Newspaper endorsements are of limited value, especially in high-profile statewide campaigns for major elected offices like US Senate. And yet they can sometimes frame the way a campaign is discussed, and shape perspectives about a candidate, especially when the editorial board's assessment is very deeply flawed.
And that's why the San Francisco Chronicle
's decision to not endorse anyone
in the US Senate race between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina is our attention. The rationale is contradictory and ignorant of key facts, producing an outcome that lacks basic intellectual credibility.
Their basic argument is that while Carly Fiorina is an extremist who doesn't share California's values, Barbara Boxer has spent too much time representing California's values. Because Boxer wouldn't sell out California's progressive values to implement a bipartisan set of corporate-friendly policies, the Chronicle
views her as "ineffective" and therefore not worthy of support:
For some Californians, Boxer's reliably liberal voting record may be reason enough to give her another six years in office. But we believe Californians deserve more than a usually correct vote on issues they care about. They deserve a senator who is accessible, effective and willing and able to reach across party lines to achieve progress on the great issues of our times. Boxer falls short on those counts.
In other words, because Boxer spent her time doing what her constituents asked and voting according to the values and views shared by a majority of Californians, she's not a good Senator? A "usually correct vote on issues they care about" is pretty damn important for most Californians, especially given the stakes in this election.
But it's not just that Boxer stands up for Californians that got the Chronicle
mad - it's that she refuses to cut corporate-friendly deals. The Chronicle rips her for not being "bipartisan" - without acknowledging what everyone who pays even a slight bit of attention to national politics understands, that Republicans are not in a mood to compromise on anything:
Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone's list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots. Although she is chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, it is telling that leadership on the most pressing issue before it - climate change - was shifted to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., because the bill had become so polarized under her wing.
So it's Boxer's fault that the extremist Republican Party, which now systematically denies the existence of global warming, refused to support her bill that was shaped largely on the basis of California's AB 32?
This failure to admit the extremist nature of the Senate Republicans, their unwillingness to compromise, is a huge flaw in the Chronicle's assessment of Boxer's career. They claim she cannot "reach across party lines" - but have they been paying attention these last 15 years?
Boxer's Senate career has generally been spent under an extreme right-wing majority in Congress, an extreme right-wing President, or both. Of Boxer's 18 years in Congress, only 6 of them came with a Democratic Congressional majority, and only 4 have come with a Democratic president. From 1995 to 2007, Boxer had to contend with Republicans who absolutely refused to make any deals with Democrats unless Democrats sold out their constituents and agreed to support a far-right agenda.
Boxer refused. In one of her most important votes as Senator, she opposed the Iraq War Resolution in October 2002, and then fought to protect the troops and make sure they received the equipment, support, and care they needed, in combat and back home. That alone should earn her the support of Californians, even 8 years later.
Boxer and other Senate Democrats have only had the last 21 months to implement anything close to their agenda. And with the filibuster rule, Boxer's key legislative priorities have been undermined by a coalition of Republicans (who have vowed to oppose ALL Democratic legislation no matter the efforts at compromise) and right-wing Democrats who have chosen to give up their party's control of Congress to serve their corporate masters.
Which is really what this editorial is all about. The Chronicle knows Fiorina isn't a credible candidate for senator - as they put it, "Fiorina has firmly staked out positions that are outside of the state's mainstream values and even its economic interest." So she's not an option.
Yet they also want to take shots at Boxer for not selling out her constituents or their values to support a corporate-friendly agenda. The Chronicle evidently wishes for a clone of Dianne Feinstein, the Senator who never met a neoliberal policy proposal she didn't like.
But that's not the choice in this election. Californians have to decide between a right-wing extremist and someone who has stood up for their progressive values for 18 years. Judging by the polls, they're making the obvious choice.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This piece was first published at Calitics.