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Election season is upon us. Although 2020 may seem like ages away, for all of the candidates running for President, campaign season started the day after the 2018 midterm elections. This election cycle, 25 Democrats and two Republicans (including President Trump) are running. This means, particularly for democratic voters, that it is time to become informed and decide which candidate to vote for in the primaries. Choosing the right candidate can be a difficult, time-consuming process, so here are six tips to help make that process a little easier.
1. Look at what the current president is doing to decide how you would like the next president to act similarly or differently.
Figuring out what qualities you care about in a candidate and where they stand on these issues can be tricky. So, to make things easier, consider your level of satisfaction with the current occupant of the White House. If you like what you see, it is likely a good idea to stick with them if they are seeking re-election. If not, you know to turn your attention to other candidates. Being able to narrow down the type of candidate you want can be extremely helpful and make the choice seem far less overwhelming.
Figure out which issues are important to you and where each of the candidates stands on them. First of all, finding the time to figure out your stance on every political issue can be extremely difficult. Second of all, the likelihood of you finding a candidate that checks every single one of your boxes is slim. Instead, focus on figuring out the issues that are most important to you; these could be anything from foreign policy to the opioid epidemic. Doing this is not only significantly less time consuming than researching every candidate's position on every issue, but also allows you to consistently track their actions around the issues throughout their campaigns.
2. Consider the policy change you would like to see happen in the White House and who you think is most likely to deliver this change.
One aspect of federal politics that can be frustrating for voters is how slow change occurs sometimes. It can take years for legislation to be passed. If there are certain issues you care about that are pressing today, such as climate change, look at how your candidate has been able to deliver in the past. Many politicians talk a “big game”, but when it comes down to it, a lot of the ideas that they have in mind would take years to implement. For all candidates but especially those without past political experience, pay special attention to their strategy for implementing their policy plans. Presidential candidates are never short of incredible ideas for policy; however, what is truly incredible is when they are able to enact it.
3. Look at their past experience, and I don’t just mean in the political sphere.
There are only three constitutional requirements for running for President: you must be a natural-born citizen who has lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years and is at least 35 years old. No prior political experience is required to run, and as was seen in 2016, sometimes having prior political experience can be viewed as a negative by some voters. So, consider what type of past experience you would like a president to have, and match those views with a candidate. For some, this means a candidate who has worked in politics for decades. For others, this means a business executive. Either way, looking at a candidate’s professional experience can often give you a good idea of how they will lead if elected.
4. Look at where the candidates’ donations are coming from.
The issue of campaign financing means different things to different people. For some, it is not important. For others, however, knowing where a candidate gets their money from can be a pivotal factor in determining who voters choose to vote for. Candidates who receive most of their funding from Wall Street, big corporations, and super PACs may not be viewed in the greatest light by some voters as do candidates whose funding comes primarily from small businesses and supporter donations. The people and places from which candidates receive most of their money can often be telling of the positions that they take and the policy plans that they have.
5. Watch the Candidates.
There are plenty of opportunities to watch candidates speak. One of the most popular formats is the debates because voters get a good look at each candidate’s temperament, as well as how well they can think on their feet and get their points across clearly and concisely—all important traits to consider when voting for a presidential candidate. However, there are many other ways to observe your candidate, whether it be their social media presence, speeches they give on the campaign trail, how they act at rallies, and even how they respond to hecklers. All of these opportunities can help provide hints as to the type of person and leader who you want to see occupy the White House next term.
Rina Dale is a student at Skidmore College studying Political Science, Sociology, and Intergroup relations. Since high school, she has had a deep passion for social justice and hopes to use Step Up as a platform to continue speaking out for the betterment of our world. Originally from the Greater Boston Area, Rina loves to travel; she recently spent a year abroad in Israel working with refugee families to help them gain access to the rights and freedoms they deserve. When she's not studying, Rina can be found doing yoga, going on adventures with her friends, or reading.