes," but "evidence of deep character flaws." It condemns his views on immigration, an issue the state of Arizona takes particularly seriously because of its proximity to Mexico.

Related: [N.H. Union Leader rejects Trump, breaks century-long streak of endorsing GOP nominee]

The editorial board probably anticipated a backlash from its conservative readership when it penned the endorsement, making a point to acknowledge the dread many Republicans might feel in this election. Many GOP voters understand Trump's flaws, they wrote, but "shudder" at the thought of another president Clinton — especially when it comes to nominating justices to the Supreme Court.

"We get that," the board wrote. "But we ask them to see Trump for what he is — and what he is not. Trump's conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing."

When the Republic published its endorsement online Tuesday night, it posted the article to Facebook. Within hours, the comment thread was flooded with angry responses, threats to cancel subscriptions and confessions of perceived betrayal from the traditionally conservative editorial board. It had been shared nearly 2,000 times and commented on almost 1,000 times.


Katie Mettler is a reporter for The Washington Post's Morning Mix team. She previously worked for the Tampa Bay Times.

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