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EDITORIAL: This time for president, none of the above

For the first time in more than half a century, Forum Communications Co. declines to endorse the Republican candidate for president of the United States. It does not follow, however, that the endorsement goes to the Democratic candidate. This year, we suggest none of the above is the best choice.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are among the most flawed candidates in modern times to seek the presidency. There are good reasons their “dislike” numbers are the highest since pollsters began taking that specific measure. Both are disliked by 50 to 60 percent of Americans polled. That’s a startling statistic for the presidential candidates of the two major political parties.

That being said, both of them have qualities that appeal to their supporters.

Trump’s business acumen is real, and would serve him well as president. He knows how to make the deal. He would not be intimidated. His success in a competitive global business environment cannot be denied, like him or not. He has stimulated a necessary national debate about legal and illegal immigration, refugees and domestic terrorism. His tax proposals seem business-friendly.

He is, however, wrong about most trade agreements. Republican-leaning organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have backed away from him because of his trade stance.

More damaging, however, is the havoc he’s done to the Republican Party, which, because of his vile personal behavior, unvarnished misogyny and his trashing of prominent GOP leaders, has set back the party for a generation. The party’s 2016 strategy to broaden the base has been shredded by Trump’s pandering to his ever-narrowing base.

As for Clinton, it can be argued that she is one of the most qualified candidates to seek the presidency. There’s room for debate about that. But, as a former first lady, two-term senator and secretary of state, Clinton is prepared to confront the challenges of the Oval Office. Her Senate success with legislation that benefits children and families is impressive. However, her energy and regulation policies would devastate North Dakota’s economy.

And if character is destiny, she has a problem. She has too easily dismissed or lied about carelessness with State Department emails, the improper influence of the Clinton Foundation and what appear to be her campaign’s dirty tricks at Trump rallies. She is on record saying one thing before a Wall Street audience and the opposite on the campaign trail, and then minimizing the contradictions.

A Forum non-endorsement is not without precedent. In the election of 1964, Forum Communications, without comment, did not endorse Republican Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater (The Forum editorial, Sunday, Oct. 18 1964). But the endorsement did not go to President Lyndon Johnson, who won by a then-record landslide. It was also the last time North Dakota voted for a Democratic president.

Fifty two years later, we withhold an endorsement, and urge voters to vote their conscience and their values first, their political persuasions a distant second.

This editorial represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.

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