Electability is always a strong consideration in the primaries. The French call the action 'vote utile,’ tactical voting or the useful vote. Don’t vote for the ideal candidate, vote for the candidate who can win. The notion is a little degrading, but wise nonetheless. If you compromise nothing and therefore gain nothing and your measly little protest counted for nothing, well, you may want to re-think your strategy.
To flesh out the strategy in a bit more detail, we aren’t just offering up the person who we think could win. Beyond that, we’re offering up the person who we think could win against the person that we believe the other side will nominate, i.e., the person they chose because they think that nominee could win against our chosen candidate. This presents difficulties since each possible match-up presents a different set of obstacles for either side.
The best defense, of course, would be a candidate that could beat anyone from the other side, but that’s a bit of wishful thinking. Next to that, we just need to deal with what information we have, and make educated guesses. I’m going to provide a few bullet points of information that will hopefully help clarify not who represents you the best, but who you think will have the best chance at representing you at all.
First, the polls. It’s been pointed out in an earlier post that both Hillary and Obama would lose to McCain if tomorrow were November 4th, even though Hillary is stomping Obama in the national democratic polls. However, Hillary creams Romney, the other likely republican choice, as does Barack. Beyond all of this, John Edwards is the only democrat who could beat McCain, but he sits last on the left-hand list.
Ok, enough of polls, let’s discuss the ought-to-be-irrelevant factors that no doubt will play a role here. There’s Obama’s race, McCain’s age, Clinton’s gender, and Romney’s religion. Obama also has an age issue, or rather a lack-of-age issue, which could come back to bite him, but many of the same people who would be considering the weight of the problem also considered it when Kennedy was running, so it could be overcome. In my opinion, not a single one of these should really be relevant when choosing your candidate. The religion issue comes closest to affecting how they will lead as president, but it’s doubtful that we’ll become ‘one nation, under Joseph Smith.'
Finally, there are the issues that matter, that is, the things these candidates have actually done in the past that could stifle their bid for presidency. Romney, besides being the farthest from the center, was by no means an indisputably excellent governor of Massachusetts, but his business acumen as a former CEO and his gift to America (or just Utah?) of saving the 2002 Winter Olympics could win a few hearts and a couple minds. McCain is undeniably a war hawk, but at least he knows what it’s all about and isn’t likely to make whimsical decisions based on bad evidence. He has been known for years as not necessarily a moderate, but someone who isn’t so ideological as to avoid crossing the isle, however he has been drifting farther to the right bank in previous years.
Obama, as everyone has pointed out at some point or another, is said to lack experience, but that claim is a specious one and unlikely to be a truly prohibitive factor due to his public service experience and golden oratory abilities. He’s also the only candidate on stage who didn’t vote for the war, and that could win serious points, unless, that is, you’re one of the Americans who do not believe that we should pull out so soon. Clinton, like McCain, has a strong history of policy, and an undeniable amount of influence in Washington, but she voted for the war and she brings a lot of baggage with her role in the Medicare makeover of 1993. She also highlights the issue of an autocracy since the history books would read Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, Clinton, (Clinton?). This issue borders on the irrelevant, but it’s certainly not a trend we should be condoning.
To sum it up: ‘Le vote utile’ in this election is not nearly as clear as it has been in previous ones, so I’m encouraging everyone on both sides to vote with their heart. We don’t get a lot of chances with so many honestly decent candidates asking for our support. Whether you personally like them or not, the four contenders left standing all bring something to the table and they’ll all put up a helluva fight. For that reason, screw the electability argument, vote for who you love.