If you’re a longtime Telegraph reader, you’ve likely noticed that our election endorsements — and our unsigned editorials in general — have been fewer and less frequent in recent years.
We’ve had a succession of editors since the late Keith Blackledge wrote editorials in this space from 1967 to 1992. To be honest, the number and frequency of editorials since then usually has had much less to do with politics than with the time crunches of putting out a six-day newspaper.
Like Blackledge, we will offer our thoughts when we can on the issues facing our community. As he so often stated, it’s up to you to decide what, if anything, to do with them.
When elections rolled around, Blackledge regularly offered recommendations on state and local “ballot questions” — local bond issues, state constitutional amendments, petition initiatives and referenda and so on. He considered it a newspaper’s duty to promote thoughtful, sober public debate, especially when voters are directly charged with making the final decision. So do we.
But though Blackledge wrote many candidate endorsements, he sometimes passed up the opportunity. Most notably, he declined to endorse either major-party presidential candidate in 1980, 1984 and 1988, covering the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
We cannot precisely know how Blackledge would have reacted to our current political culture. But he valued The Telegraph’s political independence. He sought for this paper to be regarded as an honest broker of information and promoter of mutually respectful discussion of the issues facing our community, region and state. We feel likewise.
Toward that end, in this election and for the foreseeable future, The Telegraph will not endorse any individual running for any public office — federal, state or local.
We will by no means be silent. Our news columns will once again offer profiles of candidates for major offices, including their personal backgrounds and stances on issues. We will cover candidate forums. We urge our readers to write letters to the editor.
And we will continue in this space, as Blackledge did, to discuss and offer our recommendations on the ballot questions that face us all on Nov. 6.
Especially in local matters, many, many issues before us have precious little to do with political leanings. But we regretfully conclude that in this hyperpartisan, tragically toxic civic culture, endorsement of any candidate — regardless of his or her ability or integrity — harms our ability to contribute constructively to community discussion.
There have been times in American history when both major parties were so obsessed with winning elections, and their officeholding members so disinclined to exercise independent judgment, that constructive decision-making in our governments all but ceased. These are such times.
Nebraskans 80 years ago shut down one house of our Legislature and officially threw the parties out of the other to keep their lawmakers focused on the state’s needs, not their own. Our Unicameral’s nonpartisan tradition has generally been upheld ever since. When it has not, the quality of our mutual decision-making has suffered. Again, these are such times.
Most dismaying to us are signs that our local debates and discussions are becoming colored with reddish or bluish hues. Even explanations of how things work — as opposed to how people think they ought to work — seem at times to be dismissed as somehow being “liberal” or “conservative.”
When we cannot talk logically about the nuts and bolts of government, or we cannot or will not trust that our neighbor has the best interests of his or her community at heart, democracy cannot work at any level.
We are determined to do what we can to reverse that state of affairs. And if that goal is endangered by endorsing one candidate or another — as it seems to be — we will no longer take that risk.
As the November 1984 general election approached, Keith Blackledge declared in this space: “The Telegraph does not endorse anyone for president in 1984.”
But he continued: “That is not the same as advising voters to stay home. Editorial opinion is, after all, only editorial opinion. A vote is a vote, and carries with it a responsibility to decide, even between unattractive alternatives. ...
“We urge our readers to vote ... Vote the individual, or vote the party, or vote for continuation, or vote for change.”
The choices are yours. In declining to recommend one candidate or another, we vote for you.