Point Austin: For Your Consideration
When you enter the poll, make your best choice ... these are ours
It's that time of year again – election season – when the Chronicle News staff sticks its collective neck out and offers our endorsements for (in this case) the March primaries. If you haven't noticed – and judging from local turnout numbers, far too many of you are living under rocks – early voting for the March 6 primary begins Tuesday, Feb. 20, and continues through March 2. (If you aren't yet registered to vote, it's too late for these primaries, although registration numbers so outpace voting it remains a mystery why folks who take the time to register so often fail to vote ....)
Readers may wonder how we go about this process – although we do our best, it's frankly an unscientific routine. Unlike establishment papers, we don't have a distinct "editorial board" – for various reasons, we don't have the resources to maintain a bunch of pipe-smokers paid only to think – so our News staff writers and editors, along with Editor-in-Chief Kimberley Jones and Publisher Nick Barbaro, join in a temporary cabal to report on and interview candidates, generally in groups, and try to come to a consensus on favored candidates.
News Editor Chase Hoffberger handles the scheduling arrangements in addition to his many other duties, so he spends several weeks trying to match candidates with interview schedules that he squeezes in amidst ongoing publishing deadlines. (It used to be "weekly" deadlines, but in an online age, it's a lot harder to know when a week begins and ends ....)
Our consensus can be slippery – we rely on one another's judgment, and for additional knowledge heavily on the reporter who covers a particular beat – but we try. And we also try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to avoid "dual" endorsements because we know when a reader/voter steps into the polling booth, she can't select two candidates for the same office ....
Consider the Contours
It's a labor-intensive process, and with few staffers and little time we simply can't interview everyone – though excluding statewide races, we did sit down with candidates in 12 of the 15 contested races. We rely on our reporting, pursue the same discussions ... and do our best, while reminding Chronicle readers (and disappointed candidates) that these are our recommendations, and they're free to disagree.
There are plenty of circulating organizational and endorsement lists (generally reiterated on candidate websites), but in Austin we note that the local Big Publishing Cheese – the Austin American-Statesman – abandoned candidate endorsements a few years ago, for the explicit reason that it's just too much work. "The sheer number of candidates in a metropolitan area this size and the number of editorial writers we have," wrote the editors in May of 2016, "makes it challenging to add to the contours of the electoral debate." Two years before, we were all stunned by the 120 or so candidates who filed for the first 10-1 City Council election, and much of that evaluation had to be done on the wing ... but jeez, for a Cox-underwritten newspaper, was it really too "challenging to add to the contours" ...?
We feel their pain, I guess.
Breaking the Stranglehold
It's also worth noting that as a frankly progressive advocacy paper, we've increasingly endorsed only in the Democratic primaries, and come November will likely be endorsing a straight Democratic ticket (with perhaps a few exceptions). That's a sharp reflection of the Texas political landscape – this remains a one-party controlled state, just as Travis is largely a one-party controlled county. Until that situation changes substantially – is this the long-awaited year of the Great Blue Wave? – we find ourselves opposing Republican hegemony, because the GOP has unapologetically become the party of anti-women, anti-minorities, anti-immigrants, anti-social justice, anti-science, even anti-vaccine ... and more bluntly, the party of white supremacy as a policy doctrine and electoral strategy.
Until that changes, or the U.S. moves to a multi-party system (not in this lifetime), we're likely to find ourselves relying on the admittedly quite imperfect institutional Democratic Party as the available bulwark against a further drift toward reaction and outright tyranny (already experienced by our neighbors targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids). There are some early, good regional signs for the upcoming midterms – The Washington Post reported this week that in various special elections since January 2017, "Democrats had flipped 35 seats from red to blue, while Republicans had flipped four seats in the other direction." In addition to putting swing states (e.g., Florida) further in play, that puts pressure on "moderate" Republicans in Congress and the Capitol (i.e., those in vulnerable districts) to be less enthusiastic about the Trump reactionary "all-for-the-one-percent" agenda.
So, before you get your nose out of joint that your favorite candidate didn't get the nod from the Chronicle, take our endorsements for what they are – considered recommendations from friends who do this stuff for a living, so you don't have to. And by all means, take the time to vote – a livable future may well depend on it.