Jacksonville’s daily paper, the Florida Times-Union, isn’t known for sounding the clarion call of revolution.
However, its unsigned editorial endorsing Donald Trump strikes that chord, representing the GOP nominee as the “change agent” that America needs, one that accords with the paper’s “center-right” tradition.
“America needs a major shake-up. There is only one presidential candidate with the will and ability to do it,” writes the T-U.
“Donald Trump,” the T-U adds, “despite all of his faults, is best suited to blow up the inbred corruption of the Washington-New York elites.”
The Times-Union editorial page typically hews to local consensus thinking — the kind of stuff one might hear at cocktail parties locally. But in this endorsement, it’s as if it’s 1977 and the T-U is edited by Malcolm McLaren; gritty DIY-ish rhetoric permeates the text.
“Republicans, Democrats, they are all part of an establishment that didn’t even recognize the voters that Trump was appealing to …This is the kind of political revolution that was foreseen by the Founding Fathers,” the T-U observes, without citing which particular founding father would have signed off on Trump’s rhetorical flourishes, both in the current campaign cycle and throughout his public life in the preceding decades.
“If Trump breaks a little china along the way,” writes the T-U, “the country is strong enough to survive.”
Note: the “china” referred to here is likely the plates that many people have in cabinets in their dining rooms, not the great power half a world away.
The T-U points out “good reasons to expect Trump will be successful” such as his choice of “Mike Pence as his vice presidential running-mate,” which “has soothed fears.”
Trump, asserts the T-U, is “inspiring voters in ways rarely seen” by “making the powerless feel powerful.”
That assertion will be news to many African-American, Latino, LGBT, and female readers.
But they don’t seem to be the “powerless” people the T-U concerns itself with. The “powerless” worthy of note to the editorialists at Northeast Florida’s biggest paper: the woebegone aging white members of what once was America’s middle class, who find that their kids will have lower standards of living than they do, and who also find that the prerogatives of being old and white aren’t what they used to be.
Times-Union editor Frank Denton is known locally for his editorial columns, which celebrate and congratulate the T-U’s news operation.
“You’re buying power, not just paper” reads the title of one of those pieces.
A piece from October 8, meanwhile, posed a more salient question in the light of the T-U’s endorsement of Trump: “Which candidate do you think is more ready and willing to lead the world?”
In that piece, Denton quoted Nancy Soderberg, an ambassador during the Bill Clinton administration, as an authority backing his position.
Soderberg is very much supporting Hillary Clinton in this campaign.
The T-U endorsement has been presented to Jacksonville in a “read between the lines” way, with journalists for the paper — appalled by Trump, almost to a person — venting to local media.
Local media members and “influencers” have been helpful also, with people pointing out the “wall” between the editorial and news sides of the operation.
And columnists, such as Mark Woods, have written in opposition of the endorsement, also adding that Morris Communications — the parent company of the T-U, which mandated endorsements of Trump in all of its properties — has never told him what to write.
“I can write that I disagree with the endorsement – I did write that and added it to the Sunday column – and it will appear in the paper. It won’t get cut. I won’t suffer some sort of repercussion,” Woods observed
“In 15 years of writing thousands of columns for the Times-Union,” Woods added, “not once has the Morris family told me what to write. Not once has the Morris family told me what not to write.”
There are cases to be made for Donald Trump.
The T-U editorial page made one, even as it has been undercut by staff members who understand — keenly — that their own individual reputations in the community need to be safeguarded.
People will cool off about this endorsement; they always do.
But for many Jacksonville readers, the Times-Union endorsement of Trump strikes them as a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.