Not many people are as self-satisfied and self-important as Joni Balter. She’s recently penned two op-eds, not on any topic with relevance to the real issues facing voters in this election, but something even more important; the race for newspaper endorsements. And of course by this vital yardstick, Dino Rossi may as well concede the race now.
I’m not even sure why this was stretched out to to pieces; they’re nearly identical. From the first piece, published on 10/14:
People ask editorial writers from time to time about newspaper endorsements — how much do they really change voters’ minds? In local races, such as school boards or city councils or county councils, they matter a ton. In statewide contests, like the U.S. Senate contest, endorsements always have an impact but it is harder to measure because there is so much other inpurt. Have you turned on your TV lately?
My take on endorsements in contests of this magnitude is they, especially if they are plural and there are a fair number of them, become part of the narrative and momentum of an election.
And from the second, published on 10/25:
Newpaper readers and media critics often ask how much weight newspaper endorsements carry in an election as big and fiery hot as the current U.S. Senate race in Washington state.
Such endorsements count quite a bit in races for school boards or city councils or county councils. In a bigger statewide race such as the contest between Democratic incumbent Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi, the impact of a single endorsement is less clear, because there is so much other input. Indeed, the television has become a Halloween-scary place.
My own sense of it is a grouping of endorsements, several in a row, can be quite powerful. And the advantage, therefore, goes to Murray.
Honestly, did Balter just forget what she wrote or was she so enamored of her own cleverness she just had to repeat herself? And which is it: do people ask this question of vital importance “from time to time” or “often?” Honestly, it’s never occurred to me to wonder. My assumption has always been that newspaper endorsements are handed out to advance the agendas of the various editorial boards.
But here’s the money quote, pulled from the second piece:
For all the blather about how tired everybody supposedly is of Murray, it seems newspaper editorial writers and publishers, who really know the work and impact of this senator, are not ready to throw out a talented public servant like Murray.
So here’s the deal.
Not only is making endorsements inherently self-important; not only does Balter choose to write about how important these endorsements are – Twice! In less than two weeks! – she takes it a step further by implying that editorial boards are far more qualified to judge the candidates because they’re so much better informed than their readers. And probably just smarter, too.
Not Present and Accounted For
Of course, she may have a point about the Times’ readers being ill-informed. If you were relying on the Times to keep you informed of news in the WA-01 contest between James Watkins and Jay Inslee, you’d be, well, ill-informed as well as completely unaware that the two debated on October 18th.
You’d also be unaware that the Watkins campaign had been desperately trying to get Inslee to agree to a debate since August, and that when he finally did agree, he set a date, time and place nearly guaranteed to ensure minimal press coverage (and it appears he was successful; none of the local television stations covered the debate and when last I checked, only the Kitsap Sun had given the debate any coverage).
You would, however, know that the gubernatorial candidates in Rhode Island will be debating tonight.
Apparently the Times is aware that fact that face time with Inslee doesn’t always endear him to his constituents. So as Balter bashes Times subscribers as ill-informed, the news department makes sure they stay that way. Sweet.
Endorsement Brain Twister
Try and wrap your head around this.
Back in June, Ryan Blethen announced that the Times would be taking “a new, hard look at elections and government” and added, “The editorial page will also explain to readers and lawmakers why government needs to be reset. We will examine the need for fiscal responsibility on the local, state and national level.”
Given that, a trip through the Times’ endorsements on the federal level is likely to leave the reader confused. Their list of endorsed candidates includes all the incumbents – Democrats Inslee, Larsen and Smith in the House and Murray in the Senate – plus Democrat Suzan DelBene in the 8th District running against incumbent Dave Reichert and Democrat Denny Heck in the 3rd District, running against Jaime Herrera for Brian Baird’s open seat.*
In other words, a full slate of Democrats. The party that did this to the federal budget deficit.
I wonder how the Times editorial board imagines that returning proven big spenders to Washington, along with some newcomers who are just as likely to vote for ever higher taxes and more spending will “reset government?” It’s a conundrum.
*As far as I can tell, the Times made no endorsements in the 6th and 7th Districts, seats currently held by Norm Dicks and Jim McDermott, respectively, but I could have missed them. Of course, Baghdad Jim probably needs no endorsement running, as he is, in the Soviet of Seattle.