By Mike Cronin
Barring a “black swan” event, the race for president is down to Trump vs. Clinton. Who will you vote for, and why? Will you even vote? Will your vote matter?
There are so many marginal factors that can shape an election, but there are some basic election fundamentals that seldom get explained.
First: From 1932 to 2012, the average voter turnout has never been higher than 63% or less than 49%. That means on average only a little over half of the eligible population votes in any given presidential election. Of the half that votes, roughly 32% are dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrats and will always vote for the Democrat candidate. Roughly another 22% of the half that votes is comprised of hard-core conservative Republicans who will always vote for the Republican candidate. These groups are the “base” for a given candidate/party. Once you exclude the 54% of voters that are going to automatically vote D or R in any given election, the real battle takes place over the remaining half of the half of Americans who are going to vote. Expressed another way: Presidential elections hinge on the lever pulls of slightly less than 25% of the adult population!
It gets better. Where those 25% reside is crucial. If a majority of them reside in states that are overwhelmingly likely to vote a certain way, their votes aren’t going to mean very much. Conversely, if the bulk of those independent voters reside in states that could go either way (the so-called battleground states), their votes could wield enormous influence!
Are you one of the independents or third party members who vote but don’t blindly punch holes for any party’s candidate (or against the other party’s!)? Where do you live? Will your vote count?
If you are, how will you make your decision? Party loyalty isn’t your thing, so what does it for you? Unfortunately, some will waste their votes on frivolous criteria such as the looks, race, or gender of the candidate, or on candidate’s oratorical prowess.
To do justice to our system and not waste my vote, I’ve developed a small list of criteria that I can rate each candidate against using a survey technique called a Likert scale. Here it is:
Rate each candidate on how you believe they would:
|Honor the Oath of Office and abide by the Constitution & the laws of the land||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Appoint Supreme Court Justices that will uphold the Constitution||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Command the armed forces and employ military force only to counter serious threats to the United States||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Act with integrity & honesty, and demonstrate character||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Reduce dysfunction and corruption in the Executive Branch||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Work to reign in government spending, promote capitalism and demonize socialism||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Work to audit, and possibly end, the Federal Reserve||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Work to end, or at least lessen and simplify, the income tax||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
|Overhaul the immigration system to allow maximum freedom to enter and remain in the country consistent with preventing criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors in and without yielding an automatic electoral advantage to any party||Fail||Marginal||Mediocre||Good||Exemplary|
Obviously, you might prefer different criteria than what I’ve settled on, but whatever thoughtful criteria you select can still work. Once you establish your criteria and rate each candidate, score them thus: 1 point for each Fail, 2 points for each Marginal, 3 points for each Mediocre, 4 points for each Good, and 5 points for each Exemplary. Total up the scores and vote for the candidate that earns the highest marks.
Still, there is at least one other major contextual factor that is seldom examined during presidential elections: Congress. We can elect a president based on the most cogent criteria, but if he or she must deal with a Congress skewed to the opposing party, it is likely they will face high resistance to carrying out their plans or their mandate. Even if he or she gets to work with a same-party Congress, your candidate could still find it hard to make headway if, like Donald Trump, they come from outside the beltway political establishment.
There is a simple (not easy!) fix to that: Help your presidential candidate get a sympathetic, same-party Congress to work with!