Trump Time Capsule #128: 'Against Donald Trump'

Etching by J.A.J. Wilcox of James Russell Lowell, one of the Atlantic's founders. Five years after this portrait was made, he and the other editors made their first endorsement: of Abraham Lincoln for president. Today his successors have made another endorsement, only the third in the past 159 years. (Wikimedia Commons)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

In previous installments I’ve mentioned editorial statements for Hillary Clinton, and against Donald Trump, from unexpected sources. For instance, the Cincinnati Enquirer, which had endorsed only Republicans for the past century. Or the Arizona Republic, which had never endorsed a Democrat. Or the Dallas Morning News, with nearly as long a pro-Republican history. Or USA Today, which said “don’t vote for Trump” after never before endorsing any candidate.

For the record, I should note the latest in this series. It is our own Atlantic magazine, which today for only the third time in its 159-year history has endorsed a presidential candidate. In 1860, three years after the magazine’s founding, its editors endorsed Abraham Lincoln. One hundred and four years later, in 1964, they made a statement against Barry Goldwater, which meant recommending Lyndon B. Johnson.

Now, with 33 days and a few hours before the election, the magazine has made another endorsement. Like most of the newspaper editorials mentioned above, it is forthright in recommending a vote for Hillary Clinton. But its motivating “this time, it’s different” spirit is deadset opposition to Donald Trump.

Since I had nothing to do with writing this editorial, I can freely recommend that you read the whole thing. To me, it’s a powerful and eloquent statement of what American public life is supposed to stand for, and why those values would be imperiled by a President Trump. I think the final two paragraphs deserve reading with special care.

First this next-to-last paragraph, about how Trump has exploited and perverted genuine economic discontent in the country:

Our endorsement of Clinton, and rejection of Trump, is not a blanket dismissal of the many Trump supporters who are motivated by legitimate anxieties about their future and their place in the American economy. But Trump has seized on these anxieties and inflamed and racialized them, without proposing realistic policies to address them.

And then the conclusion, on how the Atlantic’s editors can make this endorsement and still be true to the magazine’s original promise to be “the organ of no party or clique”:

Our interest here is not to advance the prospects of the Democratic Party, nor to damage those of the Republican Party. If Hillary Clinton were facing Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or George W. Bush, or, for that matter, any of the leading candidates Trump vanquished in the Republican primaries, we would not have contemplated making this endorsement. We believe in American democracy, in which individuals from various parties of different ideological stripes can advance their ideas and compete for the affection of voters. But Trump is not a man of ideas. He is a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing, and a liar. He is spectacularly unfit for office, and voters—the statesmen and thinkers of the ballot box—should act in defense of American democracy and elect his opponent.


Will this statement change a single voter’s choice? Let alone make any conceivable difference in the decisive Electoral College count?

Maybe not to the first question, and almost certainly not to the second. But that doesn’t matter. It’s the right thing to do. Donald Trump is making this a dark time in our nation’s public life. People who oppose what he has done, and could do, need to stand up for what they believe, and for what is at stake.