Monday, October 29, 2012

The Band Plays On

We’ve long mocked the importance and impact of newspapers endorsing candidates for political office. While there were no doubt a few dismaying instances of people actually following the endorsements of newspapers like the Star Tribune in the past, the overall decline of the industry and the rise of alternative forms of media in recent years has made these endorsements even more irrelevant. And yet the papers persist in churning them out like the orchestra on the Titanic playing on as the ship sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

It came as a surprise to no one that the Star Tribune has recently endorsed Keith Ellison in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District. The editorial endorsement was a good reminder of just how meaningless such endorsements are when issued by such obviously partisan publications as the Strib:

As the nation's first Muslim elected to Congress, three-term Rep. Keith Ellison has gracefully endured vicious bloggers, thoughtless questions from talk-show hosts and paranoid accusations from a Minnesota congresswoman.

Ellison failed to meet his own standards of decorum when he lost it in a recent debate with Republican challenger Chris Fields, calling the challenger a "lowlife scumbag" after Fields lobbed a below-the-belt and unsubstantiated allegation about cheapskate child support.

The meltdown was out of character, and Ellison quickly issued a public apology. The brouhaha reflected poorly on both candidates, but voters should give Ellison a pass this time and send him back to the U.S. House in November.


Keith Ellison has “endured vicious bloggers,” has he? I don’t recall the Strib ever mentioning the vicious bloggers who for years have literally (in the real, not Joe Biden sense of the word) stalked the same Minnesota congresswoman who the paper accuses of hurling “paranoid accusations” at Keith Ellison.

And somewhere Alan Fine has to be laughing about the Strib’s sudden concern with “below the belt and unsubstantiated” allegations about a candidate’s domestic life. It’s telling that Ellison’s shocking behavior in the debate is characterized by the Strib as a “brouhaha” that “reflected poorly on both candidates.” I think most fair observers who listened to the exchange would conclude that Ellison was the one who acted in a uncivil manner that tarnished his reputation. To the Strib, it was just a case of “he said, he said” and we can’t really say who was right and who was wrong.

That bad news is that Keith Ellison will be reelected to Congress this year. The good news is that the endorsement of the Star Tribune will have no impact on the race. Progress of sorts.

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