The Four Questions for Choosing Our Democratic Nominee

(cross-posted from Daily Kos)

Here we are, in the middle of the hottest summer on record, watching the 2016 primaries get just as hot, with pies flying so fast and furious that the Flag Guy is having to duck.

In the midst of the sturm und drang, I thought it might be helpful to have something more than just pie, policy, and emotion as tools for picking our next Democratic standard bearer to take on the Regressives. How about some questions, with scoring? You fill out the questionnaire, score it, and boom! – there’s your nominee.

So, having perked up a pot of java, I sat down to design the Presidential Preference Questionnaire. And guess what? After much scratching on 3×5 cards, it all boiled down to four questions. Just four. And I’m going to share them with you, right now, for free.

Before we begin, a word of explanation: My intro was light in tone, as I know how pretentious it is to say you’ve written the be-all, end-all guide to picking a presidential candidate. However, what follows is seriously the four questions that seemed to me to capture how to choose your candidate. So, putting aside the BiPM style (because only BiPM can do it justice), let’s begin. Here are the four questions, plus a formula, to help you choose your candidate.

1. Are there any showstoppers for you?

This is a simple question to ask, and to score. Is there anything about a given candidate that would prevent you voting for them, no matter what? Are there things they have said or done, or policies they have espoused, or just something about them, that would make it impossible to you to pull the lever for them come November 2016?

I don’t mean, necessarily, that you would vote for the Repub. You might just skip that line on the ballot, or vote Green, or whatever. But if this candidate is the nominee, you’re not going to vote for them. Period.

Write down each candidate’s name. If you have one or more showstoppers for that candidate, write a zero by their name. If you don’t, write a one.

2. How good are their policies?

This one’s fairly obvious, and is the primary reason that some are choosing Bernie. They like his policies, and are gratified that someone, ANYONE, is talking about them.

Are there policy differences among the candidates? Yes, but not as much as between the Dems and the 219 people running on the Repub side. Still, each of the Dem candidates has policies, including the details, that we agree with, and that we would prefer to see implemented.

So, write down each candidates name, and rate their policies from 1 to 10.

3. How good a candidate are they?

This is the elusive “electability” factor, and is touted by many Hillary supporters as why they support her — even though some of them might actually agree more with Bernie’s policies.

While it’s nuts to be taking polls very seriously at this point, the polling we have seen points to some interesting factors. Bernie’s support seems to be higher where it’s high, but Hillary’s seems to be more widespread.

And yet … and yet … Bernie’s campaign certainly SEEMS to be picking up steam. And support. And people that might not normally vote for a Dem, or vote at all.

Is it enough? Or in the end, when it’s just Dem versus Rep, is it Hillary (or someone else still) who would make the best candidate to actually win the election in November?

Again, write down each candidate’s name and rate their ability to win the big election (NOT the primary) from 1 to 10.

4. How good a President would they make?

Frankly, I don’t hear this one talked about as much, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to write this post. We talk about policies and electability, but we don’t talk much about effectiveness in office.

I had a conversation with a person who works in Washington, and he said that he didn’t think an idealogue, a crusader, would make a good president, because as President you have to learn to compromise. This person said that he loved Bernie, loved his policies, loved his fight, but didn’t think he would make a good president. (He said the same thing about Elizabeth Warren.) On the other hand, he thought Hillary would be very effective in office, and would make an excellent president.

Do I agree? I don’t know … but I admit it made me think.

Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe this is one of the “moments in time” where a crusader CAN be effective and get things done. Or maybe, the policies of the crusader wind up getting done by someone less … crusadery.

So, think about that. Then write down each candidate’s name and rate how effective you think they would be in office from 1 to 10.

The Big Formula

Obviously, you could just add all the numbers up and come up with some sort of score. But what’s the fun in that?

So, for our last step, think about how important questions 2-4 are to you. Then, if one is more important than the others, goose the number up by 3 for all the candidates you listed. If you think it’s all about policy, add 3 points to those numbers. If you think it’s about getting elected, add 3 points to those numbers. And if effectiveness in office is the key for you, add 3 points to those numbers. Be sure to add the bump to all the candidates for that question — no double-bumping!

Then, plug them into here:

#1 * (#2 * #3 * #4) = Final Score

You see what I did there? If you have a showstopper for a given candidate, and gave them a zero on question #1, then their final score is zero, no matter how else they scored. They’re knocked out of the running.

Otherwise, you’ve got three factors, considered independently, that you can take into account. And unless your candidates are from Lake Woebegone (“where all the candidates are above average”) and got a 7 on everything, you should have your choice for the nomination.


So, there you have it: a fun way to think through the nomination, consider some factors, and perhaps take a fresh look at each candidate. Hope it gave us all some new questions to discuss, and some new comments to make in the various diaries.

Because two things, at least, are abundantly clear to me:

  • Any of our five candidates would be infinitely better than anyone running on the Regressive side.
  • Pie tastes better when eaten with friends. 🙂