Since its founding in 1857, The Atlantic has endorsed only two presidential candidates: Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Lincoln was a no brainer, of course. One of the main founding principles of the magazine was the abolition of slavery. In hindsight, the endorsement of Lincoln became even more prescient and prudent.
For 104 years after that choice, The Atlantic didn’t feel the need to endorse anyone else, “perhaps because no subsequent candidate for the presidency was seen as Lincoln’s match, or perhaps because the stakes in ensuing elections were judged to be not quite so high as they were in 1860.”
When the magazine’s editors endorsed LBJ in 1964, they did so not so much for the attributes of Johnson, but rather in rebuke against Barry Goldwater. Edward Weeks wrote on behalf of the magazine then:
“We think it unfortunate that Barry Goldwater takes criticism as a personal affront; we think it poisonous when his anger betrays him into denouncing what he calls the “radical” press by bracketing the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Izvestia. There speaks not the reason of the Southwest but the voice of Joseph McCarthy. We do not impugn Senator Goldwater’s honesty. We sincerely distrust his factionalism and his capacity for judgment.”
Sounds awfully familiar to a certain New York real estate tycoon. In fact, The Atlantic cites this similar position in denouncing Donald Trump.
“Today, our position is similar to the one in which The Atlantic’s editors found themselves in 1964. We are impressed by many of the qualities of the Democratic Party’s nominee for president, even as we are exasperated by others, but we are mainly concerned with the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump, who might be the most ostentatiously unqualified major-party candidate in the 227-year history of the American presidency.”
So for only the third time in its existence, The Atlantic has formally endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.
The Atlantic isn’t the only prominent publication to pick Clinton over Trump–many picking a Democrat for the very first time–joining The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, recently The Arizona Republic, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Dallas Morning News, to name a few.
Moreover, a staggering list of prominent Republican policy makers and officeholders have backed Clinton. One suspects that many, if not all, of these endorsements are a referendum on Trump more than wholesale support for Clinton. As The Atlantic states:
“If Hillary Clinton were facing Mitt Romney, or John McCain, or George W. Bush, or, for that matter, any of the leading candidates Trump vanquished in the Republican primaries, we would not have contemplated making this endorsement.”