In America when people are being encouraged to take part in our democracy and to vote they are invariably told to listen to what the candidates say, make their decision and then go to the polling place and vote. High school students are led through school elections in which they are explicitly told to listen to the speeches and vote for the candidate giving the speech they liked best. They are told that this is training for how to be a good citizen and vote when they turn 18. This advice to vote for the speech and campaign you like best is so pervasive and ubiquitous that it probably has not occurred to most Americans that any other approach could be advocated. This is amazing to me because not only is that the worst approach to voting that I can imagine, but it is also not the way a majority of Americans decide for whom to vote.
In a general election (rather than a primary) roughly one third of Americans almost always vote for the Republican candidate (no matter who is running or what the supposed issues are), one third vote for the Democratic candidate (irregardless of the personalities and issues) and the remaining third are swing voters. Even in what is described as a landslide election rarely does a major party candidate get less than 33% or more than 67% of the vote. That means that two thirds of American voters are NOT following the standard advice for how to vote. They are NOT listening to the individual candidates and then deciding for whom to vote in each race based on what they have just heard the candidates say or how the individual campaigns present themselves.
Why do people vote the party rather than the candidate? I probably don’t need to tell you because the chances are that you are party voter and know why. People running for office lie and say things calculated to get them elected rather than what they really believe or how they will actually govern. Campaigns are run by people skilled in manipulating public opinion using techniques perfected by the advertising industry. If all you know about a candidate is what they have said during the campaign and what their campaign has presented about the candidate then you know nothing at all about how they will conduct themselves in office.
When you choose a party rather than a candidate you can base your decision on the track record of the party. You can look at how the country, state, county, city was run when the party was in power (or how it is currently being run by the party currently in control.) Although far from perfect, this is a much better predictor for what groups and interests a candidate will favor in office and what their basic values and principles are than listening to the candidate’s speeches or reading the literature and looking at the images created by the campaign.
So why is the advice to listen to the candidates and individually choose a candidate separately for each race so pervasive? Is it a plot by the advertising industry? Does such advice serve the interests of the ruling classes and the corporate media? Leave a comment and explain it to me.
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