Point Austin: This Most Important Election
How and why the Chronicle takes endorsements seriously
"Kitchen table issues cannot be fully addressed if the house burns down." – David Corn, "The Most Important Election of Our Lives," Mother Jones, November/December 2018 Issue
You'll find the Chronicle's Nov. 6 election endorsements here, wherein our News staff, News editors, and publisher list and explain our candidate and Proposition recommendations, for your consideration. The written endorsements themselves are attempts to codify the consensus judgments of a group of cheerfully contentious people who – while proudly wearing a "progressive advocacy" label as Chronicle journalists – do not always agree on just what the "progressive" (or even "liberal") choice is among a particular set of facts and choices.
The endorsements, as recommendations, speak for themselves – consider them as useful background information, as guides to voting, or even (as a few of our forum detractors reflexively propose) as guides to candidates not to vote for. It falls to this column to describe a bit of our endorsement process itself: how and why we do what we do.
In the first place, it's not an easy task. In that we agree with the folks over at the Statesman (or at least those who remain), who abandoned the practice in 2016, explicitly because "the sheer number of candidates in a metropolitan area this size ... makes it challenging." That's certainly true, although the daily actually has (or had) a distinct editorial board whose literal job it is to make such judgments. At the Chronicle during campaign season, we double up on reporting, interviewing candidates, and arguing about our choices – which makes us even more grumpy and tired than usual. Yet it feels even more like a journalistic responsibility to readers and voters, when we're virtually the only ones still doing it.
Undeniably, we do make it easier on ourselves in a couple of ways. Until the grim Republican monopoly on federal and state government is broken, above the city of Austin choices we're unapologetically recommending straight-ticket Democratic voting – the Trump/GOP reign of virulent racism, misogyny, lies, and outright tyranny needs to end, and right now that means voting for Democrats. So be it.
Method to Our Madness
Also (unlike the quondam Statesman), we see no reason to interview candidates who have already made it clear (via their public statements or our own research) that they will not receive our endorsements. Some of them avidly promote policies we find objectionable or odious, another handful are simply nincompoops in search of free publicity, and a third batch simply don't have the resources and wherewithal to mount competitive campaigns. We get intermittent grief about that practice, from candidates and their supporters. Also so be it, without apology, as we see no purpose in wasting their time as well as ours.
That leaves a large number of local candidates (and city ballot issues) that invite debate and disputation, and we visit with as many of those as possible, generally in small groups because we do not have the time and resources to indulge individual interviews (except as reporters chasing the same candidates on the stump). It's a demanding and sometimes awkward system – especially having to exchange "editorial" hats with "reporter" hats, always trying to be fair under both labels but without pretense of abandoning reason for "objectivity." We're advocacy journalists, and candidates who engage with us should be aware that we don't leave our progressive values at home when we come to the office.
Vote. Vote. Vote.
As David Corn argues in Mother Jones, our most important task in this election is to repudiate Donald Trump – "a leader who daily threatens constitutional governance and healthy debate within a country that's already deeply divided" – as well as Republicans generally, who "have enabled and covered for him as he has degraded American government and politics." (Read the whole story for the damnable catalog.) That task is ready for voters, beginning at the top of the ballot with Beto O'Rourke for U.S. Senate – vote straight-ticket, or take the scenic route and work your leisurely way downballot.
At the city of Austin/Austin ISD/Austin Community College level, the choices are more detailed and less readily apparent. These open questions are why the Chronicle news group has spent the last several weeks following campaigns, interviewing candidates, and arguing among ourselves over who best represents the values and policies we want local officials to pursue. At the very bottom of the ballot are a series of bond (and issue) propositions which we have also considered at length – we know it's difficult to keep up on all this detail, and we do it for a living. We hope this helps.
Please read our endorsements, consider our arguments, and make your best choices based on your best judgment. It's a very difficult historical and national moment. We need everyone pulling together at the ballot box, for all of us to do what we can to keep the democratic process alive and functioning, and helping to create a common, livable future. Early voting begins Oct. 22, and election day is Nov. 6. See you at the polls.