For 80 years, the Deseret News has not entered into the troubled waters of presidential endorsement. We are neutral on matters of partisan politics. We do, however, feel a duty to speak clearly on issues that affect the well-being and morals of the nation.
Accordingly, today we call on Donald Trump to step down from his pursuit of the American presidency.
In democratic elections, ideas have consequences, leadership matters and character counts.
The idea that women secretly welcome the unbridled and aggressive sexual advances of powerful men has led to the mistreatment, sorrow and subjugation of countless women for far too much of human history.
The notion that strength emanates from harsh, divisive and unbending rhetorical flourish mistakenly equates leadership with craven intimidation.
The belief that the party and the platform matter more than the character of the candidate ignores the wisdom of the ages that, “when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” (Proverbs 29:2)
We understand that politicians and presidential candidates are human and that everyone makes mistakes. We do not believe that what is expressed in an unguarded moment of conversation should be the full measure of an individual. And we unquestionably support the principle that people deserve forgiveness, compassion and a second chance.
But history affirms that leaders' examples either elevate or demean the lives of those being led. When choosing the ostensible leader of the free world, the American electorate requires the clear assurance that their chosen candidate will consistently put the well-being of others ahead of his or her own personal gratification. The most recent revelations of Trump’s lewdness disturb us not only because of his vulgar objectification of women, but also because they poignantly confirm Trump’s inability to self-govern.
What oozes from this audio is evil. We hear a married man give smooth, smug and self-congratulatory permission to his intense impulses, allowing them to outweigh the most modest sense of decency, fidelity and commitment. And although it speaks volumes about sexual morality, it goes to the heart of all ethical behavior. Trump’s banter belies a willingness to use and discard other human beings at will. That characteristic is the essence of a despot.
Nor is this an isolated incident. His reprehensible sexual speech confirms troubling reports and outrageous outbursts that have dogged his campaign from the beginning. Another example appeared earlier this week detailing Trump’s language and behavior on his reality television show, "The Apprentice."
The Associated Press “interviewed more than 20 people — former crew members, editors and contestants — who described crass behavior by Trump behind the scenes of the long-running hit show.”
In the face of these revelations, it is disheartening to see otherwise decent individuals now attempting to defend Trump’s talk, dismissing it as mere “locker room” bravado. At the time of the audio recording, Trump was not a hormonal teenage athlete, but rather a 60-year-old husband of an expectant mother and the father of four children.
America’s locker rooms deserve better.
When Donald Trump’s running mate Indiana Gov. Mike Pence visited Utah and met with members of the Deseret News Editorial Board, he assured us that Mr. Trump was a "good man" who held "the ideals and values” of Utahns. Likewise, while visiting the Beehive State, Donald Trump Jr. told us that his father was running because of the “values held dear in this community.”
Considering his conduct and comportment, we do not believe Trump holds the ideals and values of this community or this paper.
We are grateful for the courageous decision by many of Utah’s leading Republican politicians to renounce the top of their ticket.
Some will see our denunciation of Trump as tantamount to an endorsement of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That is not the case. Although she comes with extraordinary experience, Clinton promotes social and economic policies we cannot support and she too has a history of self-dealing that gives us significant pause.
Should Clinton prevail in this presidential contest, we trust she — and those in the Congress that hold the presidency in check — will recognize that her likely victory against a self-wounded candidate is not a mandate for her specific platform, but rather a repudiation of Trump’s flaws.
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We prefer to stand for something rather than against someone. But this is one of those rare moments where it is necessary to take a clear stand against the hucksterism, misogyny, narcissism and latent despotism that infect the Trump campaign even as we hope for a more auspicious future of liberty, prosperity and peace for the nation.
As the next few consequential weeks unfold, we trust the American people, as they vote their conscience, will provide a clarion call for sound ideas, true leadership and proven character from our next administration and Congress.
Trump cannot answer that call. We ask him to step aside.
Editor's note: The Deseret News, although owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not an official publication of the church. Editorial opinions reflect the views of the Deseret News.