In talking with many about the upcoming presidential election, I have found that most don’t really have a system to make such decisions. I like to ask folks what issues are the important to them and what their candidate has done in the past that makes them feel they are the best candidate (the best indication of future performance is past performance). I don’t think many look at the “how to select a candidate” piece but simply let emotion, charisma, single issues or the “What are they gonna do for me” principle govern their decisions. For example, construction workers vote for the president they think best understands construction workers (e.g. pro union), Venture capitalists vote for the president they think best serves venture capital (e.g. low taxes), and those that receive from government programs vote for those vowing to maintain or increase such programs regardless of overall social contribution. This is how we have been voting since G. H. W. Bush. But how can it make sense for everyone to vote solely on what suits themselves best? It’s not a United States of Me. Sure self interest is a major consideration in a vote, but it has to be weighed against others.
We are easily distracted away from better presidential measures: namely performance, or our estimation of potential for performance. Some new tools (my favorite was this one by american public media) are availible that can quickly help one size up the candidate by the issues in stead of trying to wade through the rhetoric or media slant. What does the media do to help us? Not much. When listening to anything political in nature (campaign adds, news coverage / commentary, people talking, etc.) one should ask: What does this have to do with their ability to do the job? Pundits have failed to help viewers evaluate the merits of the candidates. They are supposed to help us dissect the hidden meaning, a vague promise, or a mistake of fact.