How to Choose the Best Candidate

Guidelines to Consider Before Voting

13 mins read

Due to a volatile election season, made fraught by the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine, the implementation of the Telecommunication Act of 1996, the dismantling of education, and the lack of election security, it may be challenging to know which candidates will best represent us. So as we heed our civic responsibility to vote at the local, state, and federal levels, consider the below guidelines to choose the most appropriate leaders for this moment in history.

It’s important to note that just because a candidate looks like you, has the same belief system, or comes from a similar background, doesn’t mean they’ll enact policies that will benefit your life. You can have a lot of beers with people who wouldn’t think twice about throwing you and your family under a bus.

Remember to connect apples to apples. Hiring a businessman to run your country may sound good, but doing so is like hiring a car salesman to fix your transmission. Choose leaders who have the knowledge and experience to keep your life running smoothly.

1. Leads with Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is defined as “the ability to understand the way people feel and react and to use this skill to make good judgments and to avoid or solve problems.” If anyone thinks the ability to be on the world’s stage while exhibiting strength, honesty, and compassion is weakness, they don’t practice these things very often.

Leading with emotional intelligence allows leaders to surmise a scenario and strategically devise the best solution for the people of the country. There are books on the art of diplomacy for a reason. Think about which candidates say what they mean and mean what they say.

2. Understands policy

Politics is food. Politics is air. Politics is water. Politics is education. Politics is healthcare. Whether or not we know policy, we engage in politics every day. Being clear about policy lets us know what a candidate plans to do while in office.

If already in government, review the bills a candidate has introduced or what their constituents say about them. Does a candidate talk about the issues people face? Can they explain how they want to govern beyond platitudes? Our foreign policy affects our domestic policy, so it’s important to know a candidate’s viewpoint, especially when American lives are on the line.

We are employing leaders with a generous salary and healthcare among other perks. Sometimes it helps to think of our representatives as children let loose in the candy story of our tax dollars. If we don’t monitor them by what policies they enact, they’ll make us all sick.

3. Has a record working for the people

Candidates with a can-do attitude have a record that supports the people. Look for those who believe we can accomplish things for the good of all. America is a powerful and innovative country, and nothing is too hard or too expensive when we set our minds to achieve a goal. Air travel was routinely dismissed, but that didn’t stop The Wright Brothers from believing people could travel via plane. If cable news had existed back then, it would be full of the dangers, the expense, or the disbelief that a metal contraption could sustain itself in the air. Watch out for talking heads who scream policy is boring. They want you to think so, so you don’t question corruption.

If a candidate uses fear or blame to get your vote, it’s generally means they haven’t created policies that benefit the people. It’s a divisive tactic that’s been employed for decades to distract rather than inform. This approach also lets a candidate play the perpetual victim.

Listen to how a candidate speaks to people, to journalists, and other officials. When a candidate can freely speak about what they’re for, they don’t spend a lot time worrying about what they’re against.

4. Maintains strong personal relationships

A candidate with healthy personal relationships practices vulnerability and can communicate with a multitude of personalities, because they’re willing to be candid. Consequently, they’re more likely to respond rather than react. They also understand that stress comes with the job and find outlets that give them a respite.

Choose candidates who have a strong support system, both professional and personal. Ask yourself, are they potentially suffering from mommy or daddy issues? Are they more concerned with proving their right rather than governing? Can they give and take? And most importantly, do they know how to take responsibility for their actions?

5. Doesn’t rely on corporate and foreign donors

A corporation’s sole purpose is to maximize profits. Running a country is about managing policies, which benefit the nation as a whole. Due to deregulation and legislation like Citizens United v. FEC, and Buckley v. Valeo, the highest donors can essentially bribe our leaders. This is why it’s imperative to get the money out of politics. Until then, it’s the candidates who are funded by the people who have the edge here, because they report to us. This isn’t about vilifying corporations or ignoring their interests. It simply means that a candidate’s priorities will not come at the expense of the American people.

6. Doesn’t use fundamentalism to divide the electorate

Fundamentalism, of any kind, is a cancer that seeks to control instead of connect. Our forefathers supported the separation of church and state, because they believed religion had no role in a healthy democracy. This action isn’t to disparage belief. It’s to cast out corruption. Far too often religion is used as a means of controlling a people rather than a tool for personal growth.

When someone governs from a fundamentalist perspective, they need a tit for tat, black and white worldview. There’s no room for discussion or understanding a gray area. Moreover, when someone requires a religious mandate, the goal is to keep Americans at odds with one another for political gain, not because they’re truly concerned about someone’s afterlife. Ask yourself, would a candidate have the same beliefs if they weren’t rewarded with money or power?

7. Has a strong ground game

A ground game shows the number of supporters in each state, who are knocking on doors, making calls, or texting voters about a particular candidate. Having a strong ground game can make or break a close election. Find out which candidate is best organized to get out the vote. Look for volunteers who are excited to be a part of a campaign. Think about why people would spend their free time, sometimes braving the elements for hours, on a candidate’s behalf.

8. Strengthens and creates programs

The approval rating for programs like Medicare and Social Security continues to rise. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) planned to strengthen protections by introducing a second Bill of Rights, which would boost the economic freedom for Americans. FDR knew most of Congress wouldn’t support his plan, but was undeterred. He believed his policies would be popular and intended to make the case to the people. Unfortunately, he died before he could implement his ideas.

Find candidates who want to expand on popular programs and create new ones to make our country safer and stronger. It’s easy to dismiss creative concepts as too big or too bold, but it is that kind of ingenuity that created America in the first place. Choose representatives who use their vision and determination to accomplish things and who aren’t dissuaded by naysayers.

9. Wants to serve

They are those who get their value by being of service and helping others. And there are those who enjoy the financial rewards and the quest for power. It’s easy to judge these things as good versus bad. Instead, let’s simply acknowledge what drives a candidate and how that motivation is in our best interest.

Politicians talk a good game, but why do they want to serve? It’s challenging job. Every move is under the microscope. Their family can be targeted. Why does someone run? The answer may deepen your ability to entrust them with such an incredible responsibility.

Which candidate will fight for you? If disaster strikes, who is best equipped to handle a situation? And who will carry on the legacy our forefathers created? Let these words from President George Washington guide you — “I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.”

10. Embraces accountability

For far too long our representatives have told us what is “off the table.” Or they have advised us to “look forward” instead of holding our leaders accountable. It’s time to ask why, and then think about the candidates who will level with us, even when delivering unfavorable news. Do they put profit over people? Do they have anything to hide from their constituents? Candidates, who welcome accountability, are more likely to hold themselves accountable.

Finally, don’t let this election end your involvement in the system. Democracy needs our participation. Find an issue you care about and get involved. You’ll be amazed how fun it is to be a part of the process.

Let’s vote!

Originally posted on Medium. Re-posted with permission.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


Natasha is a writer, speaker, and TV dork. She’s the author of “The Privilege of Watching My Mother Die.”

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