For Those on the Fence

Opinions, from people who know what they're talking about

In less than 24 hours, polling booths will be open, ballots will be marked and the dwindling numbers of ambivalent voters will have to choose. We are bombarded with information, political banter and statistics (some more true than others) from various media outlets, all intended to help us make a choice. As undecided voters weigh the nuances of the platforms trying to pick between President Bush and Senator Kerry, a new and important feature comes into play: the endorsements.

I’m talking about serious endorsements for a particular candidate, the ones that run on the pages of nationally read, crucially important newspapers. The New York Times ran a staff editorial on October 17 endorsing John Kerry for President. The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial the same day endorsing George W. Bush. And last Monday the Harvard Crimson endorsed Senator Kerry on this very page. The question of newspapers endorsing a particular candidate is a thorny one. Nevertheless, the endorsements are definitely a positive addition to the often confusing political scene, especially in the last few critical days.

This is not a partisan argument. The endorsements are so beneficial because they are among the most well researched, clearly grounded opinions available in print. News shows such as “Crossfire” pretend to give information, but instead spiral into a screamfest with no logical layout of the issues. It’s not hard to find profiles of the candidate’s platforms. The Washington Post, for example, has run a series of editorials called “The Choice” comparing Bush’s and Kerry’s views on various points. What is difficult is finding a reputable source that will verbalize support for a candidate not on blind faith or some vague principles, but on facts and issues. The newspaper endorsements, no matter whom they choose, are well researched and thought-provoking. We should be thanking the papers for taking a stance and clarifying candidates’ views on mystifying issues.

Let’s look at the target audience of these editorials: voters who are still undecided at this point in the race. In endorsing a candidate, news sources are coalescing months of debate, information and promises into one well-grounded opinion. If voters can’t make up their minds, the newspapers are effectively helping them by laying it all out there. These editorials don’t come out at the start of the campaign or in the middle of the debates; they come at point when all is almost said and done. They are not presumptive; they are meant to inform voters teetering on the fence and explain why a candidate deserves the vote.

It’s all well and good for newspapers to print editorials on other important issues, but when it comes to choosing a candidate some people are decidedly uncomfortable with the idea. Critics claim these staff opinions introduce even more bias to an already biased news media. This criticism would have weight if these endorsements ran on page one, or anywhere under the heading of news. Instead they run on the opinion page where they belong, where voters looking for guidance can find it.

In an American environment so saturated with non-credible opinions, mudslinging and a major overload of information, telling the candidates apart is often difficult. How refreshing to read convincing, well presented opinions on the pages of our nation’s newspapers. These endorsements are not only effective but crucial in the last frantic hours of this election. To the still undecided: read the endorsements. Get informed. Make a choice. The next four years might depend on it.

Aviva J. Gilbert ’07, a Crimson editorial comper, is a History and Literature concentrator living in Lowell House.