Deciding on a Candidate  

Monday, January 28, 2008


Since I first registered to vote, I've been in Independent voter. I remember when I first registered in South Carolina being asked if wanted to register as a Democrat or Republican. When I said neither, that I wished to be Independent, the registration officially said coolly, "Oh, then undecided." I was very clearly decided, but it seems that the only choices on the form were Democrat, Republican, and Undecided.

I'm probably one of those voters that most of you dislike. I participate in every election, but I don't always cast a vote. If I don't know who the candidates are, I don't feel like I can in good conscience cast a vote. If I know the candidates and I don't feel like they support my views, I purposely don't cast a vote. There have been several elections where I didn't cast a vote for a particular office, either from my own ignorance or because the candidates were not candidates I could support. I've never written in a candidate. I never thought of myself or anyone else as qualified before. But it's something I'm considering this year.

This election, I'm not sure yet who I will vote for. It will depend on how closely the candidates match my criteria. And since I can't vote in the upcoming Kansas state caucuses (there is no primary) unless I join either party, I have time to think about what criteria is most important to me.

So right now I find my time better served in defining the criteria that I'm going to use rather than helping to narrow down the candidates. And not just Presidential candidates, but from all offices I'm eligible to vote for. Supporting science is going to be very high on my list, but I haven't formulated what I think will be really important for this election yet.

Of course it's not always easy to find out what exactly the candidates will vote for after they're elected. Politic-speak is generic. If they've served in public office there are usually voting records available at Project Vote Smart and FactCheck.org is a good resource when contemplating claims and smears.

So, I'm going to do some research, and in a couple of months I'll write another post with my criteria and how each of the remaining candidates match up to it. This will include all candidates, including local candidates in my area. Hopefully it'll be a learning exercise for me and I'll get good feedback from you guys.

So, for you readers, how do you decide who to vote for?

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20 comments: to “ Deciding on a Candidate

  • vjack
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 7:25:00 AM CST  

    My process is actually quite similar to yours. I've always been registered as a Democrat, although I did vote Republican in one election many years ago. Like you, I won't vote unless I have a clear sense that one candidate is superior to another.

  • Billy
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 8:32:00 AM CST  

    I decide for whom I will vote based upon three things and in this order:

    1. Civil Rights (and this includes (but is not limited to) freedom of (and from) religion, gay rights, educational access, and reproductive rights)

    2. Economics (progressive taxation, corporations paying their fair share of taxes, tax breaks for potentially beneficial technologies (only up to the point where they become self-sustaining), and environmental policy (making polluters pay for the clean up, setting aside money for sustainable lumber, protecting National Parks and wilderness areas))

    3. Foreign Policy (Support people (not money), education and sustainable development, and military intervention only when there truly is not choice (who the hell are we to interfere with another people's choice (thought it is not always a choice) of government))

    Based upon this, I actually view John Edwards (and yes, I know he was a trial lawyer, but to me, that means he tried to make sure that corporations obey the rules and, when they make a mistake, deal with it). But, by the time Pennsylvania has its primary, I don't know if he'll still be in the race.

    I do not consider a candidate's religion as a plus or a minus UNLESS they (like Huckabee et al) are determined to shove their religion's idea of morality down the throat of America.

    And thank you for tossing up a question which helped me, for the first time, actually think through how I make decisions.

    I am a registered Democrat and tend to vote Democratic in national elections. Locally, I vote for the lesser of the bozos (based upon the above) regardless of party.

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 8:41:00 AM CST  

    I've never thought much until this year about how I go about selecting candidates. The best I could really do is tell you that I have an idea of what's most important in an individual election and then I vote for the candidate who meets my values in the respect. Sometimes it's a specific issue, other times it's who I think is the most qualified, who's the most honest, and other times it's purely pragmatic.

    As for not voting, I always vote for someone, even if it's a third party candidate with no shot. I think it's important for politicians to see that people will go out and vote even if it's just to show that they are dissatisfied with the choices. Sometimes, however, I wonder what a message it would send if lots and lots of people made a point of just not voting.

    Ever see the movie "Brewster's Millions?" He runs a political campaign, spending wads of cash, just trying to convince people not to vote.

  • ordinary girl
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 8:50:00 AM CST  

    Vjack, thanks for stopping by. I don't know that I always pick the superior candidate. Sometimes, even if one is better than the other, I pick neither because I think both are bad.

    Billy, I like you thought process. I think my criteria will be similar, but I still have a lot of thinking to do about it.

    Lifeguard, part of the problem is when there is only one candidate up for an office. If I don't agree with that candidate, how do I voice my dissent (and yes, this has happened a lot)? I'd be happy to vote for a third party candidate, but often I'm fuzzy on what that candidate stands for. Which is why I'm convinced that this year I need to go in prepared to make my vote.

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 9:20:00 AM CST  

    Honestly, for my self at least, I'm often perfectly content to vote for a third party candidate simply out of protest. My only criteria is that the person not be a hateful bigot or representative of something I completely abhor. Maybe I'm fortunate enough to live in NY where we almost always have extra candidates dribbling into elections.

    Incidentally, I am particularly fond of what I call the "court jester" candidates. One year I voted for Al Lewis (aka, "Grandpa Munster") for governor, and my one regret is that I didn't get to vote for Kinky Friedman for governor of Texas.

    I recognize that some other states may not be blessed with enough whack jobs to run such outrageous campaigns. In the final analysis, you do what you can. I guess it'd be nice if they had a "none of the the above" line to vote for, but maybe writing in a name isn't the worst thing you could do.

    Incidentally, this is a very interesting topic. Thanks for posting on it.

  • Mamacita Chilena
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 10:04:00 AM CST  

    A lot of times I feel like I'm just voting for the lesser of two evils. Even if I don't fully agree with one candidate I will still vote in order to hopefully elect the candidate who falls closest to my beliefs, even if he/she isn't 100% satisfactory to me. In general I pay closer attention to news and papers right before elections too to try and learn a little bit about people running for local offices so I can make a semi-educated decision. But it's safe to say that I almost always vote democrat.

  • PhillyChief
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 10:32:00 AM CST  

    Not voting accomplishes nothing. How could it? I think even if there were only two people who vote this year, rather than a politician thinking the system has become broken and wonder how to fix it or that they need to rethink how to address the concerns of the people to get them to vote, I think they'd just scramble to figure out how to win those two voters over.

    I'm a supporter of the "lesser of two evils" idea, but I think nowadays it should be relabeled "the cock block" strategy or possibly that could be an extreme variant. It's the idea heard voiced often, "ANYBODY but...". I will, as an Independent, cock block Huckabee, Paul, and Romney. After that, I think the field is merely a choice of lesser evils.

  • carli
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 11:19:00 AM CST  

    I weigh everything I know about each candidate and choose the lesser of several evils. Like you, I don't vote if I am not up to date on the candidates' positions or don't have one I can support.
    This year, I'm also concerned about strategy: Which Democrat has the best chance against the probable Republican front-runner?
    (And even though I'm a registered Democrat, my opinions lie a little more to the little than most left-wingers.)

  • The Exterminator
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 12:35:00 PM CST  

    It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that my attitudes are very much like Lifey's: I'm often perfectly content to vote for a third party candidate simply out of protest.

    I think the American public has accepted too readily the idea that a two-party system is best, and that everyone in the country is represented by one or the other of those parties. If Bloomberg actually starts a third party campaign, he might be a very attractive candidate to me -- particularly if he runs as a fiscal conservative AND an extreme civil libertarian.

    Ultimately, judging a candidate is a subjective process on which we try to overlay whatever objectivity we can muster. For me, probably the only objective criterion is a negative one: has the candidate violated the Constitution, either in actuality or in spirit, or advocated violating the Constitution? If so, I won't vote for that person.

    Since I think that ramming one's faith and piety down the voters' throats is a violation, in spirit, of the "no religious test" clause in Article VI, none of the Republican or Democratic candidates work for me. If you really want to puke, you might check out Obama's "Committed Christian" pamphlets that were circulated in South Carolina. I expect that kind of crap from Republicans like Huckabee and Romney; it really pisses me off when I see it coming from the Democrats.

  • Lifeguard
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 2:21:00 PM CST  

    I've been secretly hoping that Bloomberg runs.

  • The Exterminator
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 2:39:00 PM CST  

    Lifey:
    I've been secretly hoping that Bloomberg runs.

    Well, your secret's out now. This thought isn't original with me, but it's worth saying: Bloomberg won't run unless he actually thinks he has a shot at winning. So then, assuming he's as good a candidate as we think he'll be, the trick he'll have to perform is to convince Americans that a vote for him will not be a "wasted" vote. That'll be a hard sell, but not impossible.

  • the chaplain
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 2:42:00 PM CST  

    Good post and good discussion. I am currently registered Independent. Since Virginia has an open primary, I will still be able to vote in the Democratic primary on February 12.

    My criteria change with the times. At this point, my highest criterion is to vote for no Republican. This includes my Congressional representative who is a moderate and a pretty decent rep. Nevertheless, we've got to toss out as many Republicans as possible. They've wreaked havoc on the country (and the world) in the past 8 years and must be stopped.

    My second highest criterion is adherence to the Constitution, particularly the Church/State issue.

    My third criterion, and this is probably the toughest one, is the candidate's integrity. Obama's religious posturing and pandering over the past week or so have been shameless, and Billary's filthy smear tactics have been vicious. Right now, John Edwards, even though he is religious too, appears to be the one with the most integrity.

    It's a long time until the election. By then, I may just write in the Exterminator.

  • John Evo
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 7:58:00 PM CST  

    Hot topic. Someone should suggest this for one of those round-table shows.

    I agree with Billy on this: "I do not consider a candidate's religion as a plus or a minus UNLESS they (like Huckabee et al) are determined to shove their religion's idea of morality down the throat of America."

    And I agree with OG on this: " Supporting science is going to be very high on my list, but I haven't formulated what I think will be really important for this election yet."

    I don't have an "absolute" litmus test when looking at someone I "could" support. I DO INDEED have certain litmus tests for people who would be labeled "Can NEVER support". So when a guy like Huckabee says that gay marriage is out because god tells him so, he just failed a big fucking litmus test and I couldn't vote for him if we agreed on everything else (which we wouldn't, and don't).

  • Spanish Inquisitor
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 8:25:00 PM CST  

    Hey, Evo. I suggest this topic be discussed at one of those round table shows. Or maybe even a square table one. (Is there such a thing as an ambiguous table?)

    Anyway, OG, you got me thinking about what criteria I use. I'd have to say that I have never consciously applied a definitive set of criteria to my voting choices. I've voted for so many reasons, from voting against the establishment (McGovern in 72); to voting for friends (school board election); to voting for Democrats because this area is so Republican (just about every local election); to voting for someone I thought had integrity despite being Republican (Thornburgh for PA governor, both times); to voting democratic simply because I had no idea who was running, and I don't vote republican on principle (all the rest). I have failed to vote for some offices, like you, because I just didn't think I knew enough about who was running, but not very often.

    I did promise a certain person that if PA was fairly predictable, i.e. not a close election per the polls, I’d vote for him (initials T.E.).

  • Babs
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 9:36:00 PM CST  

    I vote based on how shiny the candidate's shoes are.

    Not really, but it'd make things easier sometimes. I've never really thought about what process I use to decide. I just mark off my "no way in hell" candidates and go from there.

  • John Evo
    Monday, January 28, 2008 at 10:48:00 PM CST  

    Babs, it's hard to see their shoes in a debate, so go with "best hair". It's a proven winning strategy. Every winning candidate since JFK had the best hair. Of course, that will only work for you if your main consideration is to vote for the winner.

  • the chaplain
    Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 12:33:00 AM CST  

    Evo said, "Every winning candidate since JFK had the best hair."

    1968 & 1972 were very bad hair years. Nixon vs. Humphrey, and then Nixon vs. McGovern! All of them could have combed their hair with chopsticks.

  • (((Billy)))
    Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 9:48:00 AM CST  

    Is 'best hair' (and I assume that is plural?) the same thing as 'most talked about hair?' If so, Edwards should be doing much better. Of course, if the press covered the actual positions of the Democratic candidates with the same vigour given to John's hair (and did the same thing with all the Republican candidates), I think that (1) the Democratic race would be much different (how, not sure) and (2) very, very, very few people would show up for the Republican primaries. Only the committed Republicans.

  • Nigel Patel
    Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 10:34:00 AM CST  

    The most cynical way possible:
    The one who can beat the Republican.

    Since there is no actual Left here in the U.S., that's all thats...left.

  • Vistaluna
    Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 11:08:00 AM CST  

    I rate support of science and education the highest, unless there is something else that is an immediate serious threat.

    If the people receive a better and broader education in science and history, then all the other issues will fall into place. A stronger education in science frees the minds from the bonds of religion, and then gay marriage and abortion and many other hot-button issues can be discussed rationally and it will be easier to find a consensus policy.

    A stronger education in history would make us more wary of mixing Church and State, and also make us realize that many of our founding fathers were NOT Christians.

    Our society is somewhat polarized between conservatives and liberals, and each side thinks the other side is a bunch of "idiots". I see this as an education, experience, and influence gap. We are not all learning and experiencing the same things.

    School is the one and only time in our lives that we are all forced to learn together and all pay attention to the same teachings together. This is our only source of common knowledge and common ground. This is the only place where we can't just bury our head in Fox News and listen to only what we want to hear.

    I figure if education is improved, then everything else will fall into place. Maybe I'm being too optimistic? :)

 

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