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Clinton-New York Times Scandal Highlights Inanity of Political Endorsements

It seems every day brings news of yet more sordid exploits in which the Clintons are prominently featured.

The latest revelation from the Washington Free Beacon lays out a possible endorsement-for-hire scandal in which a charity owned by the New York Times received $100 thousand from the Clinton Family Foundation in 2008, the same year the paper endorsed Hillary as the Democratic nominee for president.

While the paper, which was reportedly considering endorsing Barack Obama, unquestionably engaged in some shady ethics, the question is, should they really be condemned, or is the centrality of endorsements in the American election cycle really the problem?

Why is the editor of a major newspaper qualified to endorse a public servant of any kind, be they federal representative or notary public? Surely not because their position as “government watchdog” gives them some special insight into what kind of policy is best for the nation and which candidates are most likely to support that legislation. That would suggest the papers, who wear their accountability role  as a badge of honor, have an agenda and perspective.

Of course, there is no such thing as true editorial objectivity. The problem with the Times’ endorsement of Clinton lies not in the timing of the donation, but in that they were not honest about it at the time.

The Times, by possibly allowing money to their decision, essentially sold their editorial integrity to the Clintons. Their voice became, not their own, but a puppet, malleable in the hands of the highest bidder. This is problematic because, in the democratic process, a vote is an act of expression.

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When the individual relies on endorsements of a candidate as a judgment of worth, he or she engages in intellectual collectivism. Their voice is no longer a representation of their needs, wants or interests, but an echo of the endorser’s. And, since endorsements, particularly when voiced by prominent public figures and officials are ultimately done in the name of the needs of some disenfranchised group, they are ultimately hollow, self-perpetuating rhetoric.

When a candidate truly has ideas that correspond to the ideology of a particular person, their own appeals and legislative actions will resonate. Endorsements suggest that the average voter is not smart enough to make such an assessment on their own; they suggest that voters need to be enlightened by the smarter elites of society. In reality, the voter should give credence to no voice other than their own, since, even if someone else does have similar interests, can empathize with the harsh reality of daily need, they cannot mirror perspective.

As a tool of contrast, endorsements may be useful. When a rational case is laid out along lines of thought that are alien to one person’s worldview, the contrast in thinking may be intellectually expansive. But this cannot replace the analysis of a candidate’s past actions and present promises necessary to make a truly informed vote.

Only individual volition can chose to do this. And it can only truly do so by considering wants and thoughts that are unique, determined by past experiences, present needs and future goals.

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About Katherine Revello

A recent graduate of the University of Maine, where she majored in journalism and political science, Katherine Revello is an aspiring political commentator. Her focuses include theory, the philosophy of money and populism. Currently, she is a graduate student at Villanova University. She is the founder of The Politics of Discretion, a blog dedicated to advancing her philosophy of discretionism. Follow her on Twitter: @MrsWynandPapers