I generally find Seattle Times editorials to be stultifying, muddled and, well, boring — but in endorsing Mike McGavick, the editorial board has managed to make one thing absolutely perfectly clear: it is time to remove the word “Seattle” from the paper’s masthead.
Seattle is a liberal city, a big “D” Democratic city that has not sent a single Republican to the state legislature in years. It’s congressman, Rep. Jim McDermott, is amongst the most liberal members of the House, and he hails from one of the safest seats in the nation. Likewise, in statewide elections Seattle voters can be relied upon to vote for Democrats and against right-wing initiatives in overwhelming numbers.
But Seattle is not just a dark blue island in the midst of a sea of red, for over the past decade the nearby suburbs have grown solidly Democratic too. Republican elected officials are becoming a dying breed in former GOP strongholds like Mercer Island, Bellevue and other communities across the Eastside and to both the North and the South of the city. Map election trends out over the past 20 years and what you see is a blue tide inexorably spreading out from the city center as population densities increase throughout the metropolitan region, and the Republican Party abandons the values and concerns of both urban and suburban voters.
This is the region the Times serves. These are the readers who fork over their fifty cents a day, and who patronize the Times’ advertisers. This is the community whose interests the Times is supposed to represent.
Yet even in a year when the Times editorial board has acknowledged that the Bush White House and its rubber stamp Republican majority in Congress are leading our nation towards disaster, Republican candidates have somehow managed to make a clean sweep of the Times endorsements in every contested congressional race. Reichert, McMorris and McGavick — all Republicans who would vote for a leadership that would guarantee the Bush administration a free hand to stay the course in Iraq — all of them endorsed by the editorial board of a newspaper that claims to serve one of the most solidly Democratic markets in the nation.
In obsessively leading the fight to repeal the estate tax, in articulately opposing media consolidation, and in relentlessly pursuing his efforts to drive the competing Seattle P-I into oblivion by severing the two papers’ Joint Operating Agreement, Times publisher and owner Frank Blethen has passionately argued that the community is better served by a local, family-owned newspaper than one operated by a faceless, corporate, absentee owner.
To which I now ask Frank: exactly which community are you serving?
It certainly isn’t Seattle.
Oh, Frank can speak loftily about the unique role five generations of Blethens have played in safeguarding our democracy and fostering civic discourse, but with the McGavick endorsement it has become abundantly clear that the only community Frank Blethen is truly dedicated to serving is the one that consists of him and his heirs. If not for the mean-spirited tone and over-the-top one-sidedness of the Reichert endorsement one could have reasonably written off that and the McMorris endorsement to the usual, establishmentarian, unimaginative, pro-incumbent mindset that tends to take hold of most editorial boards. But with the ridiculously postured and embarrassingly argued logic of the McGavick editorial it is now impossible for the Times to deny that their criteria for endorsement consists of anything more than support for estate tax repeal.
It is tempting to deconstruct the absurdity of the McGavick endorsement line by line, but others have already done so, perhaps none as thoroughly as the Stranger’s Josh Feit. On issue after issue, on gay marriage, assault weapons, net neutrality, drilling in ANWR and teaching Intelligent Design in public schools, the Times has previously editorialized in support of the position opposite to that which McGavick holds. And on the biggest issue of the day, the steadily deteriorating war in Iraq, the Times has repeatedly argued against a course a Republican controlled Senate would surely vote to stay. But according to the Times:
Some see this election as a referendum on George W. Bush. If we did, we would be for a solid Democratic ticket. But like most Washington voters, we take our candidates one at a time.
I’d read on further but I scratched my corneas scraping the bullshit off my eyes.
This election is a referendum on President Bush and the Republican leadership, and unless you’re itching for a catastrophic ground war with Iran it is deeply irresponsible to approach it any other context. If Sen. Maria Cantwell had voted for estate tax repeal she’d have had the Times endorsement, and the fact that Frank would use his paper to prop up a failed Republican majority over this single, selfish issue is morally and ethically reprehensible.
The Times editorial board has become a joke. I have not spoken to a single professional journalist who has not rolled his eyes or derisively laughed at the Times‘ contorted logic and unmitigated gall. Even some of Frank’s own employees have expressed their disgust to me.
Not that any of this really has any impact on the actual election. David Postman writes:
Critics on both sides like to say that MSM newspaper endorsements don’t matter much in this age of New Media. But they must mean something given how much of the blogosphere was filled up with discussion about them the past week.
But David misses the point. Us bloggers and journalists and political activists do care about the role the op/ed pages should play in promoting public discourse — and passionately — and that is why it pains us so much to see Frank trivializing the opinion pages of the state’s largest newspaper. But why the fuck would the average Seattle voter give a Times endorsement an ounce of credence when the paper consistently supports candidates and issues contrary to the interests of their community? Us bloggers aren’t the average reader, and the truth is, the average reader no longer gives a shit about what that estate-tax-repealing, labor-busting, dog-shooting Frank Blethen thinks is best for them.
Local newspaper industry observers tell me that it was the bitter newspaper strike that radicalized Frank and flipped him over to staunchly supporting the GOP and its anti-Labor agenda. At the time, Frank threatened to move the newspaper’s editorial operations out to Bothell to join its new production facility, but stayed in Seattle fearing a public backlash.
Well as far as I’m concerned, good riddance. Go ahead and move your operations out to Bothell, Frank, and while you’re at it, you might as well change the name of your paper to “The Bothell Times.” At least that way your readers can rest assured that there will always be at least one honest piece of information printed in your newspaper daily: the masthead.