The Atlantic magazine has made only two presidential endorsements in its 159-year history: one for Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and one for Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
The third comes Wednesday afternoon, when the magazine will post online an editorial endorsing Hillary Clinton for president and dismissing Donald J. Trump as “the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.” For good measure, it calls him “a demagogue, a xenophobe, a sexist, a know-nothing and a liar.”
One day earlier, the Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter wrote, in his editor’s letter for the November issue, “Through word or action, Trump has promoted gun violence, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, lying, and just about everything else that can be wrong with society.”
That came after USA Today made the first presidential endorsement in its history — or, more accurately, a “disendorsement,” as it came out against Mr. Trump (“unfit for the presidency”) but not for Hillary Clinton or some other alternative.
This is the time in the election cycle when media columnists write about whether endorsements have much to do with the outcome. The answer is usually, if not always, “no.”
But the question takes on another dimension this year because of the sheer weight of the endorsements against Mr. Trump. They are overwhelmingly against him, and they just keep coming, in language that is notable for its blunt condemnation of the candidate and its “save the Republic’’ tone.
The endorsements are coming not only from the usual mainstream media suspects but also from newspapers that either never before supported a Democrat or had not in many decades — The Dallas Morning News, The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer — or had never endorsed any presidential candidate, like USA Today. The Wall Street Journal has not gone there, at least not yet, but a member of its conservative-leaning editorial board has: Dorothy Rabinowitz, who called Mr. Trump “unfit.”
What’s most striking is the collective sense of alarm they convey — that Mr. Trump is a “dangerous demagogue” (USA Today) whose election would represent a “clear and present danger” (The Washington Post, The Cincinnati Enquirer), or, as The Atlantic editor Scott Stossel said in an interview Tuesday, “a potential national emergency or threat to the Republic.”
That’s the same base line the magazine used when it decided to break its founding vow to be “the organ of no party or clique” and endorse Johnson in 1964 and, more dramatically, Lincoln in 1860.
And yet, for all the pan-ideological dismay in America’s editorial boardrooms, a huge portion of the country just doesn’t see it the same way at all.