Uncertainty Rocks New York Elections


Republican incumbent John Katko and Democratic challenger Colleen Deacon are seen at a debate for the seat of New York’s 24th Congressional District.

If the contest for the next president is a constant roller coaster ride, New York is its own amusement park. The races in New York’s congressional and state legislative districts has repeatedly turned us upside down, plunged us into darkness and made us just want to get off.

Races once thought to be nail biters are not so. Races thought to be locked in now get a second look. And never in recent memory has a presidential election — one that just happens to be between two New Yorkers — played such a role in the down-ballot campaigns in the state of the same name.

While several states undergo fierce battles between Senate candidates, New York’s batch of unknowns lie in the House of Representatives. As Donald Trump was all but certain to become the Republican nominee following his overwhelming victory in the New York primary and the states that soon followed, Democrats instantly saw New York as a treasure trove of House seats held by Republicans deemed vulnerable if Trump topped the ticket. Three seats that Democrats lost in 2014 — New York’s 1st district, on Long Island; 21st district, in the North Country; and 24th district; in central New York, became the prime targets.

Lee Zeldin, incumbent in the 1st district, endorsed Trump back in May and has stuck by him throughout the controversy surrounding the leaked 2005 video showing him making lewd comments about women. Though other Trump-backing candidates have suffered poll slips throughout this tumultuous season, Zeldin maintained a 15-pecentage-point lead over his Democratic challenger as of Oct. 13. The freshman congressman claimed last spring that in the general election, Trump would “annihilate” Clinton in his district. But since President Obama very narrowly won the district twice, there’s a reasonable chance Zeldin could lose. Either way, it’s bound to be close — far from an annihilation.

Elise Stefanik, incumbent in the 21st district, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Her Democratic opponent, a retired Army colonel, seemed like a worthy opponent in the district home of Fort Drum. Though a partisan NRCC poll shows Stefanik with a commanding lead, conservative groups have pumped half a million dollars into her campaign — because it’s also a district Obama carried in the past.

The seat held by John Katko, elected to represent the heart of the state in 2014, was viewed early on as extremely competitive, as it is the most volatile seat in the country — flipping parties in each of the last four election cycles. As the district heavily votes Democratic in presidential elections — Obama carried it by double digits in 2012 — a sufficient anti-Trump coalition of voters could easily unseat Katko. Colleen Deacon, Katko’s opponent, has repeatedly used Trump as a stamp on the Republican Party and on Katko himself, and was recently endorsed by Obama. But Katko holds a 23-point lead, according to a Siena College poll, is popular with Democrats and recently received an endorsement from The New York Times, one of the few New York Republican congressmen to do so. Still, the district is known for surprises.

While the victor in those districts needs a collection of variables to play out just the right way for them, there are other upstate regions where the question marks are plenty on who will come out on top. The 19th district, which covers the western Capital District and the Hudson Valley, is entrenched in a very close race between Republican John Faso and Democrat Zephyr Teachout — both former gubernatorial candidates. A Sept. 27 Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll had Faso ahead by just one point. Like the 19th, the neighboring 22nd district, covering the Mohawk Valley south to Binghamton, is a contest for a seat of a retiring incumbent. With three strong candidates seeking it, it’s near impossible to predict the outcome.

While uncertainty plagues New York’s representation in Washington, it also drips further down the ballot to what Albany will look like after Nov. 8. All seats in the State Senate and Assembly are up for grabs and Democrats are flirting with the possibility that Trump’s unpopularity in the blue state could cause the Republicans to lose their majority in the Senate — which they have held for most of the last 40 years.

If successful, Democrats would control both chambers of the Legislature and governorship. Such a prospect has even moved Gov. Andrew Cuomo to endorse and campaign for Democratic Senate candidates — depicting Republicans as the ones blocking legislative progress. “I cannot get ethics, Dream Act, campaign finance done with the Republican Senate,” he said at a recent event.

State Republicans have said Trump’s name doesn’t come up too often on their campaign trail, and argue Democratic leadership would result in higher taxes and more attention put on New York City. “The Republican majority has been pragmatic, middle of the road and problem-solving. I think voters appreciate that,” Sen. Kemp Hannon, of Long Island, told The Associated Press.  

But it wasn’t that long ago when it was believed that Trump could help down-ballot state GOP candidates and even put New York in play at the presidential level. After the Republican convention when Trump saw a bump in the polls, Westchester County GOP Chairman Doug Colety, a delegate, said, “We haven’t gotten the convention polling models together yet, but everything that we’re hearing on the street indicates and points to Donald Trump being good for us at the top of the ticket.”

I said it was a roller coaster, right? While we know for sure that Hillary Clinton will win New York’s 29 electoral votes, the internal competition in the state is extremely difficult to foresee.

With Election Day just a week away, there is still a lot of debate, rallying, fundraising and perhaps more surprises to come. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow or the next day. We don’t know who’s going to turn out to vote and who isn’t. We don’t know who will win this race and lose that one. There are a lot of maybes and what-ifs. But we do know that this election is going to be very consequential to the direction of New York and the country for years to come.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88


Electoral Map Fiasco May Be On the Horizon


John King of CNN is seen in front of a graphic displaying the presidential Electoral College map.

The fate of the Electoral College map tells us a lot about the U.S. every four years. And it undoubtedly tells us most when it undergoes tectonic shifts.

The collection of red and blue states has, for the most part, been locked in a solid voting pattern for nearly 20 years. Since 1992, the winning presidential candidate has won about half of the states and their electoral votes, a far cry from the landslides of the 1970s and 1980s, where Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both won every state except one and the District of Columbia in their re-election bids.

Barack Obama turned parts of the map upside down when he was first elected in 2008, flipping Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, all states George W. Bush had won twice, with the exception of New Mexico, which Al Gore carried in 2000. Two days after the election, it was finally declared Obama had also carried North Carolina with a razor thin 0.32 percent margin of victory, the first Democrat to win the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. High African American voter turnout also prompted Obama to narrowly carry Indiana and Virginia — both of which hadn’t voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Indiana and North Carolina returned to the Republican column in 2012, but not Virginia.

Republicans hoped the Old Dominion’s new love affair with the Democrats was only temporary. While Virginia was viewed as a battleground state early on, Hillary Clinton has pulled away over the last few months — currently leading by 12 points. It is also Tim Kaine’s home state.

If Clinton wins Virginia, and it looks like she will, it will be an addition to the list of states that the GOP could once count on yo win and now struggle to even compete in. It’s becoming much tougher for Republicans to win the White House now that Democrats have been slowly making deep inroads into each of their regional strongholds — the South, Southwest and the Midwest. Virginia is turning blue. Should North Carolina flip again in 2016 for Clinton, it might also be on its way out as a modern swing state. A must-win for Donald Trump, Clinton also leads there.

Then there’s the unthinkable. The Clinton campaign has made an effort to bring out the black vote as a way to flip traditionally red Georgia. Ross Perot’s participation helped her husband carry the state once, and an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows Trump and Clinton in a dead heat. Realistically, it will probably still go for Trump, but even a close race there is enough to scare Republicans for 2020 and beyond.

While Clinton country extends south, it is the Southwest that may supply the biggest surprises on election night. It is more than possible that Clinton could actually win two states that represent conservative America at its core. In what may be the most shocking part of this election yet, many news organizations have declared Utah, home of the Mormon Church, as a tossup state. The reason? A state poll reported by The Deseret News shows Trump and Clinton in an even tie — the result of a surge by independent candidate and Utah native Evan McMullin — who polls just four points behind the major party candidates.

The split Republican vote could potentially hand the state’s six electoral votes to Clinton — a state that Mitt Romney won by 48 points in 2012 — a state that has voted for a Democrat only once since the 1940s. Perhaps even more unprecedented is that in one poll, McMullin leads Trump by two points, meaning he could actually win the state himself. The last time a third party candidate won any electoral votes was when George Wallace swept the Deep South in 1968.

While either of those scenarios are far-fetched, the idea that a reasonable possibility exists is remarkable. Where it isn’t so far-fetched though is in adjacent Arizona. Recent tighter polls have prompted the Clinton campaign to spend $2 million in TV advertising and send Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders to rally in the Republican bastion. FiveThirtyEight actually gives Clinton a 55 percent chance of winning the state to Trump’s 44 percent. A Democratic win in John McCain’s home state, a place they’ve won once in 68 years, would be an absolute humiliation for the GOP.

Trump faces a lot of closed roads to the 270 electoral votes needed to win. He initially planned to break Obama’s “Midwest firewall,” using his strong trade deal arguments to appeal to working class voters in Michigan and Wisconsin — both states Clinton lost in the primaries and appeared vulnerable — but both have been Democratic fortresses for 30 years and Clinton holds leads in both.

Trump still has the potential to shake up the map himself by turning Obama states red. He looks more likely to bring Iowa back to the Republicans and has a good chance of winning one of Maine’s electoral votes — which has never been done since the state’s special process was enacted. He has also come closer to winning Pennsylvania than any other recent GOP candidate, but again, that is a long shot. A meaningful Obama upset would be if Trump were to win Ohio. He has kept a consistent lead there, though it has narrowed in recent weeks. His appeal to Rust Belt citizens there might be enough for him to squeak out a win. Even if he does, the popular saying “no Republican as ever won the presidency without winning Ohio” may be made void after 2016.

These possible changes in the electoral map are exactly what many Republicans have been fearing — that Trump’s candidacy may result in not just a loss, but a Clinton shutout, rout, debacle — whatever you want to call it.

Nothing can be guaranteed. 2016 has gone against every political rule book we know and has gotten more unpredictable by the day. And just like these candidates, just like this campaign, election night may also end up being unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Election a Necessary Subject In the Classroom


What should we watch? Flubber or Indian In the Cupboard?

That was the question posed to us. Yes, us. For once, our teacher wasn’t telling her students what to do. It was up to nearly two dozen second graders, who had probably seen both movies a hundred times, to decide which one would be featured on our classroom television on the last day before vacation.

We were instructed to pick a movie, pick a side of the classroom on which to gather our supporters and then give our reasons why that movie would be better, hoping to persuade our opponents on the other side of the room to come join our cause. In the end, which ever movie’s group had the largest amount of supporters would be watched. I don’t know how long our debate went on, but it seemed like hours. “Flubber is just about a gross green glob!” and “But in Indian in the Cupboard, the cowboy gets hurt! It’s sad!” were just part of the exchange.

After each team lost supporters, won new ones and then lost them again, it was decided Flubber had won the debate — much to my disappointment.

While our only knowledge of the economy was reserved to our weekly allowance, and the only trade deals we cared about involved Pokemon cards, that debate showed us at a young age what democracy is  all about — fighting for our own ideals while listening to others explain theirs — then accepting majority rule.

And while at times it may seem like some of the presidential campaigns we’ve seen in the last year are a bunch of squabbling second graders, this election is the reality of our time and there’s no reason our youth should be left out of the conversation. The simple truth is they can’t be. They watch the news, or at least hear it in the background. Their parents talk about it. Their relatives talked about it last Thanksgiving and at those summer graduation parties. They know what’s going on.

Which is part of the problem for some teachers who want to discuss the election in the classroom. Some of the language and context of this campaign has made the subject too unsuitable at times for young ears. Or as 12-year-old Connor Felton told The New York Times, “I think if you repeat some stuff that Trump says, you could get sent down to the principal’s office.”

While those concerns are obviously understood, I firmly believe steering clear of the matter because of those concerns will be much more harmful for our children. And they don’t need textbook lessons on tax policy in order to comprehend the issues of our nation. They often surprise us with how much they soak in and how it affects them.

I loved school the entire time I was in it because I liked learning. But by far, my favorite moments, from elementary school to college, were when a teacher briefly paused from our studies to discuss something happening in the real world because they knew it was something we were thinking a lot about. On the one-year anniversary of 9/11, my teacher had each one of my peers tell the class their memories of that day and thoughts on what it meant. We stopped class to watch the televised ceremony following the Columbia space shuttle disaster and the inauguration of Barack Obama. We happened to be on the topic of the Great Depression when the 2008 financial crisis began. And of course, elections couldn’t be left out.

Those moments, those discussions, are so emotionally charged that they can change someone’s life or inspire them to better others’ lives. If what the youth see in this campaign disgusts them, it just might motivate them to someday go to Washington and fix it. After all, our 50th president is probably out in some classroom somewhere right now, watching our two nominees and taking it in. Depriving our students of these lessons and those talks is depriving the greatness our country could one day achieve.

Because this election is just as much about them as it is anyone. They are the lawmakers, business owners and hard working Americans of tomorrow. And this election will determine a candidate that will be part of their lives when some of them cross that threshold. I myself am now a working taxpayer. But I was only a high school sophomore who was bad at math on the night President Obama was elected. Maybe I was bad at it because I stayed up late watching election results instead of doing geography homework.

I cannot be certain, but I have little doubt some of those experiences in school shaped what I have become — not a political activist, but rather an activist for politics.

And it can happen to many others. And it can be done in many ways. It doesn’t have to be just making watching one of the debates an assignment — although I encourage that. Many schools have conducted their own mock elections using the actual candidates, while characters like Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck are used for younger students. They can debate a controversial historical moment or give their opinions on a new policy their school is considering. Or there’s always Flubber and Indian in the Cupboard.

Students are curious during election season. Let’s let them be curious. Let’s encourage the exchange of ideas. It may end up being the most important thing they ever learn.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

It’s Time to Get Serious on North Korea

North Korea US Elections

North Korean soldiers turn and look toward leader Kim Jong Un as they carry packs marked with the nuclear symbol as they parade during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in 2013 in Pyongyang, North Korea

In a really twisted, backwards version of the boy who cried wolf, North Korea has been one of the biggest dangers to the U.S. and the world for more than half a century. And at the same time, it has for almost as long been ridiculed as one of the world’s biggest jokes. But it’s time for those jokes to stop. It’s not funny anymore.

Last weekend, U.S. officials detected a failed missile launch by the country, the latest in a string of launch tests, most recently at the end of August when one was test-fired from a submarine. This comes on the heels of North Korea’s fifth nuclear bomb test in the beginning of September — the second one in just nine months — and its biggest ever. These actions have received the usual condemnations from the usual people, with President Obama saying last month that “the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state.”

North Korean threats are becoming as occasional as rainy days, so much so that we have grown immune to them. And who can blame us? The Stalinist nation has boasted its abilities and threatened its neighbors and others time and again over six decades. It has yet to carry out such an assault that they claim to be capable of. So why would any new one be any different?

Well, all one has to do is look at the progress the Kim regime has made since it began nuclear testing in 2006. North Korea’s latest bomb test, which registered 5.3 in seismic magnitude, is believed to be measured at about 10 kilotons, which is equal to the energy in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. And the nation was able to come out with its strongest bomb yet while facing the toughest international sanctions seen in decades. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said this after September’s test.”The U.S. should never underestimate the tremendous mental power and inexhaustible might of the DPRK. The U.S. will be made to clearly see how the DPRK rises imposingly out of chains of sanctions, blockade and pressure.” These recent developments has led many to question the continued usefulness of sanctions to deter these tests and launches. Let’s not forget North Korea managed to emerge from the 1990s famine and now even shows signs of a growing domestic consumer market.

For a long time now, we have each time dismissed North Korea’s boasts and threats as simply rhetoric, as a way to impress its people and draw attention to itself in hopes it can accomplish its one objective—to be recognized as a legitimate nation—a nuclear one. And that is partly true. But for so long now, we have treated the country has a child, which it is. But all children grow up. We don’t want to wake up one day to find out our child is now a nuclear-armed state. The day that happens would immediately put millions of Asian and tens of thousands of American troops’ lives in danger, not to mention change the balance of global power as we know it. Then there’s the U.S. itself. Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corp. expert on North Korea, told The Los Angeles Times that the U.S. should “absolutely” be worried that Kim could eventually launch an unprovoked attack on the U.S. if he ever gains ICBMs with enough range to reach across the Pacific. It’s no secret. Lee Yong Pil, a top North Korean official, warned NBC News that North Korea would use nuclear weapons first if threatened, saying “a preemptive nuclear strike is not something the U.S. has a monopoly on. If we see that the U.S. would do it to us, we would do it first.”

If the U.S. “never will accept North Korea as a nuclear state,” it’s time to step up the game to ensure that point isn’t reached. While the issue is just now becoming a specific topic of the current presidential campaign, it really should be a top agenda item, as it will unquestionably be something Obama’s successor will be forced to address in the coming years. The Obama administration’s strategy has been “strategic patience.” Earlier this year, Obama signed the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act into law, giving him new authority to sanction any individual who “imports, exports, or re-exports luxury goods to or into North Korea” or “engages in money laundering, counterfeiting of goods or currency, bulk cash smuggling, or narcotics trafficking that supports the government of North Korea or its senior officials.” Recently afterward, the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on the regime.

But Obama hasn’t taken advantage of his new granted powers and China hasn’t enforced the U.N. sanctions. In fact, The Washington Post reported that China’s trade with North Korea in June was almost 10 percent higher than the previous year, despite the new sanctions. The hurry-up-and-do-nothing approach’s effectiveness is waning. The fact that North Korea isn’t a direct threat right now doesn’t guarantee it won’t be one later on. Goodness, the regime just exploded its largest bomb its produced. They are one working missile away from the ability to strike at their nearest adversaries at will. Washington and Beijing are the ones who need to be the most serious about curbing North Korea’s growing danger, but when will they get serious?

This isn’t The Interview. This isn’t comedic relief. This isn’t something we can brush off as another one of Kim’s “performances.” North Korea isn’t a child anymore. It’s a ticking time bomb. And unfortunately in this case, the use of the word “bomb” is not a metaphor.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

What Does Trump Mean For Katko?

56b5718f69aef-imageIn any other presidential election year, U.S. Rep. John Katko might’ve been able to almost guarantee his re-election in New York’s 24th Congressional District. But this election has Donald Trump on the ticket.

Katko, who represents all of Onondaga, Cayuga, Wayne and part of Oswego counties in Congress, has joined the lengthening list of House Republicans who have stated they would not vote for Trump on Election Day in the wake of a leaked 2005 video showing the billionaire businessman making lewd comments about women. Katko is also part of a much smaller list of lawmakers saying the presidential nominee should step down.

“I think Trump should think seriously about doing so,” Katko told Syracuse.com Oct. 8. “In my mind, he should. His comments cannot be justified and crosses every line you can imagine.”

But his opponent, Democratic challenger Colleen Deacon, has been quick to dismiss his response as politically convenient and has been doing what she can to align Katko with Trump, a tactic many Democrats have deployed in hopes of picking away at the GOP majorities in Washington. “We’ve known who Donald Trump is for months now — from his insults to women, people with disabilities, Gold Star families and entire cultures,” Deacon said. “It took everyone else abandoning Trump before Katko finally felt safe enough to agree.”

But Katko has played the Trump factor rather smoothly during his campaign. He has said repeatedly over the last few months that Trump would have to earn his vote by toning down his rhetoric and turning up on substance, artfully distancing himself from Trump without alienating Trump supporters.

In doing so, Katko has been able to maintain a strong image in the district. An Oct. 3 Siena College/Time Warner Cable poll shows Katko leading Deacon by 19 points. Katko also has the support of a majority of independents and half of women — two crucial voting blocs — especially in presidential election years. He was also voted as “most respected local politician” in The Syracuse New Times‘ 2016 Best of Syracuse series. All of this comes days after Cook Political Report moved its rating of the district from “toss-up” to “leans Republican.”

While this is good news for Katko, he still represents a district known for kicking out incumbents. The seat of central New York has flipped from Democrat to Republican and vice versa each time over the last four election cycles, which makes it the No. 1 swing district in the entire country. The pattern being that the Democrat wins in presidential elections and the Republican wins in midterms, Katko could very well become the next victim of that fluctuation, especially if a lot of people flood the polls for the sake of voting against Trump and see his name down ballot for the same party.

Which is what Deacon is hoping for. If she can garner enough Democrats and anti-Trump voters, particularly ones who don’t like Katko or don’t know him well enough to vote for him, she could turn the tide in her favor. She could also capitalize on her past experience as a waitress who understands the struggles of working people to appeal to those who live in her hometown of Syracuse, the district’s largest population center and a Democratic hotbed in presidential elections. While the district has been redrawn over the years, the immediate Syracuse area has voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1992.

However, Katko is showing strong support from the other party — a quarter of Democrats support him. And Trump is only modestly popular in the region. One-third of the district’s voters plan to vote for Trump in November, 45 percent for Hillary Clinton. And although Trump won the 24th district with 48 percent of the vote in the April 19 Republican primary against Ted Cruz and John Kasich, it was his slimmest win in any upstate district. So Katko’s hesitation to embrace Trump has probably done him more good than bad and Deacon’s Trump/Katko linkage strategy might not be as effective here as other places. Indeed, 12 percent of the district’s voters say they plan to vote for Clinton for president, but vote for Katko for Congress.

But if Katko really wants to be the one to break the one-term curse of the 24th district, he should continue what he’s been doing — running on his record, not off Deacon’s rhetoric. After the Trump video was released last week, Deacon responded by holding an anti-Trump rally, which the Katko campaign called an effort to “nationalize a local race.”

“Interesting that Colleen Deacon has time for a Trump political rally, but missed the rally to save FitzPatrick,” a Katko spokeswoman said, a response that echoes his campaign’s focus. Katko has touted his efforts on job creation, the Interstate 81 project, combating the heroin epidemic and yes, keeping the FitzPatrick nuclear facility operating — all issues concerning central New York — not concerning the presidential election.

Now, Deacon is certain to bring up Trump in the coming debates and Katko will be forced to address his party’s standard bearer, but he knows what his best weapon is. The saying goes that all politics is local. But if Katko wants a second term, it appears the best method is keeping local politics local, and keeping Trump the outsider on the outside.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Should Newspapers Endorse Candidates?

_64231522_92351597Newspapers, though a complicated and precise process to produce every day or every week, all have one single and simple task when it comes down to it—to report facts. When it comes to politicians, particularly presidential candidates, that task comes with grave importance. Reporters and editors must investigate, pinpoint and circulate information on everything a candidate does, says and if it’s true or not. They do their best to deliver the most accurate information possible so voters can decide who they should vote for. And at times, newspapers themselves tell you upfront who you should vote for.

Endorsements from the nation’s major publications don’t mean as much as they used to, mainly because there are so many other sources of information these days, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still symbolic. This year’s election is a good reminder of that.

In the last week or so, Hillary Clinton has racked up a number of newspaper endorsements. Some aren’t surprises, like The New York Times, which has backed the Democratic presidential nominee in every election since John F. Kennedy. But the symbolism that I just mentioned is the fact that Clinton is being endorsed by newspapers that have a long history of supporting the Republican candidate—which for some goes back a century or longer. The Dallas Morning News, The Arizona Republic and The Cincinnati Enquirer have all expressed their disapproval of Donald Trump, who hasn’t been encorsed by any major newspaper.

Even USA Today, which since its founding in 1982 has adhered to a strict business policy of not endorsing candidates, broke from tradition and, while not backing Clinton, published an anti-endorsement of Trump. It read that “this year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.”

I said earlier that newspapers’ one task is to report facts. What I should’ve said is that there are two tasks—report the facts and report them independently. While endorsements are, for most, merely the best of intentions for the electorate, they erase that mark of independence that our free press is supposed to be all about.

Now, that’s not saying editorializing itself is evil. The practice is a crucial part of little community newspapers. It starts a conversation on big issues in small towns. And journalists from all newspaper sizes have their own columns and blogs to express their opinions. Heck, I am one of them. They are free to compliment, condemn, reject or rave any candidate from any level of government until they’re blue (or red) in the face. But to stamp an entire newspaper’s name, with all they represent, with all they do to present balanced and unbiased content, onto one candidate is the exact inverse of their purpose.

The argument that newspaper endorsements completely compromise readers’ trust in the news they report is a little exaggerated, but it’s not without warrant. After all, most reporters contribute an incredible effort to expel any sense of bias or favoritism from their work, in terms of context, the chosen words in headlines, to who’s in a photo and how they look in it. With bias a natural part of being a human being, that takes some doing to supress. So, why is it alright to abandon that effort every election season? The fact that newspapers believe it is acceptable to do so is exactly why that argument has warrant, or at least, entertains the idea that it does.

We live in an age where only 40 percent of the American public trust the media—the lowest ever. Do we ever really stop and ask ourselves why? Many people see them as nothing but news organizations with an agenda controlled by corporations. I doubt that endorsing politicians exactly helps that image. Doing away with that would be a good start to reversing the trend and regaining trust.

But it’s not the media that’s distrusted. It’s the media elite. The word itself implies superiority—maybe not just in gathering information, but intellectually. Yes, journalists naturally will know more facts about candidates than average Americans. So an endorsement can easily give off the impression that voters are too stupid to choose the right candidate so they need the media elite to help them out. And that feeling may be true in some news offices. I don’t know. But I do know that voters don’t need help. What they need are the facts in a complete and balanced form, with an occasional editorial or blog post should they choose to click on it or read it in tomorrow’s edition. Then they’ll take those and combine them with their own persobal priorities and decide who they should vote for. They need us. But they don’t need our help.

Now, newspapers have formed their endorsement decision based on the argument that this is no ordinary election year, which it isn’t. But elections are different every time. Candidates are different evwry time. That doesn’t mean the fundamentals of good journalism should be.

USA Today could take some advice from its own founder, Al Neuharth, who wrote back in 2004 why the company had never endorsed candidates — and why no newspaper ever should. “We decided our role was to inform, educate, entertain, debate, but not dictate.”

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88

Clinton Needs to Be Her Own Candidate to Win

DEM 2016 Convention

President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton wave together during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in July in Philadelphia .

The Democrats have a simple tactical maneuver to overcome Hillary Clinton’s authenticity problem with voters—make it look like someone else is running.

A Sept. 15 Quinnipiac University poll finds 55 percent of likely voters believe Clinton is not honest enough to be president and 56 percent think she “does not believe that she has to play by the same rules as everyone else.” To improve her questionable image, her party has scraped up every popular Democrat to venture out onto the campaign trail to serve as cheerleaders for the nominee.

It’s nothing new. After she lost the New Hampshire primary to Bernie Sanders, Clinton began magnetizing herself to President Obama’s policies and visions. In the PBS News Hour debate in February, Clinton mentioned Obama’s name 21 times, while attacking Sanders for criticizing him. The most anticipated and most remembered speech from the Democratic convention wasn’t Clinton’s—it was the president’s. Michelle Obama has been holding rallies in battleground states since the beginning of September to drum up support and some of her stump speech sentences have become election-year themes. And despite being only the second president to be impeached, Bill Clinton remains a political rock star, and lucky for Hillary, her husband. At times, it’s almost hard to tell which one is actually running.

Of course, it’s not surprising that Democrats are out hoping to succeed Obama with one of their own. He is approaching the end of his term with a 58 percent approval rating. The problem is, he’s not on the ballot. And a Clinton victory next month surely depends on the coalition of voters that elected Obama twice — minorities and young people — two groups that haven’t embraced Clinton as much as they could. Young people in particular, who overwhelmingly backed Sanders in the primaries, aren’t so eager to jump on the Clinton bandwagon all at once. In fact, a CBS-YouGov poll of critical Ohio shows Clinton receiving only half of the support of voters under 30. Many young people plan to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, write in Sanders or stay home and not vote at all.

Which is where Obama comes in.“If you don’t vote, that’s a vote for Trump,” Obama said during an interview on The Steve Harvey Morning Show last week. “If you vote for a third-party candidate who’s got no chance to win, that’s a vote for Trump.” Earlier this month, Obama said to African American leaders that “I will consider it a personal insult, an insult to my legacy if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election.”

But what the Democrats haven’t figured out so far is that pumping out Clinton surrogates on an assembly line isn’t going to help voters get to know her better. Sure, it helps some, but at the end of the day, Clinton is the one who needs to make the case for herself and make a case for a Clinton presidency, not a third Obama term and not a revival of husband’s administration.

She has the ability. She has a platform, she has an agenda and she has detailed proposals that she has touted at rallies and online. But the problem is those ideas tend to get lost in her first and foremost policy—defeating Donald Trump. She spent most of the summer discrediting her Republican opponent after every controversial thing he said or proposed. The result was a drop in polls leading up to last week’s debate. While Clinton is in a firm position as an alternative choice to Trump, she needs to make sure she’s giving voters something to vote for, not just against.

She had the opportunity to offer something more at last week’s debate. While most news organizations’ online polls say Clinton far outperformed Trump in the debate, by a lot, many voters were disappointed that the match-up turned out to be more of a back-and-forth battle of accusations and counterarguments of those accusations. Clinton did discuss segments of her policy proposals, but often referred the audience to her website and usually mentioned Trump’s name regarding them. While she solidified her base and is likely to see a poll boost, it will be moderate. The post-debate poll done by CNN reported that more people planned to vote for Clinton as a result of the debate. But a much higher percentage said it had no effect on who they’d vote for. In essence, Clinton may have moved the needle, but will it be enough?

It would do her some good to take a look at the 16 Republican candidates, all very qualified in their own right, who eventually fell one at a time to Trump’s dominance during the primaries. Once they engaged with the front-runner, they were latched on for good, and ended up devoting most of their energy to criticizing Trump. As a result, their own message evaporated and their support collapsed. Now, she has a political necessity to attack Trump of course. But like everything, it can be overdone.

She can’t win the presidency simply by not being the other candidate. And she can’t win by hugging Obama or talking about how great the 1990s were. This is very much a race about personality, and she needs to make hers plain and make the race more about her. She can still do that, but time is running short.

Luke Parsnow is a copy editor and page designer at The Post-Star, a Pulitzer-Prize winning daily publication located in Glens Falls, New York. You can follow his blog “Things That Matter” by clicking “Follow” below and follow his updates on Twitter at https://twitter.com/coolhand_luke88