This post has been in my draft bin since the last Presidential election. I was trapped in the loop of having to publish a post on politics about why it’s bad for your reputation to post about politics.
In theory all voters would make a rational decision and the best candidate would win. If all Americans applied the same logic, one candidate would get all the votes. Of course this never happens. Voters apply a value to each of the characteristics of a candidate and then ultimately choose a single candidate. These characteristics fall into 3 major categories based on significant research I did while driving home yesterday listening to a boring audiobook:
- The candidate’s stand on issues (taxation, abortion, medicare, welfare, ad infinitum)
- The candidate’s party (that has it’s own stance on both issues and ideology (how the Constitution should be interpreted, the role of Government itself, ad nauseam)
- The candidate’s personality (values, appearance, ability to look good on TV, if they’ve been caught as an outright cheat and liar, [#LatinPhrase])
Every voter does their own calculus to determine how to cast a vote. Some consider party affiliation most important and don’t have to think much. Others get wrapped up in mental gymnastics such as struggling with the relative value of a candidate being pro-choice being as positive, versus allegedly claiming to be Native American for preferential treatment when applying for jobs (especially when I didn’t have the stones to try that stunt on my own college applications). Every person assigns different values to these factors, giving us an infinite spectrum of possible reasons why to vote for a candidate.
Another factor is the two party system – many polarizing opinions end up getting adopted by one party, with the counterpoint on the other. This gives you interesting logic puzzles that complicate the calculus – like justifying your opinion on abortion with your opinion on foreign policy (you might do anything to save a fetus, unless it is now grown and in some country we are at war with and needs to be killed).
You go through the exercise to determine what issues are important enough to swing your vote in one direction and cast your ballot. Here’s where you get burned – you’re thinking “These 1-5 factors are what I consider the most important, and I have cast my vote”. You feel you are standing up for your important short list, but to everyone that sees you brag about your candidate on Facebook they see you as against their short list. While you think you are standing up for your 1-5 things, you are seen as standing against an infinite list of topics for the half of America on the other side of the aisle. Talking about your vote for the “Pro-Life” candidate causes you to be perceived by others as not only “Anti-choice”, but pro-mortgage crisis, pro-guns, pro-screw the poor, regardless of your actual opinions on those issues. Vice versa, posting about your recent “Pro-Choice” candidate vote immediately causes some to identify you not only as “Pro-Death”, but anti-family, anti-church, anti-business hippie, pro-creating the fall of America through the welfare state, and any other thing the right is against that you are now the proud spokesperson for.
The short answer is – do you want to advertise that you are against what half of America considers most important? Your best odds are now 50/50 on your next sale or job interview, are you really looking to make your life tougher?
The candidates, the press, the pundits – all of them get paid for taking a side. What do you get for lending your reputation to a political party/candidate/issue? Remember the poker adage, if you are looking around the table and you can’t figure out who the sucker is; you just did.