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In historic first, Arizona Republic backs Democrat for president, citing Trump’s ‘deep character flaws’

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In 1890, when the Arizona Republic started printing from Phoenix, before publishing photographs or crossword puzzles or winning a Pulitzer Prize, the newspaper was called the Arizona Republican.

It then changed its name, but not the political orientation of its editorial page.

For 126 years, the Republic has supported candidates for the presidency of the United States. For 126 years, they have always been Republicans.

In a historic first, the newspaper’s editorial board announced its unequivocal support for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton online – and eviscerated her opponent, Republican nominee Donald Trump, along the way.

The state’s largest newspaper acknowledged its own bold and unusual move in the editorial:

Since The Arizona Republic began publishing in 1890, we have never backed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. It reflects a deep philosophical appreciation of conservative ideals and republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican nominee is not conservative and he is unqualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, the Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.

La République is not the first newspaper with a traditionally conservative editorial orientation to deviate from historical norms and support the Democratic candidate in this election. Earlier this month, the Dallas Morning News threw its support behind Clinton, the first Democratic presidential candidate it had backed since before World War II. The Cincinnati Enquirer, which has backed Republicans for president for nearly a century, backed Clinton, as did the Houston Chronicle.

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Several have even decided to support longtime Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who did not qualify for the general election debates.

Trump, at the time of this writing, hasn’t received any endorsements from major publications since the primary season.

The list of Republicans who reject their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, and support his Democratic opponent continues to grow. (Video: The Washington Post)

Like most of these non-traditional endorsements for Clinton, the Republic acknowledged that she had made “serious missteps.” The newspaper criticized her use of private mail servers while she was secretary of state and wrote that although there was no evidence of wrongdoing, Clinton should have created a firewall between herself and his foundation to prevent donors from trying to buy access.

“Yet, despite his flaws,” writes the newspaper, “Clinton is the better choice.”

She doesn’t casually say things that embolden our adversaries and scare our allies. His approach to governance is mature, confident and rational.

The same cannot be said for his opponent.

Clinton maintains her composure under pressure. She is hard. She does not back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of wads of verbal spit.

It is below our national dignity.

When the President of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a scathing tweet.

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The editorial praises Clinton’s diplomatic work with friendly and unfriendly foreign countries, and cites her long experience in public service – as a senator, secretary of state and first lady – as proof of her commitment to promoting the collective ideals of the nation. They touted his temper, an area in which, just 24 hours earlier, in the first presidential debate of 2016, Trump had proclaimed he was far superior. The Republic disagreed.

Trump mocked a reporter’s physical disability. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family. Prisoners of war insulted. Suggests that a Latino judge cannot be fair because of his heritage. Proposes to ban Muslim immigration.

Each of these comments shows an astonishing lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together, they reveal a candidate who does not grasp our national ideals.

Trump, the editorial claims, “hangs scapegoats like piñatas and invites people to swing.” Approval criticizes his insults towards women as “not just good old-boy gaffes”, but “evidence of deep character flaws”. He condemns his views on immigration, an issue the state of Arizona takes particularly seriously due to its proximity to Mexico.

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The editorial board likely anticipated a backlash from its conservative readership when it drafted the endorsement, underscoring the fear many Republicans might feel in this election. Many GOP voters understand Trump’s flaws, they wrote, but “shudder” at the thought of another President Clinton — especially when it comes to appointing Supreme Court justices.

“We understand that,” the board wrote. “But we’re asking them to see Trump for what he is – and what he isn’t. Trump’s conversion to conservatism is recent and unconvincing.

When the Republic posted its endorsement online Tuesday evening, it posted the article on Facebook. Within hours, the comment thread was flooded with angry replies, threats to cancel subscriptions and admissions of perceived betrayal by the traditionally conservative editorial board. It had been shared nearly 2,000 times and commented nearly 1,000 times.

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