Unusual times in elections yield nontraditional choices, voting

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate.

Donald Trump, Republican presidential candidate.

This is not a typical election year – in fact, one might call it unusual, given a presidential race that features a former TV reality star and a former first lady whom many Americans see as untrustworthy. Evidence of the atypical popped up this week in endorsements by Texas newspapers.

The Dallas Morning News recommended that voters choose Hillary Clinton for president over Donald Trump. That was unusual turn for a newspaper that had not endorsed a Democrat in 75 years. Here is what the Morning News said about why they were breaking with tradition:

“There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. We recommend Hillary Clinton.

“We don’t come to this decision easily. This newspaper has not recommended a Democrat for the nation’s highest office since before World War II — if you’re counting, that’s more than 75 years and nearly 20 elections. The party’s over-reliance on government and regulation to remedy the country’s ills is at odds with our belief in private-sector ingenuity and innovation. Our values are more about individual liberty, free markets and a strong national defense.

“We’ve been critical of Clinton’s handling of certain issues in the past. But unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has experience in actual governance, a record of service and a willingness to delve into real policy. . .

“Resume vs. resume, judgment vs. judgment, this election is no contest.  

“For all her warts, she is the candidate more likely to keep our nation safe, to protect American ideals and to work across the aisle to uphold the vital domestic institutions that rely on a competent, experienced president.”

The editorial also explained why Trump didn’t get the endorsement.

“Trump’s values are hostile to conservatism. He plays on fear — exploiting base instincts of xenophobia, racism and misogyny — to bring out the worst in all of us, rather than the best. His serial shifts on fundamental issues reveal an astounding absence of preparedness. And his improvisational insults and midnight tweets exhibit a dangerous lack of judgment and impulse control.”

In another bizarre twist, a poll released this week showed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were locked in a dead heat in Texas.

Those were the results of a new 50-state survey conducted by The Washington Post and the online polling concern, Survey Monkey.

The American-Statesman’s chief political writer Jonathan Tilove reported that The Post described the Texas outcome, based on a survey of more than 5,000 Texans, as the “most unexpected” finding in the poll, which was conducted of 74,000 registered voters nationally between Aug. 9 and Sept. 1.

The poll showed Clinton leading Trump in Texas by 1 point — 46 to 45 percent. In a four-way race, Clinton and Trump are tied at 40 percent each, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson has 11 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein has 3 percent and 6 percent are undecided. The poll had no margin of sampling error because it didn’t use random sampling.

This week, the Houston Chronicle also broke with tradition by endorsing a Libertarian candidate for state railroad commissioner – the first time a major daily in Texas has endorsed a statewide candidate form the Libertarian Party. And here’s why:

“One plain-spoken petrochemical engineer who decided to run for this office clearly understands everything we need a railroad commissioner to know about doing this job right.

“Our editorial board interviews scores of candidates for political office every election year, but seldom do we find ourselves wholeheartedly endorsing a nominee from the Libertarian Party. Then again, seldom have we met a Libertarian candidate like Mark Miller.

“Ask this man anything at all about the Railroad Commission of Texas and he’ll give you a straight, smart answer informed not only by decades of working in the industry and teaching petrochemical engineering at the University of Texas, but also by a mastery of the issues facing the energy business and the state body that regulates it. He’s an affable retired oil and gas man with a doctorate from Stanford University who’s so interested in this agency he literally wrote a book on the railroad commission. . .

“If you’re one of those voters who’s unhappy with your choice of presidential candidates in 2016, another good reason to split your ticket is Mark Miller, the Libertarian who’s unquestionably this year’s most qualified candidate for Railroad Commission of Texas commissioner. He deserves the job, and yes, this commission deserves a new name.”

Splitting tickets might be the best way to go about voting this year because it requires that we think more about individual candidates and their platforms rather than their party affiliations.

Though the editorial board of the American-Statesman will not be endorsing in political races, its members – including myself — will be keeping an eye on the key issues driving elections and writing about them from time to time. Voting is one of the most important civic activities in which Americans participate. Remember that the election is Nov. 8, but early voting starts Oct. 24 and ends Nov. 4. Be sure to bring an accepted I.D. to the polls, whether voting early or on Election Day.

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