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Editorial: Why we make candidate recommendations for readers

Editorial: Why we make candidate recommendations for readers

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Starting Monday, we begin rolling out our candidate recommendations ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Our nation, beset by a once-in-a-century pandemic and deep economic problems, also is perhaps more deeply divided politically than at any time since the Civil War. Many readers won’t believe it when they read these words, but our interest in making candidate recommendations is not to promote one party over another. Our sole goal is to advise voters on which candidates are best suited for the job.

Many readers have the mistaken impression that we are in the business of predicting winners and losers. When the election is over, we fully expect to be flooded with phone calls berating us because the opponent prevailed over the person we recommended. They miss the point.

Our editorial recommendations have never served as predictions or prognostications. They quite simply serve as a guide, reflecting our informed assessment of the candidates and their grasp of the most pressing issues. Candidates don’t have the time to visit all voters and answer the important questions on their minds. We serve as their shortcut to reach the greater public.

Because of pandemic conditions, this is the first time we’ve had to conduct all of our candidate interviews via Zoom online. The major candidates participated knowing fully well that we spare no one a provocative, intense grilling. Democrats as well as Republicans have previously walked away from these interviews with arms flailing in anger because we dared to challenge them.

No voter can expect to have the access to candidates and information that we have. These recommendations serve as their shortcut. Space considerations limit how much of that information we can convey to readers about the candidates. Very often, we resort to shorthand phrases such as, “This is a tough choice …” as a way of signaling that we really liked, or were really ambivalent about, both candidates and their qualifications.

We’ve made no secret of our opposition to President Donald Trump. We don’t judge Republicans on their party fealty. But we do expect them to uphold the basic values outlined in GOP platforms. When they fail to speak out as the president egregiously violates those values, we take note.

We take into account the record, experience level and maturity of the people seeking office. We also gauge candidates on how closely they adhere to editorial stances we’ve taken on key issues, as well as the ideals set forth in Joseph Pulitzer’s Platform, printed daily on the editorial page.

American democracy would be sorely devalued, and of severely limited durability, if voters went to the polls without informing themselves in advance, blindly choosing party affiliation over which is the best candidate. The only proper choice is an informed choice.

Our goal remains to inform readers, call out politicians when they get it wrong, and hand them our recommendation when they’re consistently on target.

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