The Detroit News made history with its presidential endorsement this morning – but not in the way you might expect.
For the first time in the newspaper’s 143-year history, its editorial board endorsed a presidential candidate who wasn’t a Republican. But instead of endorsing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, like many other newspapers in a similar conundrum, the News chose third-party candidate Gary Johnson, on the Libertarian ticket.
This strikes as quite a surprise, considering Johnson has virtually zero chance of being voted into office — his poll numbers hover roughly between 8-12%, far behind Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump — and because other newspapers who traditionally endorse Republican candidates opted to endorse Clinton this fall.
Third parties won’t become a factor until more things like this happen. It’s a process, and it will take several election cycles. I’ve long advocated against third parties, lobbying instead to transform the GOP from within. I got tired of beating my head against that wall and now think more influential third (and fourth) parties may be the only thing to save this republic.
While the Free Press says this endorsement is a “surprise,” it actually reflects the mood of many Republicans in America: they don’t like Trump at all but would never support Hillary Clinton. It is a conundrum that a large chunk of the electorate is struggling with. If we want to go deeper into the odd 2016 weeds we could make the case that Gary Johnson is still more Republican than Donald Trump is, so the News isn’t really breaking from tradition too much. It seems much better to go this route for a paper that’s traditionally endorsed Republicans than to read the tortured logic The Arizona Republic used in its support of Hillary.
A broader conversation about how much influence newspaper endorsements even have could be had as well. In all my years in politics, I have never met anyone who’s vote was swayed by an editorial board. It’s likely that the network evening news watchers can be influenced a bit, but that’s a rapidly-dwindling audience.