It was in The New York Times

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Solange Reis*

In an editorial, the main newspaper in the world takes a position on the US election and the Democratic Party primaries

In late January, The New York Times (NYT) published his endorsement of the Democratic primary. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar were chosen as the best candidates. Not just to unseat Donald Trump in the general election, but to solve the problems that brought the Republican to power.

The endorsement was surprising in some respects. Despite supporting candidates since its founding in 1851, the newspaper had never run two candidates simultaneously. Netizens did not forgive the ambiguity, saying that the newspaper was “on top of the wall”. Others stressed the irrelevance of the endorsement, which would have minimal influence on the mass. There are those who accuse the newspaper of sexism for, since 2008, having endorsed only women in the primaries. Finally, supporters of Bernie Sanders - Warren's main competitor - claim that the NYT is part of the system that tries to oust the only genuinely left-wing candidate.

On the other hand, the moderates were astonished by the fact that the newspaper did not indicate Joe Biden, the candidate of the Democratic machine and likely favorite of Barack Obama. Another surprise was the defense of progressive proposals as a way to restore stability and democracy. Despite not being a conservative outlet, it's no secret that the paper advocates liberal economic policies.

For the editors, the United States is faced with three sharply divergent views. The first is that of the president and candidate for re-election, Donald Trump. “White nativism”, “unilateralism abroad”, “blatant corruption”, “culture wars”, an ideologized judiciary and the veneration of a hierarchical society are aspects openly promoted by the current incumbent. The newspaper, which made an anti-Trump endorsement in 2016, does not hide that it sees him as a danger to democracy.

Two other visions would compete for the hearts and minds of the electorate as well as the future of the Democratic Party. The first would see Trump as a passing aberration, after which politics would return to normal. The other, skeptical, would believe that the heterodox president is the result of a rotten political and economic system that needs to be changed. To the surprise of many, it is with the second perspective that the newspaper has aligned itself.

The Democratic Party must choose one of these last two views to convince the population and restore the republic, says the editorial. If there's ever a time to embrace new ideas, it's now. It is not about considering an “ideological rigidity”, for example, for the nationalization of the health system or for the decriminalization of borders, warns the NYT. Voters are urged, however, to make a progressive choice. Less than they would with Bernie Sanders; more so than centrists Biden and Pete Buttigied.

Elizabeth Warren, senator for the state of Massachusetts, would have a speech to touch the masses, including Trump's voters in the rural belt of the country - argues the newspaper. By attacking the corrupt economic system that only favors the rich, Warren could win over disaffected people on both political spectrums. Perhaps there is exaggerated optimism on the part of the editorial board, since the candidate has suffered a decline and instability in the polls among the Democrats themselves.

Investments in construction, clean energy and social benefits, and the fight for workers' bargaining power vis-à-vis large corporations, are some of its banners. In foreign policy, however, Warren is more of the same. He advocates restoring alliances, strengthening NATO and bringing democracy where it is lacking. Through wars, if there is no diplomatic alternative. Progressive in economics and customs, interventionist in international politics.

Despite the difficult last name - which can be a disadvantage where voters must correctly spell the candidate's name on the ballot - Amy Klobuchar is a kind of palatable avatar of Warren for the moderate constituency. In theory, she might even win votes among moderate Republicans, the few who are outraged by the moral backlash represented by Trump. From there to practice, the imponderable prevails.

Its platform has some topics common to Warren's, although it differs in terms of intensity and ways of execution. Social benefits, combating climate change, encouraging infrastructure, interventionism abroad, all of this is on the agenda. What does not enter is the campaign against the unbridled profits of large corporations and Wall Street. At least, not overtly, as his co-religionist does.

To indicate it as capable of advancing a progressive agenda is to stretch the argument too far. Less than an endorsement of the Minnesota senator, Klobuchar's nomination seems to serve as a warning to Warren that the newspaper is ready to play the moderation card in case of "ideological rigidity".

It was also a cold shower for Biden and Sanders, whether due to their age or their respective controversies. Sanders is accused of machismo and lack of engagement with the black community. Biden is directly linked to Trump's impeachment process, as the president reportedly asked the Ukrainian government for help in resuming an investigation into possible corruption in Ukraine involving Biden's son when he was still vice president.

Klobuchar, however, would have an advantage over Warren in negotiation skills. The newspaper highlights its history of bipartisanship with its peers in Congress, although it also highlights cases of moral harassment against its assistants. In that respect, it doesn't seem to have been a promising choice.

Endorsing pre-candidates is certainly important. Internet users are wrong when they despise the ability of a large newspaper to influence. Amidst the gossip on social networks and the exaggerations of the vehicle itself, a phrase from the editorial deserves to be highlighted. "At the dawn of 2020, some of the most compelling ideas are emerging not from the center but from the left wing of the Democratic Party." If 2019 was an incomprehensible year in world politics, the current one promises to tie a knot in the heads of analysts. We live to see The New York Times call for a left exit, even if it is a left adapted to the limits of American society.

*Solange Reis holds a PhD in Political Science from Unicamp and is a collaborating professor at the San Tiago Dantas Graduate Program in International Relations.

Article originally published on the website Political Observatory of the United States (OPEU).

See this link for all articles