The Atlantic’s 3rd Endorsement in 156 Years

by James M. Wallreutersbrian-snyder

The Atlantic, a magazine in print since 1857, does not hand out a presidential endorsement except when it feels one of the two choices is a serious danger to the nation.

It has made a U.S. presidential endorsement only three times in its history.

The first was in 1860, when James Russell Lowell, the founding editor of The Atlantic, argued that the Republican Party, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee, “represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country”.

That crisis was one of the animating causes of The Atlantic’s formation in 1857, the abolition of slavery.

The Atlantic’s second presidential endorsement came 104 years later, when in 1964 the publication endorsed incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, over his Republican challenger, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Edward Weeks, writing on behalf of the magazine, cited Lowell’s words from 1860, before making his case for the election of President Johnson, who would, The Atlantic believed, “bring to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa.”

The Atlantic’s third endorsement arrived this month, 52 years after its Lyndon B. Johnson endorsement.

The Atlantic’s 2016 choice is Hillary Clinton.

In its Clinton endorsement, the magazine’s current editors refer back to language from the 1964 decision to select Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater, using words that resonate in this current 2016 campaign:

 We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia.

There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.

In 2016, The Atlantic acknowledges that “our position is similar to the one” in which its editors found themselves in 1964.

We are impressed by many of the qualities of the [2016] Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

By calling its Clinton endorsement Against Donald Trump, the magazine makes clear that its major rationale in supporting Clinton is to warn voters of the dangers of a Trump victory on November 8.

This should reassure those Republicans who will, once Trump suffers his almost certain defeat, have a new assignment of rebuilding the GOP after the damage inflicted by Trump.

The Atlantic’s harsh words about Trump should also caution those voters tempted to vote for third-party candidates. Their vote will, ipso facto, be a Trump vote. 

Trump supporters waited anxiously for his performance in the third and final debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Cathleen Decker, writing for the Los Angeles Times, reports that Trump began the debate in a calmer tone than the angry tone he employs on the campaign trail.

It was not long, however, before the troublesome Trump emerged. Decker begins:

Donald Trump needed a compelling victory in Wednesday’s debate to alter the course of a campaign that has increasingly moved toward Hillary Clinton both nationally and in key states.

He did not get it.

The final debate was notable for delving into policy matters more than in two prior meetings, and for a more measured performance by Trump, in what was undeniably his best debate.

But whatever good he might have done for himself was flattened in two moments in which he appeared unable to take responsibility for his actions and unwilling to put aside personal disappointment for the nation’s good.

The Forward site points to Trump’s most damaging statements which are almost certain to harm him with undecided voters: 

When moderator Chris Wallace asked him — twice — whether he would accept the results of the vote on November 8, Trump — twice — refused to say he would. “I will look at it at the time,” he said smugly, as if he alone were the arbiter of what is right and fair about the electoral process. “I will keep you in suspense,” he said, as if this were yet another episode of the TV reality show that is his life.

In 1860The Atlantic founding editor James Russell Lowell, warned about “the perishability of the great American democratic experiment if citizens (at the time, white, male citizens) were to cease taking seriously their franchise”:

In a society like ours, where every man [or woman] may transmute his [or her] private thought into history and destiny by dropping it into the ballot-box, a peculiar responsibility rests upon the individual … For, though during its term of office the government be practically as independent of the popular will as that of Russia, yet every fourth year the people are called upon to pronounce upon the conduct of their affairs.

In less than three weeks, our “every fourth year” event will have its final moment of decision-making, in an election that most certainly is not “rigged”, though Donald Trump wants his die-hard loyalists to believe it is.

Trump has already signaled that he will not accept the election results. It appears almost certain now that he is laying plans for what would be a cult he will build around himself. His son is already talking about developing an independent Trump television network. 

Hillary Clinton’s victory will not be a mandate; it will be a rejection of Trumpism.  

To paraphrase a line from Mission Impossible: “Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. America. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to demand that your new President choose the right path toward justice and peace at home and abroad”.

The Hillary Clinton photo above, is by Brian Snyder for Reuters.

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
This entry was posted in Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Politics and Elections. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Atlantic’s 3rd Endorsement in 156 Years

  1. The Washington Post’s endorsement of HRC was eloquent; “And not because her opponent is dreadful.”

  2. Helen Marshall says:

    So once again, vote for her because she is not Donald Trump. Who cares about what she is or has done. Today is the annivesary of the death of Gaddafi in Libya, sodomized with a bayonet, to the news of which Clinton replied “we came, we saw, he died,” and burst into chortling laughter. This is acceptable behavior for our next president?? I’ve never been so afraid.

  3. Janet Gunn says:

    Your sumud keeps me going, Jim!

    Janet Gunn

  4. AWAD SIFRI says:

    Trump may be right about one thing: The elections are RIGGED.
    And they have been rigged for many decades.
    But, not as Trump explains it.
    He, ignorantly, points at it in the wrong direction.
    The Big money of Zionist agents – Koch Brothers, Saban, Sheldon – to name a few, and other “One Percenters” are the ones who are driving and deciding the elections of the world’s most famous democracy.
    Until Big money and Zionist interests are abolished, or at least severely restrained, American elections will continue to be “rigged”, in favor of occupation, apartheid, and crimes against humanity

  5. Jim Patterson says:

    Well done, Jim………JP from PP

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