When it comes to elections, newspaper editorialists learn humility fast. Some people may believe or fear our recommendations routinely sway the outcome of votes, but there’s little evidence of that in the actual returns. What we really do is add another informed voice to the debate – along with lots of other people.
Occasionally, though, I think we do tip things in a direction we think is healthy for the communities we serve. On Sept. 19, for example, Tacoma voters rejected an attempt by the gaming industry to legalize the casinos that were supposed to have shut down last New Year’s Day. As the Pierce County auditor’s final results show, the industry’s ballot measure failed, rather narrowly, despite a vigorous (if dishonest) campaign on its behalf.
Did our editorials against the measure kill it? By themselves, probably not – thought there wan’t much of a campaign against Initiative 1 beyond this page and the columns of Peter Callaghan. But we’ve been bird-dogging this issue for nearly seven years, and the cumulative effect of our commentary over that time might have been enough to account for the narrow margin of defeat.
None of us feels good about the fact that casino employees must now look for other jobs. But our editorial board has long been persuaded that the social costs of legalized gambling make it far more of a liability than an asset for a community. And improving communities is pretty much at the heart of our mission as an editorial page staff.