Breaking with tradition, USA Today ‘disendorses’ Donald Trump

September 29, 2016

For the first time in its 34-year history, USA Today took sides in the presidential race Thursday, publishing a scathing “disendorsement” of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents,” the disendorsement reads, before listing a series of traits the editorial board says makes him “unfit for the presidency.”

The editorial does not endorse a candidate other than Trump, urging readers to cast their ballots for another candidate — any candidate.

Our bottom-line advice for voters is this: Stay true to your convictions. That might mean a vote for Clinton, the most plausible alternative to keep Trump out of the White House. Or it might mean a third-party candidate. Or a write-in. Or a focus on down-ballot candidates who will serve the nation honestly, try to heal its divisions, and work to solve its problems.

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

In the home stretch of his candidacy, Trump has lost a slate of newspaper endorsements that in previous years went to the Republican nominee. The Dallas Morning News, The Detroit News and The Arizona Republic have all broken with tradition in recent weeks and advised readers to vote for his rival, Hillary Clinton, or a third-party candidate.

A recent Washington Post analysis of newspaper endorsements through the years said Trump’s failure to win the backing of reliably right-leaning dailies has “broken with long-standing tradition.”

Trump has, however, won the support of the New York Observer, a paper owned by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He’s also been backed by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

As Election Day approaches, much has been made of the ultimate efficacy of newspaper endorsements. Writing for Independent Journal Review, Andrew Clark argued that yays or nays penned by journalists “don’t matter in presidential campaigns, until the campaigns say they do.” Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan took up the issue Wednesday, arguing that red state editorials “are not as pointless as they look.”

What’s more, they have a bully pulpit. In a contest this important and this close, they need to use it. They would be walking away from their responsibility if they thought first about making some readers mad enough to cancel, even temporarily.