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The Atlantic's 3rd Endorsement in 156 Years

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The Atlantic, a magazine in print since 1857, does not hand out a presidential endorsement except when it feels one of the two choices is a serious danger to the nation.

It has made a U.S. presidential endorsement only three times in its history.

The first was in 1860, when James Russell Lowell, the founding editor of The Atlantic, argued that the Republican Party, and Abraham Lincoln, the Republican nominee, "represented the only reasonable pathway out of the existential crisis then facing the country."

That crisis was one of the animating causes of The Atlantic's formation in 1857, the abolition of slavery.

The Atlantic's second presidential endorsement came 104 years later, when in 1964 the publication endorsed incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson, over his Republican challenger, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.

Edward Weeks, writing on behalf of the magazine, cited Lowell's words from 1860, before making his case for the election of President Johnson, who would, The Atlantic believed, "bring to the vexed problem of civil rights a power of conciliation which will prevent us from stumbling down the road taken by South Africa."

The Atlantic' s third endorsement arrived this month, 52 years after its Lyndon B. Johnson endorsement.

The Atlantic's 2016 choice is Hillary Clinton.

In its Clinton endorsement, the magazine's current editors refer back to language from the 1964 decision to select Lyndon Johnson over Barry Goldwater, using words that resonate in this current 2016 campaign:

"We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the 'radical' press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia.

"There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater's honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment."

In 2016, The Atlantic acknowledges that "our position is similar to the one" in which its editors found themselves in 1964.

"We are impressed by many of the qualities of the [2016] 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."

By calling its Clinton endorsement Against Donald Trump, the magazine makes clear that its major rationale in supporting Clinton is to warn voters of the dangers of a Trump victory on November 8.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)
 

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