Political endorsements from newspapers have existed since the 19th century. Since then, editors at newspapers nationwide deliberate on who the most adept contender is to endorse. However, despite the long historical legacy of newspaper endorsements, they are still a debated practice.
The question of whether — and how — newspapers should take partisan stances has no easy answer, as the Editorial Board discovered for ourselves this week. As do the large publications — like The New York Times — and other student newspapers — like the Chicago Maroon at the University of Chicago — The Student hoped to publish an endorsement ahead of the Super Tuesday elections for a number of reasons. We not only recognize the need to encourage political dialogue on campus but to also strive to establish transparency between us and our readers. Though objective reporting remains a key tenet of what we do at The Student, journalists are not apolitical beings absent of opinions or biases, and our readers deserve to know where their news comes from in its entirety.
Despite these convictions, however, choosing one candidate to represent the Editorial Board’s policy views proved di cult. After conducting a poll of the most popular candidates among ourselves, it became clear that the Editorial Board’s preferred choice was not immediately discernible — the results were scattered, as it likely would be if the entire student body were surveyed. ough one candidate had the most votes, no single candidate had a majority of votes. If we were to simply put our support behind any one individual, the majority of the Editorial Board would be opposed.
Nonetheless, we realized that while we won’t be able to settle on a single presidential endorsement, there is still value in relaying our wide distribution of political views.
So we surveyed ourselves once more. This time, we went beyond just presidential candidates, to some of 2020’s most heated policy subjects.
The survey asked editors about 21 different policy issues ranging from marijuana legalization to the elimination of the Electoral College, immigration to health insurance, climate change to foreign policy. On nearly every issue, the Editorial Board was divided. Breaking down our political views by policy explained why deciding on a single presidential candidate to endorse would have been a nearly impossible endeavor.
An issue that divided us most was immigration; forty-one percent of our editors agreed that the U.S. should “focus on convicted criminals and threats only” when it comes to immigration. Twenty-five percent said that the U.S. should “focus on recent border crossers, convicted criminals and national security threats,” while another fourth wants deportations to halt all together. is is just one issue, but the Editorial Board’s opinions lied all over the political spectrum.
A similarly scattered response fell, surprisingly, on the issue of college debt. Forty-one percent of editors agreed that student debt should be canceled for all, while one fourth argued that it should only be canceled for low-income individuals. One-sixth of editors felt that student debt should be reduced but not eliminated, while another sixth said that it should just be left alone. On the other hand, however, 75 percent of the Editorial Board agreed that four-year colleges should be affordable (as opposed to free or left as is). It’s an unexpected but illuminating outcome, revealing how relative proximities to the issue factor into political beliefs and outcomes differently.
Regarding marijuana — another issue that our age places us in relative proximity to — 50 percent believe it should be federally legalized while over 40 percent think it should be nationally decriminalized and left up to states to legalize; only one editor holds that it should remain illegal.
On healthcare, one of this election’s defining issues, the Editorial Board demonstrates a 60 percent/40 percent split, with the majority believing that government-run health insurance should cover everyone and the remaining contending that it should simply be a public option.
The only issue that found full unanimity was climate change. One hundred percent of the Editorial Board agrees that there should be some kind of price on carbon. This small consensus gets at an underlying truth of our generation: climate change is something that affects 20-somethings more than preceding generations, and it’s a challenge that threatens everyone across racial, gender, sexual and socio-economic identities, though disproportionately across these lines.
It makes sense for this to be the case for an editorial board that, in many ways, represents perspectives from all across the board. We will be the first to admit our shortcomings and our own need to continue illuminating the blind spots we may have in reporting and editorializing. However, we ultimately find it heartening that the Editorial Board’s views are far from homogenous. Though we publish an editorial each week in this section aiming to represent as many of our stances as possible, a loyal reader might notice that from week to week, the number of dissenters and abstainers on each article will vary. These broad and shallow political stances represented in the poll are no different.
The value of disagreement, especially within an Editorial Board like ours that works for a politically diverse student and faculty body, cannot be overstated. It allows our readers to rest assured that every Tuesday night when we gather to revise ideas and writing, we look at our coverage through varying lenses. It ensures that every Wednesday, the paper has been created by a politically representative microcosm of the greater college community and by people whose perspectives, in tandem, round each other out to produce a fuller representation of the story that is closer to the truth. And that is more valuable than any presidential endorsement we might have covered.