Election time: How to choose

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By: John Shi <jshi@hilite.org>

1. Register to vote

As the heavily contested Democratic primary finally settles on a candidate–hopefully, for them, before the summer convention–and the presidential race begins to gather momentum, the majority of Americans will once again begin the process of searching for a candidate they can like only to settle for the one they least dislike. And even though it is unlikely that everyone will base his or her vote on a informed and objective comparison of each candidate’s merits in the sole context of that person’s ability to lead the country effectively, I hope I can provide some purely opinionated pointers on how to be such an objective and informed voter.

2. Know your issues

Make sure you are aware of the many issues that each candidate takes a stand on. Basing your vote purely on appearances or on one issue might lead you to vote for someone whose beliefs are completely different from yours. You should never have to look back in two years and realize the head-of-state you voted into office is enacting policy that you had no idea that person ever supported. And you should definitely never have to look back in two years and kick yourself for voting for a certain candidate just because he was tall and good-looking (fortunately, Mitt Romney’s departure greatly diminishes the likelihood of this event).

3. Don’t rule out flip-floppers

Simply because a candidate’s policies as senator or governor contrast sharply with their views in the presidential election, don’t discount them as lying hypocrites incapable of sustaining a credible presidency. First, candidates especially in the primaries must cater to more extreme elements of their constituencies in order to secure the nomination, leading them to “revise” certain views they previously held in attempt to bring their stances in line with party ideals. Furthermore, their stances often change again in the general election, as candidates seek to appear more moderate when trying to attract a more general electorate.

One might be led to believe that such candidates are fickle and unfit to serve, but fortunately, this “flip-flopping” syndrome is often harmless and in many cases beneficial to a candidate’s presidency. A candidate who used to strongly support a certain issue and is willing to revise his or her stance testifies to their ability to adapt to the wishes of the people in spite of past personal convictions. This can, in fact, be a boon to a president’s decision-making tendency as he or she would be more willing to compromise private principles if they fall out of favor with a majority consensus amongst the people. John Shi is a managing editor for the HiLite. Contact him at jshi@hilite.org.