Saturday, June 4, 2016

Endorsements. Does anyone care?

What does it mean to “endorse” a candidate? The question arises in the wake of the “better-late-than-never” decision of Wyoming’s congressional delegation to endorse Donald Trump for President.

Political endorsements are made for a variety of reasons. In March the chair of the Wyoming Democratic Party joined all of the Democrats’ “super delegates” in endorsing Hillary Clinton. The timing made clear they hoped to tip the scales in Clinton’s favor for the April county caucuses vote.

These endorsements were designed to say to the party faithful that Secretary Clinton was the official party choice. “We have chosen to support her and so should you.”

The endorsements didn’t have that effect. Caucus goers eschewed their leaders’ advice and instead chose Senator Bernie Sanders. Not only did those endorsements fail to move a majority of party voters, they angered a lot of Bernie supporters who felt it was less than appropriate for party officials to involve themselves in a primary.

The endorsements became especially contentious when, even though Senator Sanders won 56 percent of the caucus vote, Hillary received as many delegates as the Vermont Senator. The Democratic officials’ endorsements of Clinton bought them more trouble than the endorsement helped their candidate.

More curious was the recent proclamation that the all-Republican congressional delegation had endorsed Donald Trump. The manner and timing with which these endorsements were announced raised questions about their seriousness.

Neither Senators Mike Enzi or John Barrasso nor Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis convened a press conference or prepared press releases to make the announcement. It appeared reporters had to chase them down to get the news.

Equally odd was the timing. If any of the three wanted to help Trump win the Wyoming Republican caucus vote, they would have announced their endorsements weeks earlier. Instead they watched quietly as fellow Republicans trounced Trump in county caucuses and the state GOP convention. Neither Enzi or Barrasso nor Lummis said a word as all 14 of the Republican delegates to their national convention went to the doomed Ted Cruz.

Not until Donald Trump became the so-called “presumptive Republican nominee” did the delegation say they’d back him, to which some might say, “Why bother now?”

More telling than the timing were words each used in what passed for an endorsement.

When confronted by a reporter about whether he backed Trump, Senator Barrasso was asked whether the “presumptive GOP nominee” could be trusted with the nuclear codes, Barrasso chose not to answer that serious question. Instead he veered off in another direction to smack Hillary. The Senator may not be real excited about Trump but he believes Hillary the greater of two evils.

Lummis uttered an endorsement quickly followed by concern about Trump’s attitude toward women. Really? Lummis may be a woman but she’s also a loyal Republican.

Senator Mike Enzi grabbed hold of the idea that what America needs is a businessman to run the government. “We need someone who will take a look at old programs that aren’t working and eliminate them.” Who knows where Enzi got the idea that Donald Trump will do that.

Trump, who uses bankruptcy laws to balance his own budget, says he'll cut taxes so significantly that he’d reduce available revenue by 10 trillion dollars. At the same time, Trump says he’ll eliminate the 19-trillion-dollar budget deficit within eight years.

Senator Enzi, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, recognizes Trump’s economic ideas as bogus. He doesn’t need to state the obvious.

Endorsements sometimes bring baggage. Does endorsing Trump mean you support a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.? Do you share his belief that all Mexicans illegally crossing the border are rapists? Does an endorsement sanction Trump’s racial and anti-woman slurs? Do you favor Trump’s belief that longstanding bipartisan opposition to nuclear proliferation should end and torture should begin anew?

Given the weak endorsements they belatedly but loyally murmured and knowing something of their personal values, my guess is none of the three believes in much of what Donald Trump stands for, endorsements notwithstanding.

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