After weeks of buildup, a slow trickle of candidate Q&A transcripts, and no less than four separate New York Times pieces about the process of a Times endorsement itself, we finally have an answer to the question the paper of record desperately wants to be on everyone’s mind: Who is the New York Times endorsing in the 2020 Democratic primary? That answer, revealed in a special edition of the paper’s FX show, The Weekly, mostly boils down to, uh, Warren, maybe? Unless you don’t like that. In which case, Klobuchar, I guess?
This marks the first time in its 160-year endorsement history that the Times has tried to give readers (or in tonight’s case, viewers) a sense of what actually goes into the process of a presidential endorsement. Rather than opening the paper to read an opaque verdict of authority, we got to watch as a room full of NYT reporters laugh a little too loudly at Andrew Yang’s jokes and express concern at Klobuchar’s lack of charisma. And then, in the end, they delivered a verdict that undermined itself and both candidates involved: “May the best woman win.”
The promotion and presentation of tonight’s endorsement certainly seems to have been more about boosting a show that has yet to find the success of its spiritual predecessor, the podcast called The Daily, than about any sense of journalistic duty. But motive aside, the Times’ newfound transparency around the decision (especially in releasing the full interview transcripts) is still an improvement over the previous endorsement process.
And yet, as much as the rollout of the Very Special Episode has been about the Democratic primary, it has also very much been about the New York Times and The Role of the New York Times in the Democratic primary. And in this state of hyper-self-awareness and inflated ego, the Times has done what the Times does best: choke. Not unlike a few years ago when the Times’ endorsement of Andrew Cuomo for governor consisted almost exclusively of reasons not to vote for him, the paper’s editorial board has decided that, in lieu of any sort of clear-eyed, moral direction, it will offer readers throat clearing, ambivalence, and a vague gesture at who might possibly be OK.
Don’t like Warren? Well, don’t yell at the editorial board’s bosses just yet, because they hate her too, sort of! And don’t you think she’s just a little too patronizing? That’s why they also kind of endorsed Klobuchar, who’s currently polling at just under 4 percent. Mad about the Times endorsing Klobuchar? You can’t be, because they didn’t. Not really, at least.
The indecisiveness might have felt less grating if the Times hadn’t put so much effort into turning the endorsement into a spectacle in its own right. The promised inside look at how the Times made one of its most ostensibly important decisions of the year turned out to mean viewers spent an hour watching the paper crumble under the weight of its own self-importance. But hey, at least the ratings were probably good.
And while the Times may have offered a double endorsement, there was only one real winner tonight. Congratulations, to this guy: