Politics

In its 159-year history, this magazine endorsed Lincoln, Johnson, and now Hillary

In a piece published today, The Atlantic’s editorial board endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

The piece is notable because since the magazine’s founding in 1857, it has only endorsed two people for president, namely Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The editorial harkened back to the magazine’s founding editor, James Russell Lowell, who warned its readers about the fragility of the “great democratic American experiment” if responsible citizens didn’t exercise their right to vote.

“One of the animating causes of this magazine at its founding, in 1857, was the abolition of slavery, and Lowell argued that the Republican Party, and the man who was its standard-bearer in 1860, represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country. In his endorsement of Abraham Lincoln for president, Lowell wrote, on behalf of the magazine, ‘It is in a moral aversion to slavery as a great wrong that the chief strength of the Republican party lies.’ He went on to declare that Abraham Lincoln ‘had experience enough in public affairs to make him a statesman, and not enough to make him a politician.’”

The editorial added that the magazine’s endorsement of Johnson 104 years later “was focused less on his positive attributes than on the flaws of his opponent, Barry Goldwater, the junior senator from Arizona.”

Referring to Goldwater, Edward Weeks wrote in 1964 that his “proposal to let field commanders have their choice of the smaller nuclear weapons would rupture a fundamental belief that has existed from Abraham Lincoln to today: the belief that in times of crisis the civilian authority must have control over the military.”

And the magazine noted that Goldwater’s “preference to let states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia enforce civil rights within their own borders has attracted the allegiance of Governor George Wallace, the Ku Klux Klan, and the John Birchers.” Goldwater’s limited capacity for prudence and reasonableness was what particularly worried The Atlantic.

The Atlantic’s editorial board said that similar circumstances that led to the Johnson endorsement prompted them to endorse Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016.

We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.

Read the entire piece here.

 Featured image: Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

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