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Posted by on Oct 18, 2008 in At TMV, Media, Politics | 24 comments

Chicago Tribune Endorses Obama

Most newspaper endorsements for Presidential candidates are worthless. Editorial staffs typically lean one way or another and predictably back the nominee of the preferred party. Sometimes the endorsement is hearty enough to merit attention; the Washington Post editorial of Obama was considerably stronger than the one they gave to Kerry in 2004.

Some newspapers waver back and forth. The Denver Post, for example, endorsed George W. Bush in 2004 and backs Obama today.

But no newspaper endorsement is as shocking as that of the Chicago Tribune today
Why is it so shocking that Obama’s hometown newspaper endorsed him? Simple. This is the first time in the newspaper’s 161 year history that it has endorsed a Democrat. And some of those Democrats passed over in years past were Illinoisans, including Adlai Stevenson and Stephen Douglas. This is a list of the people the Tribune has endorsed before this year:

2008: Obama
2004: Bush
2000: Bush
1996: Dole
1992: Bush
1988: Bush
1984: Reagan
1980: Reagan
1976: Ford
1972: Nixon
1968: Nixon
1964: Goldwater
1960: Nixon
1956: Eisenhower
1952: Eisenhower (though Col. McCormick wanted Gen. MacArthur more)
1948: Dewey
1944: Dewey
1940: Willkie
1936: Landon
1932: Hoover
1928: Hoover
1924: Coolidge
1920: Harding
1916: Hughes
1912: Roosevelt (as a Progressive Party candidate, though a former Republican)
1908: Taft
1904: Roosevelt
1900: McKinley
1896: McKinley
1892: Harrison
1888: Harrison
1884: Blaine
1880: Garfield
1876: Hayes
1872: Greeley (a Liberal Republican co-nominated by the Democrats; Greeley was a founder of the Republican Party in the 1850s and briefly broke with the party over corruption in the Grant Administration)
1868: Grant
1864: Lincoln
1860: Lincoln
1856: Fremont

See a pattern here? Not a single Democrat, until now. No FDR. No JFK. No LBJ in 1964. There is not a more Republican newspaper in America than the Chicago Tribune.

The historic nature of this endorsement was clearly not lost on the Editorial Page staff, which noted:

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause–the Republican Party. The Tribune’s first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

Repeatedly comparing Obama to Lincoln himself, the Trib adds:

When Obama said at the 2004 Democratic Convention that we weren’t a nation of red states and blue states, he spoke of union the way Abraham Lincoln did.

It may have seemed audacious for Obama to start his campaign in Springfield, invoking Lincoln. We think, given the opportunity to hold this nation’s most powerful office, he will prove it wasn’t so audacious after all. We are proud to add Barack Obama’s name to Lincoln’s in the list of people the Tribune has endorsed for president of the United States.

I have to confess that the Tribune’s endorsement of Obama in the 2004 Democratic Senate primary first swayed me to Obama; the Trib endorses primary candidates in both parties and occasional Democrats in non-Presidential races. They noticed at the time Obama’s intellect and temperament. I was hooked then and I still am.

It’s hard to imagine a more stunning endorsement than this one. Again, it is Obama’s hometown paper. But that hasn’t swayed the Tribune before. The Editorial Staff at the Tribune actually knows Obama and trusts him. This endorsement will matter to moderate Republicans who share the Tribune’s editorial leanings (the paper was very conservative until the paper passed from Col. McCormick’s hands in 1969; it became a more moderate Republican paper since). I can’t think of a more valuable endorsement to Obama right now than this.