If only there were a way to tell which one that is.
Americans do not vote on issues. Not really. Not even Americans who are conversant with the issues and think they vote on the issues really do.
There are a number of reasons this is so.
One is that there are myriad issues but only—to speak of—two candidates. Though possible, it is statistically unlikely that either candidate’s position on every issue aligns with yours. If you do your homework and you’re honest about it, you will more likely find things you like and dislike about each candidate. Those things are likely to be apples and oranges, making them difficult to score and compare.
Of course, this all assumes that you understand issues. You don’t. Certainly not all, possibly not any. Issues are rarely simple, cut and dried. Details, ins and outs, underlying factors, agendas, implications, outcomes et al are largely misunderstood and in many cases largely unknown. That does not prevent warring parties from oversimplifying, obfuscating and spinning so that you think you understand, leading you to mistake the way someone has branded an issue for the issue itself. Yup. Even issues are brands.
Another reason is that there is no way to separate rhetoric from reality. Can your candidate truly fix the economy? Come on. Economies are chaotic systems. That is, they are subject to oodles of factors which not only affect the economy but affect one another, which affects how they affect the economy, which in turn affects them. The president is but one factor, a small one at that. Can your candidate influence the economy? Sure. To what extent? More than the other candidate? Had your candidate been in power earlier, would the economy be in better shape than it is now? Who the heck knows. Not that not knowing prevents anyone from pointlessly and unproductively arguing ad nauseam.
When all is said and done, we vote for the candidate who “feels” right to us. The brand. While some brands convey what they truly are and stand for, many convey what it takes to make the sale, true or not. Brand identity is not a reliable way to choose a bar of soap, much less a leader. However, and perhaps you know this, when you buy a leader the stakes are somewhat higher.
I am not the first to raise these laments. Nor am I the first to admit that I am at a loss to come up with a better way to do it.