The Chicago Tribune, which for more than a century was one of the Republican Party's great kingmakers, has for the first time in its storied history endorsed a Libertarian for president, Gary Johnson.
In a 1,680-word editorial, the self-styled "World's Greatest Newspaper," whose only prior Democratic endorsements had been for Chicagoan Barack Obama, had harsh words for America's two largest political tribes:
How could the Democratic and Republican parties stagger so far from this nation's political mainstream? […]
This is the moment to look at the candidates on this year's ballot. This is the moment to see this election as not so much about them as about the American people and where their country is heading. And this is the moment to rebuke the Republican and Democratic parties.
Though the paper clearly preferences Hillary Clinton in a two-candidate matchup ("Any American who lists their respective shortcomings should be more apoplectic about the litany under his name than the one under hers"), it nonetheless makes a compelling case against the Illinois native for her "up-to-the-present history of egregiously erasing the truth," her corner-cutting ambition, and her policies. Excerpt:
Clinton's vision of ever-expanding government is in such denial of our national debt crisis as to be fanciful. Rather than run as a practical-minded Democrat as in 2008, this year she lurched left, pandering to match the Free Stuff agenda of then-rival Bernie Sanders. She has positioned herself so far to the left on spending that her presidency would extend the political schism that has divided America for some 24 years. That is, since the middle of a relatively moderate Clinton presidency. Today's Hillary Clinton, unlike yesteryear's, renounces many of Bill Clinton's priorities — freer trade, spending discipline, light regulation and private sector growth to generate jobs and tax revenues.
Hillary Clinton calls for a vast expansion of federal spending, supported by the kinds of tax hikes that were comically impossible even in the years when President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats dominated both houses of Congress.
So what about the Libertarians?
Gary Johnson of New Mexico and running mate William Weld of Massachusetts are agile, practical and, unlike the major-party candidates, experienced at managing governments. They offer an agenda that appeals not only to the Tribune's principles but to those of the many Americans who say they are socially tolerant but fiscally responsible. […]
Theirs is small-L libertarianism, built on individual freedom and convinced that, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, official Washington is clumsy, expensive and demonstrably unable to solve this nation's problems. They speak of reunifying an America now balkanized into identity and economic groups — and of avoiding their opponents' bullying behavior and sanctimonious lectures. Johnson and Weld are even-keeled — provided they aren't discussing the injustice of trapping young black children in this nation's worst-performing schools. On that and other galling injustices, they're animated.
The paper dings Johnson for being "too reluctant to support what we view as necessary interventions overseas," but concludes that "unless the United States tames a national debt that's rapidly approaching $20 trillion-with-a-T, Americans face ever tighter constrictions on what this country can afford, at home or overseas." TrSanta Barbara ump and Clinton are too "cowardly" to face up to this harsh truth. Kicker: "Every American who casts a vote for [Johnson] is standing for principles — and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."
The Tribune, which has urged several times previously for Johnson and Weld to be given a fair hearing at the presidential debates, thus becomes the sixth and largest American newspaper to endorse the Libertarian ticket, according to this running (and admittedly incomplete) list over at Wikipedia. The Detroit News threw its support behind Johnson earlier this week, writing that "[T]his is an endorsement of conscience, reflecting our confidence that Johnson would be a competent and capable president and an honorable one."
So how many daily newspapers have endorsed Republican nominee Donald Trump? As far as I can tell, zero* (SEE UPDATE BELOW). The Wikipedia page has the count at 13-6-0, Clinton over Johnson over Trump. Six of Clinton's editorial-board backers had endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012; of those, none of the editorials even mention Gary Johnson. (Though I could not locate one of the editorials in question, from Florida's Sun-Sentinel.)
In addition, USA Today this week issued an editorial page judgment on the presidential race for the first time in its history, urging readers to not vote for Trump. (Last month Tulsa World, a traditionally Republican-leaning page that endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, opted for none of the above.)
If these early trend lines hold up, Donald Trump will be the least-endorsed major-party presidential nominee in at least post-war history, and I would guess ever. The fact that roughly two in five American voters seem poised to vote for a candidate that 0* of 20 newspaper editorial boards can stomach says a lot of potentially interesting things about both Trump and the distance between newsroom and main street values. It would be an embarrassing reveal indeed if all the combined might of the nation's unsigned editorials fail to deliver the desired result on Election Day.
* UPDATE: We have located a Trump-endorsing newspaper! It's the Santa Barbara News-Press, a controversial-within-the-industry paper that distinguished itself in 2010 for being the largest-circulation California daily to endorse Prop. 19.