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Grudging Endorsements: When Newspapers Support Scandal-Plagued Incumbents

Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. (AP)
Rep. John Conyers of Michigan. (AP)

The Detroit Free Press endorsed Rep. John Conyers for reelection, but its editorial was comically unsupportive:

[H]is energy has slowed and he is not delivering for his district the way he used to, or the way he should be.

Then there is the matter of his wife, Monica, who’s serving a federal prison sentence for shaking down vendors when she was a member of the Detroit City Council; implausibly, the congressman swears he knew nothing of the conspiracy she pled guilty to taking part in.

But elections are about finite choices, and while all of Conyers’ Democratic opponents are competent, none offers sufficient support for turning out a congressman of his seniority and influence.

JOHN CONYERS gets our endorsement, but it is mostly with the hope that he will soon retire from Congress and the district will produce a more viable alternative...

This may be the last time this newspaper can back him, but for now, Conyers is the best alternative.

Somehow I don’t think Rep. Conyers will be using that endorsement in his campaign ads.

Perhaps some Massachusetts newspaper publishers will follow the Free Press example if they endorse Rep. John Tierney. For example, we might read an editorial like this:

Rep. John Tierney is gambling that the voters of this district will overlook his cluelessness, complicity or incompetence about his family’s scandal and give him another term in Congress.

We realize that the incumbent has no business being on an oversight committee in Congress, and he’s done nothing but undermine public faith in democracy, but we are endorsing him because he is a Democrat and we want to endorse Democrats. Why should we pretend that we have a compelling reason to support this guy? After all, we have to maintain our credibility.

So, with the hope that Tierney comes to his senses and does not run for reelection again, we officially ‘endorse’ him.

Editorial Note: The editorial board would like to emphasize that this doesn’t mean we are going to hold our noses and actually vote for Rep. Tierney; just that we will not admit voting for his opponent.

Up to 98 percent of incumbent congressmen have been reelected in recent decades. Why so many? Because of something that could also be considered scandalous: They use tax-paid mailings, tax-paid staff, tax-paid offices, tax-paid PR and tax-paid travel to promote themselves year-round.

That’s why most voters have a high opinion of their own congressman while only 9 percent have a high opinion of Congress as a whole.

Surely this is not what the founders had in mind when they designed a system of checks-and-balances to ensure representative self-government.

This program aired on July 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Todd Domke Twitter Republican Political Analyst
Todd Domke is a Republican political analyst for WBUR.

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