Monday, May 11, 2020

The Power of Political Endorsements in Elections

I teach 8th grade Social Science in San Francisco, CA.

Exploring American history, culture, government and society with over a hundred students every year, I learned that young people need to understand the importance of voting to convince them to pay attention to elections.

I tell them I registered and voted in every election since I gained the right to vote in 1978, but that's not very convincing to Middle School students who are four years from 18.

I also tell them a story from before I was old enough to vote when I learned exactly how Bernie Sanders felt the night Amy Klobuchar gave up her campaign for President and started a tidal wave of endorsements for Joe Biden. Klobuchar supported a growing enthusiasm for Biden's candidacy and helped sweep him to victory in Texas and other states on Super Tuesday the next day.

The Capital 'Y'
The exact same thing happened to me in 1978 when I ran for Governor in the YMCA Youth and Government program.

The election was like a caucus. After candidate speeches and lobbying we did a roll call vote. After the first ballot each group spent time advocating for their candidate.

During caucusing I negotiated a deal with three other candidates who all agreed to endorse the one with the most votes on the second ballot. We believed these votes would be enough to challenge front running candidates on a third ballot.

California "Senator" Brad Lakritz with Governor Brown in 1978.
After the second ballot I was the candidate with the most votes but that wasn't enough to get their endorsements.

It turned out that members of the coalition never expected me to win and did not plan to vote for me. Immediately they endorsed other candidates including the expected winner.

The Capitol Y student newspaper published stories about that election during the legislative conference in Sacramento later that year.

"I knew that Joe (Pipersky) wouldn't vote for Brad,' commented Marjorie Alvord," noted the Capitol Y. "At this point, Marjorie Alvord's YMCA, Crescenta-Canada, changed all of their eight votes from Alvord to LaRiva, further dissolving the 'coalition.'"

This was a devastating blow for a 17 year old high school student. How could they lie to me like that? Pipersky was later quoted saying "I didn't want to throw my support to Lakritz . . . " Which begs the question of why he promised to do so in the first place.

Clearly he and the others were only fishing for my endorsement.

From a political point of view, I believe young people should learn more about what's best for America, and all Americans, not what (or who) their party tells them they should vote for. So it shouldn't matter which party you belong to. What should matter is who is the best candidate.

How that plays out in each election might very well be different.

John Anderson
For example, John Anderson was an intriguing candidate to me in 1980 because he was a long term Republican Congressman from Illinois now running as an Independent. I saw him as likely to not go along with whatever the party expected.

Because of party politics, however, Anderson had no chance to succeed and only took away votes from Jimmy Carter, helping Ronald Reagan win the White House.


Simon Lakritz
The last time I can remember being registered as a Democrat was to vote for my Dad, Simon Lakritz, who ran for Congress in 1984. He was a popular Democrat but the Party gave him no support because they didn't think it was worth their effort (and money). They expected a "Reagan Coattail" effect. Despite no real support, he received about 48,000 votes, but that was less than 30% of the total votes cast.

Today, I wonder what would it have taken for him to get the kind of endorsements he would have needed to win that election.

Over the years since then, I've registered as "Decline to State" and "No Party Preference" for voting in California. I choose who to vote for, or which way to vote on a proposition, based on who or what I believe will be best for the local community, state, or federal government.


To my knowledge, Bernie Sanders was never promised anything. In fact, it is clear to me that the Democratic Party did not want him as their candidate in 2016. And, they are making it clear they don't want him today despite his early leads in polls and primaries, and legions of excited young Bernie voters.

Rep. James Clyburn endorsing Biden
I believe Biden's endorsement tidal wave actually began a week before Super Tuesday when South Carolina's Representative James Clyburn gave his endorsement to Joe Biden. It's obvious to me now that this endorsement was the final blow to Bernie's campaign.

Although Biden was already expected to win South Carolina, Clyburn's endorsement sent his numbers even higher there,  influencing Kloubacher and others to line up and endorse him.

I'm sure Democrats couldn't be happier today and it looks like any vote for Bernie in future primaries would be dividing the Party and helping the opposition candidate.

Proving once again that, in American politics, if your candidate didn't get the endorsements needed to succeed, your choice may be made for you before you go to the ballot box.

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