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From the Editor’s Desk – Addressing endorsement criticism

By Mark Smith
Posted on October 30, 2012 | Opinion | 11 comments

We knew many people would not agree with our endorsement of President Obama.

What we didn’t expect is that instead of complaining to us, the seven-student editorial board that wrote the editorial, most of the strong negative reactions would be taken out on ACU.

I am sad to see the university receive these responses when it had had no participation in our endorsement.

ACU does not endorse political candidates or parties. As the disclaimer at the top of the endorsement (and at the bottom of all Opinion pages) reads, the Optimist’s endorsement only represents the views of the seven members of the editorial board, not ACU’s administration, Board of Trustees, faculty, staff or student body.

Many readers have found it difficult to distinguish why the board’s endorsement is not a reflection of ACU’s political stance. President  Phil Schubert is the Optimist’s publisher, but our endorsement does not represent him or ACU.

Allow me to illustrate with an example. If the Abilene Reporter-News were to write an endorsement of either candidate, like many newspapers do, it would not be reflective of the beliefs its owner and publisher, Scripps Interactive Newspaper Group. It works the same way with us and ACU.

Specific responses

While we always respect and welcome constructive criticism, comments that insult our parents, education, common sense and religious beliefs help no one.

Of the constructive feedback we received, predominant themes have been, to paraphrase:

How can a group of Christian students endorse everything the Democratic Party stands for, and why is a student news source trying to affect the election?

We do not believe in all of the standard ideals of the Democratic Party or President Obama. Most of the members of the editorial board would not identify themselves as a Democrat and do not agree with all of the ideals of the party. None of us think it reasonable to agree 100 percent with either party.

Many newspapers write editorial endorsements of political candidates each election. The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning-News and Houston Chronicle are just a few examples of publications that have made endorsements this year.

This is a customary journalistic practice, and it is our chance for a learning experience, especially for those of us who will go on to work for newspapers in the future. The Optimist is a living laboratory, a training exercise for journalism students to gain valuable experience in many different aspects of media.

The purpose of the endorsement isn’t to affect the election results, but to encourage discussion.

If I’ve learned anything about politics, it’s that there is no right answer. Two or more schools of thought dispute most issues, each person believing he or she is right on the issue while every different view is wrong. In some cases, everyone might agree on a goal or truth, but not everyone will agree on the best way to achieve that goal.

The issues of same-sex marriage and abortion are mentioned in many of the reactions we’ve seen in online comments, emails, phone calls and other forms of responses. Most asked how we can endorse a candidate who supports gay marriage and is pro-choice.

Do we agree with Obama’s stance on abortion? No.

And while none of the board members personally support gay marriage, the majority agrees the government has no place restricting select citizens’ rights, in line with every American’s constitutional right to happiness.

We didn’t address abortion specifically in our endorsement because it falls under the issue of health care, under which we agreed Romney has the better plan. And does our opinion on same-sex marriage trump more pressing problems like national debt, foreign policy and health care?


Confusion and murkiness abound when political views are presented as truths rather than ideas. When Republicans and Democrats collide on an issue, both sides often present their beliefs as facts. Both sides argue they are right when too often, neither are.

We don’t have all the answers. We don’t think Obama is the perfect choice, and we don’t think Governor Romney will be unsuccessful if elected.

We could have used several different processes to go about selecting the candidate we would endorse. We chose to look at three important issues, decide our stances on them blind of the parties associated with our beliefs and then find which candidate better matched our stances. We found President Obama better fit our views on foreign policy and the economy, while we agreed with Romney on health care.

This is why we stress the importance of a multi-partisan government. We actually agreed with Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate, on all three issues and side with him on many others as well (but not some of his more extreme ideas). But the way the current political system is organized leaves us with only two realistic options, and we don’t wholly agree with either.

Our endorsement is not pro-liberalism or anti-conservatism. It is not pro-choice or pro-gay marriage. It’s absolutely not anti-Christian. It is an endorsement for the candidate we believe has the best plan for the most important issues facing our nation today.

avatar Posted by Mark Smith on Oct 30th, 2012 and filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.  - This post has been viewed 39913 times.

11 Responses for “From the Editor’s Desk – Addressing endorsement criticism”

  1. avatar Mark Smith says:

    Now that voting is over, we are closing the comments on this post. If you would like to continue these conversations, please do so individually.

  2. avatar cdduvallmd says:

    Four years ago people bled out their eyesockets when the Optimist endorsed then-candidate Obama, and I guess I now get to make the same comment that I made back then, only with a new set of 20-22 year-old editors at the helm.

    I disagree with your choice because from my perspective as someone a quarter-century older than you it betrays ignorance of history, economics, the appropriate function of government and other issues like being aware of unintended consequences of actions that seem reasonable at the time. I use the term ‘ignorant’ because ignorance can be rectified with experience, it is no sin to be ignorant when you are young. I promise to consider your endorsement with all of the appropriate gravitas due an almost-daily student newspaper.

    In terms of ACU’s administration, I would be far more concerned if the administration had in any way tried to alter your opinion or interfered with its publication. The Optimist and the college are different entities and while your endorsement does little to undo the stereotype of JMC students and young people being more susceptible to the siren song of emotionalism and the political left it does not reflect the endorsement of the University. You do not speak for the University and to their credit they do not attempt to speak for you. This is as it should be.

    Finally, be careful what you wish for. I am sure it is an unpleasant prospect to be looking for a job these days, what with the fragmentation of the media and general disregard of newspapers in general. This is not the doing of the current President, but attitude in the Oval Office counts for a lot. I prefer the genuine optimism of the Romney campaign to the feral glint of ‘revenge’ that is the closing argument of the Obama campaign. But that’s just me.


    Darren Duvall, MD
    Class of 1990
    Former Optimist Editorial Cartoonist

  3. avatar Debra Morel says:

    It is perhaps a bit late to be commenting, however, this editorial endorsement and the conversations about it have been on my heart. I’ll start my reply with a quote, “So is God a Republican or a Democrat? Neither. We keep asking whose side He is on. It’s not about whose side He is on, it’s about who’s on His side.” Zach Neese.

    What fundamentally disappointed me about this endorsement was not who was endorsed (although I hugely disagree), it was the lack of spiritual value and the lack of reference to the Bible as a guide that disappointed me. There is never a decision that should be made, especially a decision of this ramification, without much prayer and much time in the Word. Where was the scriptural support for your choice. The decisions we make must be grounded in the Word or they fail.

    What I noted were issues that were used to determine an endorsement weren’t the issues God cares most about. God cares deeply about the sanctity of life. God cares deeply about the sanctity of marriage. And, God cares deeply about Israel and our support of her today and forever. When we line ourselves up with what He cares deeply about, He handles the issues we care deeply about.

    The Bible is also clear as to the kind of man we are to choose. There is a great reference in Exodus where Jethro is providing wisdom and guidance to Moses. Jethro tells Moses, “But select capable men from all the people, men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.” (Ex. 18:21) When we look at our candidate choices, we choose the one closest to this description. Moses was to choose men based on their character, values, morals, wisdom, discernment and most of all their love of the Lord. We are to choose this way also.

    We have two opposing candidates. One who claims to be a Christian, however, whose choices suggest differently (pro-homosexual marriage, pro-abortion, slanting support for Israel). The other is Mormon. And, while Mormons believe incorrectly, too, they are a very moral group. Study them. Choose in the context closest to the Bibles description.

    I would encourage you (editorial staff and students) to seek God’s face and not get caught up in the illusion of the world when making decisions. I would encourage you, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chron. 7:14

    The issues ARE important, but in prioritizing the issues, choose the issues most important to God when making your endorsement and choosing your candidate and in any choice you make in life. Because, God often uses what is not obvious for His purposes. And, when we are focused on and following His way, He will fix the problems regardless of the political party lines.

    And, I would encourage you to read your history. This country was founded on Biblical principle. It will die without them. There is no question there. Read up on Rome and see what happened to them when they forgot God and relied on man. There is nothing new under the sun. Nothing.

    Lastly, I leave you with a few links full of Biblical wisdom and example to read and consider. Start with this one: “It takes a profound lack of humility for a president to swear allegiance with one hand on the Bible while he gives God the finger with the other.”
    Followed by this one:
    And, finally, here:

  4. avatar CoreyCheek says:

    Here’s the proof that Obama is the most pro-abortion President in U.S. history:

  5. avatar CoreyCheek says:

    I would encourage the Editorial Board to read this and retract the endorsement:

  6. avatar CoreyCheek says:

    How can the campus paper at a Christian University endorse a Presidential candidate without considering social issues like abortion and the homosexual agenda / movement?

    How can the campus paper at a Christian University endorse a Presidential candidate without citing scripture?

    Barak Obama is the most pro-abortion President in U.S. history (easily verifiable via google). He is also a strident proponent / defender of the homosexual agenda / movement.

    Abortion and homosexuality are both abominations in the eyes of our Lord. Abortion is murder. Based on Obama’s first 4 years, 1.2 million babies will be murdered at Planned Parenthood alone if Obama is given another 4 years. This filthy reality will be paid for by our tax dollars, which is a violation of Christians’ First Amendment right of freedom of religion.

    Your endorsement of Obama furthers the kingdoms of abortion and homosexuality. On a lesser note, I have personally been asked more than once, “how can ACU endorse Obama when he is pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage.” Although I understand “ACU” has not endorsed Obama (“The Optimist” has), the perception is that “ACU” has, which has damaged ACU’s reputation and the reputation of its graduates.

    This election is not about which candidate is a stronger Christian. I do not know if either is actually saved, and neither do you. Its not my responsibility, nor do I have that ability (we know their words, but not their hearts). The question is who will lead our country in a manner that most closely follows the path laid out for us in the Bible.

    Romney is far from perfect, but what part of Romney’s platform / how he says he will lead is us anti-biblical?

    These are not rhetorical questions … as an ACU graduate (’92), I would like answers.


    Corey Cheek

  7. avatar Cindy says:

    Endorsement of any candidate that has an “anti-Christian” world view and is proud of it, should not take place at a Christian university.

  8. avatar S Skelton says:

    “I” should read “A” in the above comment.

  9. avatar S Skelton says:

    I well reasoned and appropriate response. I echo all of Becca Anne’s comments.

  10. avatar Becca Anne says:

    For what is worth, I’m proud of the editorial board and this paper, for choosing to express an opinion that you believe to be right, even if it might be unpopular.

    I found your original article to be incredibly fair. It takes maturity to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of both candidates. I am always shocked by the amount of vitriol that Christians throw around when it comes to presidential elections.

    There is a way to engage our differences that is respectful and gracious, rather than fear-based and hateful. And there is too much of the latter in the comments I’ve read thus far on your endorsement.

    There are Christians on both sides of every issue raised, and attacking someone’s faith because they disagree with you is unacceptable. I realize that these issues are enormously important to some people, but the faith we share is far more important than policies and elections.

    Anyway, it sounds like you’ve been getting a lot of criticism, so I just wanted to let you guys know that, regardless of political beliefs, you have supporters, too.

  11. avatar supotco says:

    “…government has no place restricting select citizens’ rights, in line with every American’s constitutional right to happiness.”

    This statement contradicts itself. If you believe a government has no place restricting rights, then how can it grant rights in its constitution? In that line of thinking, government cannot restrict or create rights. Therefore, you cannot base what you believe are inalienable rights in a government document.

    On a separate, but related question…where exactly in the US Constitution does it state anyone has the right to happiness? You may be referring to the Declaration of Independence.

Comments are closed