POLITICAL SEASON - Believe it or not, it's already endorsement season. From president to local candidates and all those in between, they are in the throes of making their cases for why they should be endorsed. Before addressing the merits of individual candidates, the reason for endorsement itself deserves some consideration. Specifically, why do organizations endorse. Perhaps, a quick look at the etymology of the word itself is in order. To endorse is to confirm, approve, or authorize by signing one’s name to the back. Therefore, when individuals and organizations endorse a candidate, they are offering approval for that candidate.
In seats with an open nomination the criteria most often used by an organization for determining approval to earn endorsement is either based on past performance or an anticipated belief in the potential for future performance. However, when there is a record of past performance upon which to draw, that almost always carries a greater weight in determining approval over the mere hope of what could be possible in the future.
As we approach the 2024 election this poses a unique issue for Republicans in the consideration of the presidential endorsement. In fact, the California Republican Party even had to undergo a contentious bylaw change process in order for their delegates to be counted during the upcoming endorsement convention held next year. As these events unfold, debates proceed, and poll numbers fluctuate, it has caused some to pause and consider whether to offer the “seal” of approval to former President Trump. For some there is a struggle to justify making the former President be the Party nominee to run yet again in race against the same opponent to which he lost four years ago. Others will quickly point to what they see as the benefits of his presidency and question the loss as being the result of a faulty electoral system.
Then there is the question of the effect on down-ballot races. Certainly, those who lost their own elections were the first to blame the former President, even if he wasn't on the ballot when they lost. They claim that the onslaught of attack by their opponents lumped all Republicans into the same category as approving of the former President’s past behavior and actions. From their standpoint and perspective regarding approval and electability, the case to endorse the former President cannot be compellingly made.
However, the irony of such a position cannot be overlooked for many local candidates. They apply a standard of examining past actions and performance as a consideration for the presidential nomination. However, oftentimes, they are remiss to have such scrutiny applied to their own records. If the deciding criteria for a presidential endorsement should take such past considerations in mind, then by that same standard it should apply to local candidates and races.
When county central committees or district bodies consider endorsement for city council, county, and Assembly and Senate District candidates, they too should be taking a good look at the past performance of any candidates or previously elected individuals. Specifically, this should include and warrant a thorough consideration of past votes, decisions, integrity, and character of candidates. Also, in the same way that consideration is applied to assess electability in the presidential races, especially when the race could be a repeat of contenders, performance in past races should also be evaluated for local candidates.
Did a candidate win one race just because their opponent stood no chance of winning? What about when a race is truly competitive? If from the standpoint of approval and electability the candidate is found wanting – is it really worth an organization placing their “seal” of approval to endorse such a candidate, regardless of what level of office for which they might be running?
(Mihran Kalaydjian is a consummate leading member of the community and a devoted civic engagement activist for education spearheading numerous academic initiatives in local political forums.)