The Electability Trap

In what is probably the best non-partisan political commentary I’ve read recently, Ron Klain at Campaign Stops (a New York Times blog) writes about the dangers of choosing a candidate based on electability.

Whether you are looking for the person you think would be the best president or the person with whom you agree on key issues; the person whose experience is best suited to the job or the person who is most likely to bring change to Washington, there are many good reasons to choose a particular candidate. Character, personality, leadership skills, resume or accomplishments are also good things to consider. Almost any reason will do, just please don’t pick someone because you think that he or she is the most “electable” candidate that your party can nominate.

Of course we would all like to vote for the winner, but voting is our chance as citizens to make a statement. We should be standing for what we believe by the way we vote, not hazarding a guess as to what the majority believes. Again, I like the way Ron makes his closing argument:

Taking something as sacred as your presidential preference and turning it into an act of political prognostication cheapens your choice: being a voter is a more important job in our system than being a pundit or a consultant. Why should you cast your vote based on how you think others will vote (even if you could guess that accurately)? Why should their choice matter more than your own?

Yes, ultimately, presidential campaigns are about winning: a candidate who does not win cannot achieve policy changes or make the country a better place. And being mindful of the consequences of our votes is important, as many people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 — only to put George Bush in the White House, instead of Al Gore — have painfully learned.

If you want to back a winner in 2008, focus on persuading your neighbor to come over to your choice, instead of guessing how he will vote.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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5 Responses to The Electability Trap

  1. Ron Klain says:

    Thanks for the nice comments about my piece! Ron

  2. David says:

    You’re welcome. I’m not easily impressed by political commentary but your post really expressed my same feelings on a subject that seems to be under-appreciated.

  3. Jesse Harris says:

    After the Bloghive election, I’ve begun to see how instant runoff voting could really change the way we pick candidates. Once you remove the fear that voting for your first choice wastes your vote, a whole new world opens right up. That makes the “electability” issue evaporate before your eyes.

  4. David says:

    That’s a good point Jesse. Any chance we could institute instant runnoff voting in our civic elections (at any level)?

  5. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » A Voters Guide

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