Friday, October 24, 2008

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

As part of today's New York Times endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President, they have created an interactive timeline of their previous presidential endorsements, going all the way back to President Lincoln. Even for those of you who don't get high on history, it's an interesting look back at how the paper has gotten it right - and wrong - in the past. A few of the more interesting misfires by the NYTimes:

~ in 1904, they endorsed Alton B. Parker a Democrat. Who? Oh - the man running against incumbent Theodore Roosevelt. Had Parker won, who knows if we'd have had the Food and Drug Act (spurred by Roosevelt's outrage at descriptions of meatpacking plants in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle), the expansion of the Navy, or President Lincoln's likeness on the penny! (Roosevelt commemorated Lincoln's 100th birthday in 1909 with the new coin.)

~ the paper got it completely wrong throughout the 1920s. Each election (1920, '24, and '28), they endorsed the Democratic candidate; each time the Republican, business minded, candidate prevailed.

~ apparently, the paper wasn't fond of another Roosevelt either. On the eve of war in Europe, the NYTimes editorial board believed a lawyer named Wendell Wilkie -- who had never held elected office -- was better suited than two-term President Franklin D. Roosevelt to continue to lead the country out of the lingering Depression and protect the nation's security from the fascist threat across the pond. My interpretation? The NYTimes was not willing to break the two-term tradition set by President Washington, and support Roosevelt's unprecedented quest for a third term. (Remember - it wasn't until the 22nd Amendment was enacted in 1951 that Presidents were Constitutionally limited to two four-year terms.)

The track record for the New York Times' endorsements has not improved in the second half of the century; slightly more than 50% of the elections since 1948 have gone to the candidate who didn't receive the endorsement. So will their support of Obama make any difference this year? Not likely, considering that the paper's readers skew towards the left side of the spectrum to begin with. But you never know - this could be the year where they turn their sketchy record around.

Rock the Vote!


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