We are living in dangerous political times. When Obama first took office in 2008, partisan alignment became king. Since then, the lines have been pushed steadily further from the center, and it is practically impossible for moderate candidates to make it onto the ballot, much less win an election.
Anything in politics comes down to one fundamental factor: the voters. Voters have shown a penchant for electing along party lines.
Not only does this result in candidates who are dangerously far from center, but it also condones inter-party attacks and misinformation for the sake of argument. With the internet revolution, sowing anger in the ranks has never been easier. Every day there are stories with clear editorial bias and alternate facts, and formerly reliable media companies have become rhetoric mills and agitators for the ever-widening party divides.
Everyone is talking about a return to center, as though the politicians are solely to blame for the situation. Remember, Election Day is coming up this month, and you have one job: Vote for who you want to see in office, not what party ticket they’re running on. That requires a certain level of research for us voters. There are a few steps to achieving this.
1. Research Your Issues
Politics is intended to be less about the candidates and more about the issues they are in favor of. Pick a few important political debates nearest and dearest to you, and then look up recent policy decisions. Assuming the issue is contemporary and salient, and one of the candidates is incumbent, you should easily be able to see how they voted.
One common misconception is that we need to vote for candidates based on their strength and power to resist the opposition party. This personality-centric way of voting is part of the reason we are facing such political extremes. Once you focus in on the specifics of policy and what is best for you, you suddenly stop worrying about the name on the ballot entirely.
2. Research Your Candidates
In some cases, both candidates are new to the scene, and there is a lack of pattern to their policy decisions and voting. In these cases, you will need to study each candidate’s profile and try to extrapolate from there. Often, you will begin recognizing similarities between yourself and the candidate, or reasons for admiration or hope. Instead of listlessly casting a vote for the face of a party, you might find a third-party — or even opposition establishment — candidate who you click with.
Personality always comes second to policy, as each vote you cast should mirror what is best and most ideologically in line for you.
3. Research Your Research
With so much misinformation floating around, you need to know your sources of information on a candidate are factual and relatively unbiased. Every news source and online forum markets itself as objective and nonpartisan, but very few are. If worst comes to the worst, you can always start from scratch and research decisions your candidate has made. There are several online sources that archive policy decisions and the ways politicians have voted on them, which eliminates any possibility of subjectivity.
Do some reading before Election Day and not only will you become more invested in the results, you will also gently guide future politics toward well-educated and rational voting. Candidates should learn to abandon heated vitriol and focus on the issues and policy they hope to implement or dismiss.