If you want to see what partisan tribalism looks like, look no farther than the editorial board of the New Jersey Star-Ledger and their endorsement Sunday of a man they admit is an “awful candidate” and a “slippery character” who probably should have been convicted for accepting bribes. The endorsement is headlined, “Choke it down and vote for Menendez” which makes me wonder what else the paper is willing to choke down to make sure Democrats remain in power.
Before he was caught in 2015, Sen. Robert Menendez broke Senate rules by routinely accepting expensive gifts, including private jets to luxury resorts abroad. He kept those gifts secret, breaking another rule. He then used his office to promote the personal and business interests of the man who paid the bills. All that was the unanimous conclusion of the Senate ethics committee, including all its Democrats.
It’s a miracle that Menendez escaped criminal conviction, and an act of profound narcissism that he stayed in the race despite this baggage, putting a Democratic seat at risk while Donald Trump sits in the White House.
All of this can be overlooked, according to the Star-Ledger, because the real issue in this election is President Trump. In other words, Menendez may be a crook but at least he’s a Democrat:
And when you get past ethics, the central issue in this race is Donald Trump. The question is which candidate can best fight Trump’s toxic policies, his grotesque appeals to racial and ethnic tribalism, and his corrosive attacks on the pillars of our democracy, starting with the rule of law.
That makes this an easy decision: Menendez is the better choice, by far. He has our endorsement.
Did you catch that part about the rule of law? They are literally saying the rule of law is at stake unless you vote for this crook who is lucky to be walking the streets. If it were me, I might have reworded that a bit. The endorsement concludes with the editorial board scolding leading Democrats for supporting Menendez when he was more vulnerable.
It’s a disgrace that Democratic leaders like Sen. Cory Booker and Gov. Phil Murphy rallied to support Menendez early on, when a stronger candidate could have beaten him in a primary. This race is a rated as a tossup now, in a year when a generic Democrat could win in a walk.
The Star-Ledger editorial board doesn’t really delve into why all of New Jersey’s Democrats rallied around Menendez after he was acquitted but I have a guess. Democrats knew he was vulnerable in an election year when they were already facing a tough electoral map. They didn’t want to risk rolling the dice on an untested Democrat when they had someone they were confident could be reelected. In short, they put partisan politics ahead of principle. And now the Star-Ledger is scolding them for doing then exactly what the Star-Ledger editorial board is doing now. He may be a crook but at least he’s a Democrat is exactly the sort of argument that got you to this terrible choice. But self-awareness doesn’t seem to be this editorial board’s strong suit.
Our hope is that voters remember that Trump is on the ballot, that they choke down their reluctance and vote for Menendez. He’s no gem, but he’s better than Hugin.
He may be a dirtbag but he has a ‘D’ after his name so choke it down, New Jersey.