November 4, 2008

A Look Back: The Sun’s History of Endorsements

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College students across the country today will overwhelmingly support Senator Barack Obama’s nomination for presidency, according to nearly every measure of political support.
A recent poll of Cornell students’ preferences unsurprisingly confirmed that students here would not be an anomaly to the national trend. When The Sun’s editorial board endorsed Obama last week, it similarly conformed to a national trend.
Of the college newspapers that UWire, a college wire news service, surveyed, Obama received more endorsements than his rival Senator John McCain by an 86 to 2 margin.
The Daily Mississippian at the University of Mississippi and the Mesa State Criterion at Mesa State College in Colorado were the only two college newspapers in UWire’s survey to support McCain.
As a 1940 Sun editorial pointed out, “The Sun’s support has never in the past been known to virtually affect the outcome of a national election.” Nonetheless, an analysis of previous endorsements reveals at least some insight into political thought at Cornell during any given election cycle.
Of the approximately 16 presidential candidates The Sun has endorsed over the past 80 years, only six have ended up moving into the Oval Office.
In its more notable endorsements, The Sun twice supported the candidacy of Herbert Hoover.
“Our support for Hoover springs from our conviction that, man for man, he is head and shoulders above Roosevelt,” wrote the editorial board in 1932, which also criticized Roosevelt’s New Deal as a “euphonious bit of nonsense.”
“Basically, pre-World War II The Sun was isolationist, and solidly Republican; after the war, the liberals took over and Democrats have always gotten the endorsement,” summarized former Sun editors Daniel Margulis ’73 and John Schroeder ’73 in A Century at Cornell. Schroeder is currently The Sun’s production manager.
The Sun’s endorsements over the past century have typically been more reluctant selections of a lesser evil than advocacy on behalf of a stellar candidate.
The writer of the 1980 endorsement complained of “a campaign full of sound and fury… [which] indicated the counterproductive nature of a long and expensive primary campaign” that the editorial board was tempted to remain neutral before seemingly reluctantly endorsing Jimmy Carter against Ronald Reagan in a “split decision.”
In 1988, The Sun expressed dissatisfaction with both candidates — George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis — before endorsing the later because he was “competent.”
In the tumultuous political year of 1968, the editorial began, “We, too, are tempted to sit this one out” because both candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey were unsatisfactory.
In other years, like 1940, the newspaper chose to not align itself with either candidate and remained neutral.
More recently, The Sun endorsed the Democrats, supporting Clinton twice, Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.