1860. 1964. 2016.
These are the only years in which The Atlantic (previously known as the Atlantic Monthly), the historic American magazine of politics and commentary, endorsed a candidate for President of the United States.
Abraham Lincoln. Lyndon B. Johnson. Hillary Clinton. The Atlantic endorsed these candidates.
The editors of The Atlantic explain their decision to endorse Clinton. Interestingly enough, the title of the article is “Against Trump” with the phrase “The Case for Hillary Clinton” in the subtitle.
But The Atlantic’s endorsement of Johnson was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona. Of Goldwater, Weeks wrote, “His proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.” And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.
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.
Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the 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.
These concerns compel us, for the third time since the magazine’s founding, to endorse a candidate for president. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more than earned, through her service to the country as first lady, as a senator from New York, and as secretary of state, the right to be taken seriously as a White House contender. She has flaws (some legitimately troubling, some exaggerated by her opponents), but she is among the most prepared candidates ever to seek the presidency. We are confident that she understands the role of the United States in the world; we have no doubt that she will apply herself assiduously to the problems confronting this country; and she has demonstrated an aptitude for analysis and hard work.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no record of public service and no qualifications for public office. His affect is that of an infomercial huckster; he traffics in conspiracy theories and racist invective; he is appallingly sexist; he is erratic, secretive, and xenophobic; he expresses admiration for authoritarian rulers, and evinces authoritarian tendencies himself. He is easily goaded, a poor quality for someone seeking control of America’s nuclear arsenal. He is an enemy of fact-based discourse; he is ignorant of, and indifferent to, the Constitution; he appears not to read.
Read the entire piece here. Then head over to Episode 3 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast and listen to our interview with Yoni Appelbaum, Washington Bureau Chief of The Atlantic.
Everyone is making comparisons between the 2016 presidential election and other presidential election in American history. I have also been doing plenty of this here at the blog (including my last post about George Wallace).
Historical analogies are never perfect. But we can learn from them, even if it only reminds that, for the most part, there is nothing new under the sun.
Here are few analogies I have seen:
Election of 1800: I have pointed to this video to remind people that the mudslinging we are seeing in this campaign is not new. I have also referred to this election to show that politicians have been using religion in presidential campaigns for a long time.
Election of 1824: I recently wrote a piece about Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about Andrew Jackson. Most historians who are interested in comparing Donald Trump to Andrew Jackson also reference this election.
Election of 1912: Historians have been referencing this election in the context of the possibility of the GOP rejecting Trump at its July convention. In 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was rejected by the Republican Party and responded to the rejection by forming the Bull Moose Party. Some say Trump could do something similar if he does not get the nomination in Cleveland.
Election of 1964: Political historians have compared the conservative extremism of both Trump and Ted Cruz to Barry Goldwater.
Election of 1968: Some historians have compared Donald Trump to George Wallace.
What other presidential election comparisons have you seen?
Yesterday Donald Trump said he would consider using nuclear weapons to attack ISIS.
You may recall an earlier post we did on this subject.
An 1964 LBJ political ad:
Check out this piece in the New York Times by “presidential historian” Michael Beschloss on Jackie Robinson’s political support of Richard Nixon in the election of 1960. Robinson also campaigned for moderate Republican Nelson Rockefeller in 1964, but could not bring himself to support Barry Goldwater, the eventual GOP nominee. In 1968, he voted for Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey because Nixon courted the support of segregationist Strom Thurmond.
Here is a taste of Beschloss’s piece:
In 1960, Robinson endorsed Nixon for president, declaring that the civil rights commitment of Nixon’s Democratic rival, John F. Kennedy, was “insincere.” In those times, an African-American Republican was by no means unusual. About 39 percent of black voters had supported the re-election of President Dwight Eisenhower and his vice president.
Jackie withstood intense pressure — including from his wife, Rachel — to follow King’s father in switching from Nixon to Kennedy; he later wrote that his decision had “something to do with stubbornness.” As a result, a ballplayer who had withstood death threats in 1947 to break the major leagues’ color barrier was denounced as a “sellout” and “Uncle Tom.” That November, Nixon won only a third of the African-American vote, a crucial factor in his hairbreadth defeat.