The Press Democrat Editorial Board usually does not make its presidential endorsement this far ahead of an election. Our tradition has been to wait until we see how the primary candidates engage each other, defend their policy proposals and interact with the public during the final throes of the fall campaign. But, frankly, we have seen enough. To delay our endorsement any further would suggest that we believe there is a decision to be made here. There is not. Our endorsement goes to Hillary Clinton — and it is not close.
That said, we recognize the frustration and anxiety that exists among many over this election, which finds the nation deeply polarized with public distrust in government at a high point. To make matters worse, voters are being asked to choose between two major-party candidates who are not very well liked. The latest compilation of polls by Real Clear Politics shows Clinton, the Democratic nominee, with an unfavorable rating of 53.5 percent and a favorable rating of 42 percent — a gap of more than 11 points. Such numbers would be crippling were it not for the fact that her main opponent, GOP nominee Donald Trump, has a gap of nearly 30 points — with an unfavorable rating of about 62 percent and a favorable rating of 32.5 percent.
Much of this is a reflection of the things that we, too, find concerning about the candidates. As we’ve noted, Clinton showed remarkably poor judgment in opting to use a personal email server as secretary of state, in defiance of a State Department policy requiring use of department email accounts. Although there’s no evidence that classified material was compromised, her recklessness put sensitive national information at risk.
There are other concerns as well, including her attempts to keep the press at arm’s length while apparently keeping moneyed interests on Wall Street and foreign investors in close proximity — some, apparently, in appreciation for substantial donations to the Clinton charitable foundation.
But none of these concerns outweigh one simple fact about this election — that given her experience as a former senator and secretary of state, her understanding of the workings of Washington, D.C., the respect she has earned among global leaders and her intricate knowledge of the key issues of our time, Hillary Clinton is by far the most qualified candidate in this race and deserves to make history as the first woman to be elected to the Oval Office.
That brings us to the primary purpose for this early endorsement, to call attention to one candidate in particular who has shown himself to be wholly unqualified for this position — Donald Trump.
It is rare that we have encountered someone in national politics who has shown, by his actions, his temperament and propensity for loose-cannon remarks, to be so ill-equipped for the all-important task of serving as commander in chief. Even many of his own party leaders — including the last two Republican presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and the previous GOP presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — recognize his shortcomings and have withheld their support.
The examples of his crass assertions are too numerous to cite, but they range from his sweeping attacks against Mexican immigrants and his pledges to ban Muslims from entering the country to his unapologetic mockery of his critics including one reporter with a physical disability. Perhaps the nadir of his boorish behavior was his recent belittling of a mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq. The public should expect more from someone who is one step away from the White House.