As Election Day gets closer–involving votes not only for President but for a host of other state and local offices–I offer two posts on factors that we all use in choosing which candidates to vote for. Today we will focus on aspects of the candidate that we consider, though we weigh them in different ways. Tomorrow we will focus on aspects of the election that have hardly anything to do with the candidate, as such, but with our own personal considerations.
It seems to me that when we decide which candidate we vote for, we consider these four aspects of the various candidates:
We consider the candidate’s ideas. That is, his or her ideology, convictions, and positions on issues we care about. We assess those according to whether or not we agree with those ideas and the degree to which they are important to us.
These are the actions that the candidate has implemented, proposed, or has promised to carry out. Personal beliefs must be translated into actual policies in order to have a governmental or social impact. We voters evaluate those policies in terms of how they affect us and how successful we think they are or would be in advancing the public good.
These include our perception of the candidate’s character, personality, strengths, and flaws. We make a judgment about whether this person deserves our trust. We also determine whether or not we “like” this person.
This involves the results of the candidate’s tenure in office. This means attending to an incumbent’s record, as well as speculation about how we think an incumbent would perform. Effectiveness also includes for executive offices the candidate’s leadership and managerial abilities. We voters must decide, based on whatever information we have, whether or not the incumbent’s policies worked and whether think the challenger’s policies would work better. We also must make judgments for executive offices about the candidate’s leadership–do I want to follow this person?–and the functioning of the administration he or she has or would put in place.
Voters weigh and balance these factors in different ways, all of which can be quite legitimate.
For some, Belief has priority. Is this person a conservative or a liberal? What is this candidate’s religion? Is he or she pro-life? For number of voters, the candidate’s beliefs are the prime consideration, outweighing Personal Qualities and even Policies.
A candidate for County Commissioner will likely have no impact on the abortion rate, but knowing that the candidate is pro-life suggests adherence to a more general conservative Christian worldview that voters who share that worldview will appreciate. And yet, some politicians have pro-life Beliefs, and yet their Policies have not addressed abortion at all, or even enabled abortion. For single-issue pro-life voters, Donald Trump scores highly on Beliefs, Policies, and Effectiveness, even though they may have qualms about some of his Personal Qualities.
Some voters share Trump’s conservative Beliefs and appreciate his conservative Policies, but they cannot abide his Personal Qualities, to the point that they will vote for Joe Biden. Some voters, though, do like Trump’s Personal Qualities, such as his unfiltered style and his iconoclastic manner. Some voters are highly committed to Trump’s Beliefs and Policies, but think he has not been Effective in advancing them, feeling that his Personal Qualities have damaged the conservative brand.
Some Biden voters reject their candidate’s Beliefs and Policies–either for being too liberal, or, for a significant number of Democrats, not nearly leftist enough–and yet they vote for him for his Personal Qualities or even for what they perceive as his lack of Effectiveness, thinking that he will be unable to fulfill the agenda they disagree with and can be influenced in their direction.
What other constellations of factors are you seeing or are yourself working through? Are there other dimensions to a candidate that we have overlooked here?
To be sure, there are other factors in casting your vote other than a particular candidate’s qualities–such as voting not for but against a candidate–but we will discuss those tomorrow.