How To Choose A Candidate

There’s a reason I keep repeating “vote blue no matter who,” even though the presidential candidates the Democrats are fielding all have their flaws–and it isn’t simply because Trump represents the worst of the worst.

Several years ago, someone asked me how I would choose between two unpalatable candidates for office, and I shared my simple formula for making such choices: I vote for the candidate who is pandering to the least dangerous people.

We all know that Trump is deeply corrupt, as well as monumentally ignorant. We also know that his egomania, racism and narcissism outweigh any actual policy preferences–that in order to feed his massive ego, he will adopt whatever positions he thinks will be rewarded with attention, power and the adoration of the misfits who attend his rallies.

Trump, who has been both a Republican and a Democrat, found success pandering to the people with whom he feels most comfortable–white nationalists and corrupt businesspeople– constituencies that dominate today’s GOP.

We can concede that today’s Democratic Party is hardly a monolithic organization of angels and still recognize the superiority of its core beliefs: climate change is real; women are people entitled to control of their own bodies; background checks are not inconsistent with the Second Amendment; African-Americans and LGBTQ citizens are entitled to equality; immigrant families should not be separated; our water should be drinkable and our air breathable; vote suppression is anti-democratic…and much more.

Any Democrat running for political office, from President to County Clerk, needs the approval of the people who have organized around those positions and beliefs. Those are the people to whom all Democratic candidates must pander if they are to have any chance at victory.

I know this sounds cynical, but I am much less concerned with the sincerity of a candidate’s embrace of the Democrats’ core positions than with the fact that he/she must publicly affirm and work for them in order to get elected or re-elected.

Trump is not a bright man, but even he can read the writing on the wall; the Senators who essentially voted to let him ignore the Constitution and the rule of law were elected by pandering to the same bigots who support him. Whether in their “heart of hearts” they recognize and reject the evils they are empowering is irrelevant–so long as they believe they must pander to evil, they are evil.

During the presidential primary contests, people of good will–Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans alike–will have different perspectives on candidate electability. But once a candidate has been chosen, no matter how disappointed we may be in that choice or in the process–we will confront a very simple decision, and not just for president.

We can vote for people running on the Republican ticket–those endorsed by the party whose candidates have no choice but to pander to bigotry and corruption–or we can vote for Democratic candidates who have no choice but to pander to people who overwhelmingly believe in science, reason and civic equality.

This isn’t a contest between individuals. Trump didn’t emerge from a void. There’s a reason  that during the past couple of decades Americans have “sorted” ourselves into two wildly different parties–it is because we hold profoundly opposed understandings of what American “greatness” is based upon. We will continue to be polarized until one of those diametrically-opposed visions of America prevails.

“Vote blue no matter who” recognizes that the 2020 election isn’t about the candidates–it’s about which of those visions triumphs.


  1. Politics is a TEAM sport. Please support the right team. The Republicans are not going to change until they have a profound loss. Lets hope this is the year for that. Vote Blue.

  2. patmcc; excellent observation, Republicans have finally forced many of us into the position of voting for party rather than candidate. Referring to partisan voting as a “TEAM sport” is something that sports-minded Americans might easier relate to. We can only strengthen the Democratic party by supporting it as we support the Colts and the Pacers with favorite team members and those we are not impressed with. The current presidential wannabes need to become a team; disagreements can be voiced without insulting and demeaning one another.

    In 2016; those who voted for Green Party and Libertarians carried more than SEVEN MILLION votes, we can’t know the numbers of those who were voting against Hillary or against Trump or for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. But keep the number SEVEN MILLION in mind and add it to the THREE MILLION more popular votes for Hillary and it gives me the belief that the total would have changed the Electoral College vote state-by-state and possibly prevented Trump’s appointment.

    We will never know but…can we avoid this happening again this year by keeping in mind the 2018 state elections gave the House a majority and we can do the same this November as we vote for Congressional, state and local candidate teams and against Trump by voting “BLUE NO MATTER WHO” for president.

  3. Sorry, Sheila, but accepting the “Lesser of two evils,” or, as you put it, “who is pandering to the least dangerous people.” is precisely why we are in the mess we are in. We have lowered our expectations of candidates and by golly, the DNC has accommodated us with lower quality candidates, but those who take the right people’s money for all of the wrong reasons and lie the best about it. We can do better and we MUST do better.

  4. It is a shame that we have to use this kind of criterion, but the alternative is four more years of chaos and destruction of the Constitution, the environment, and any hope of dealing with climate change.

  5. Neal, what precisely do you believe will actually work? Because the attitude of, “if I don’t get a perfect candidate, I’m going to stay home or cast a meaningless protest vote,” is how we got here, and it is precisely this attitude that is being stoked by the Russians because it’s going to be how we stay here. The ship is sinking and the lifeboats are leaking. Are you going to help bail and help row, or do you think that complaining and asking for a new ship to magically materialize is going to help?

  6. Our foundational ideas of tolerance for those who disagree with us and the rule of law are under attack by trump, Putin, gop, some of the evangelicals, white supremacists and good people who back Trump but don’t understand the importance of our foundational principles and how they are under attack. Per the Mueller report a group of 2OO daily (don’t know if they take any days off) folks Mueller refers to as the IRA go to work in a building in Moscow and work 3814 identified facebook accounts with the purpose of promoting divisiveness and intolerance and ignoring the rule of law in our country (and probably others). The Seth Rich conspiracy is cited as one of the IRA successes. If we don’t go with the “greater good”approach, and let single issues like stop/frisk for Bloomberg, Warren letting a bully cause her to do a dna, Buttijeg kissing his husband, Biden being too spent, error prone and not sharp enough, Klobachar being too petty, and heaven forbid, Sanders a Socialist, abortion, superdelegates, or whatever, we have 4 more years of Trump. This must be the single most important consideration, not any other single issue.

  7. Neal,

    I agree with you, but it’s too late for perfection. The November election is about the survival of what’s left of our democracy, it is as simple as that. As usual, Sheila is right.

  8. Neal,

    Guess what? I’ve got a hole in the bottom of my boat, I’ve got a rag, but that rag just doesn’t going to do it, I don’t like the way it looks, that’s not the perfect way to repair it, so I’m going to wait till I get to shore and get my sheet metal, rivets and silicone. Oh well, I just sunk my boat!

  9. We have two major objectives: NEUTRALIZING Trump now and DEFEATING him in November. It’s that simple. Let’s don’t complicate it more than it is now.

  10. Aimee,

    Well said. I mentioned yesterday that one way to fix the candidate selection process is first to rid the DNC of Tom Perez and his fellow Keystone Kops. Sadly, though, we have what we have. Even my pet cat is smarter than Trump, so “educating” our chosen one to operate in a bar fight is necessary to defeat him, his cronies, the GOP (often the same thing) and the growing corruption and evil in our government. Trump is, obviously, letting the Russians do his work for him.

    We the people have never fielded ideal or perfect candidates. Even Lincoln had to do what we call today, “flip-flopping”. We’re going to get who we’re going to get this time too. The thing to do, as Sheila and many on this blog have long suggested, is understand who the voters are, what they’re looking for, what they need and what flips the switches in their IDs that makes them vote for this or that candidate. From what I can see, the IDs of those 62 million voters who voted Republican and for Trump are a chamber of horrors, frustration, self-pity, weak-minded requiring lunatic leadership….you know, all those things that patently ignorant people have running around in their heads on election day. It’s OUR fault for improperly “educating” these folks. Hillary Clinton was perhaps the worst candidate, irrespective of her qualifications to be President. She didn’t go to the kitchen tables in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio.

    This isn’t rocket science. It’s politics. Much, much harder to understand.

  11. Aimee, welcome to the conversation. It is refreshing to hear from the next generation of leadership.

  12. In general a good column. However, blanket labeling of those attending Trump rallies as misfits is about as counter productive as can be. You hope to win some of those folks over, or at least some of the wavering relatives of such folks? That is not going to do it.

  13. Aimee,

    We didn’t get here because Neal didn’t vote. We’re here because DNC leadership decided in 2008 that the rightful heir was a candidate many of us knew who be vulnerable to Trump because she and they weren’t offering solutions to issues that matter to people. I’m not arguing that folks, if they wish, shouldn’t vote blue no matter who, but if we can’t honestly reflect on our past failures and why Trump was really elected, we’re doomed to repeat them.

    (Fortunately, it’s now clear that we’ll finally have a choice that reflects the will of the working class, the values of the Democratic party, and meaningful progress)

  14. Kudos, Jo Anne – that’s 7M from 2016, but let’s not forget about the 10M millennials from 2016 who didn’t bother to vote at all. I suspect quite a few were Bernie Bros and Bernie Gals who only wanted “our way or the highway”. Well, they didn’t quite get an interstate; rather, a corruption pothole would be monarch…

    As we are seeing in the DEM primaries with the Bernie fanatics…here we go again….

  15. Pat writes, “The Republicans are not going to change until they have a profound loss.”

    There are many of us who made the exact statement about the Democratic National Party or the DNC in 2016.

    They screwed over Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison in favor of Tom Perez and during the last debate, all candidates but Bernie said that superdelegates should choose the most righteous candidate for the presidential nominee. Really?

    So, regardless of the will of the people (democracy), the Democratic Party and its candidates believe the nominee should be chosen by a select few?


    And, what’s worse, is pundits across the nation, will say that we should all rally behind the candidate the superdelegates choose. Hmm??

    If not, we’ll have four more years of the Nazi Donald Trump.

    You couldn’t write a better Hollywood script than this bullshite.

    If you people don’t pull your heads out of the MSNBC sand and see you’re being yanked as much as the Murdoch folks than we really have no hope for this country. Might as well let it burn down with Trumpians in charge.

    There is an old saying, “If you can’t help them up than help them down.”

  16. You have to neutralize Trump’s path toward FASCISM before November or the election, even if a Democrat wins, will only be a “lightning rod” for his followers.

  17. It’s possibly true that the average Democrat overthinks politics while the average Republican underthinks politics. Sheila’s blog today to me rings of just right.

    Profound analysis, which we as liberals tend toward, is just not the sharpest tool for 2020. This is a street fight and whoever hits first and hardest wins. We can return to our comfort zone in 2022.

  18. Trump has solidified his re-election. Anything from now on is just icing on the cake. Have you seen his support numbers from the black community? Candace Owens articulates the reasons why. That old “racism” narrative just isn’t working anymore. Maybe you 20 people in this “liberal” bubble underestimated the intelligence of “common” people who have actually been helped by Trump, his policies and his economy. I guess he found the illusive “magic wand” O spoke about. Trump connects with people who knows he cares about making their life better because they have seen results. Have you seen the diversity at his rallies? The Dems are scared to death of the stats of those that attend. Groups they once took for granted have now found a new home and it ain’t with Bernie. Even crazy Carville knows the party is going DOWN

  19. Todd, good comment on MSDNC @ 10:10 am. I rarely watch MSDNC anymore, it like chewing aspirin without being able to wash it down with water.

    Good read from Common Dreams:
    Saturday marked a clear escalation in hostility from MSNBC’s on-air personalities as Sanders’ diverse coalition of supporters propelled him to a landslide victory in Nevada, the third consecutive state in which the senator has won the popular vote.

    Nicole Wallace, former communications director for the George W. Bush White House, described Sanders’ multi-racial, multi-generational coalition as a “squeaky, angry minority” and accused the senator of deploying “dark arts” as she introduced Democratic political consultant James Carville, who proceeded to declare Sanders’ win in Nevada a victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    The most unhinged lines of Saturday night came from “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, who compared Sanders’ Nevada win to the Nazi invasion of France.

    “I was reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” said Matthews. “And the general, Reynaud, calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over.’ And Churchill says, ‘How can that be? You’ve got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.'”

    “So I had that suppressed feeling,” Matthews continued. “I can’t be as wild as Carville but he is damn smart, and I think he’s damn right on this one.
    HA, HA James Carville, the voice of Clintonian Triangulation and Neo-liberalism.

    MSDNC cannot decide if Bernie is a Communist a Russian Agent, or a Nazi, so lets go nuclear and call him all of the above.
    Reminds me of the Lyrics to a Rap Song: Ya talk about unity, but when I turn my back
    You talkin’ about what ya want to do to me.

  20. A number of the responses to Professor Kennedy’s post today — and on other days as well — are what makes me very worried about the outcome of the election, i.e., the Democratic Party is only slightly less evil and bad as Trump and what was once the [r]epublican Party. The implication being that, as was the case in 2016, “I’m not going to vote at all (or am going to vote for the Green or Libertarian Party candidate) unless the Democrats nominate the perfect candidate who promises to do everything I think should be done.”

    I’m fairly well acquainted with U.S. History, having grown up at a time when it was still taught in school, and also majored in Political Science with a minor in U.S. History in undergrad. Somehow though, I apparently missed the part of U.S. political history where we ever got “perfect” candidates, i.e., those who fully and totally agreed with each and every idea and thought of me the voter or even a majority of the population.

    Names and dates anybody? 1968 perhaps? Nixon versus Humphrey? [Just one example among many only in my lifetime]. Did I really want either one of those two flawed human beings, albeit one far worse flawed than the other, to be President? For those who were voters in 1968, did you? [Rhetorical Questions]. But those were, realistically, the only two possible choices.

    Do we “deserve” better choices? Sure. Will we ever get better choices?

    I’m pretty old now. I’ve heard the lament for virtually my entire life that the choices of candidates offered by the two major parties to vote for are “just awful,” and “we deserve better candidates.” The “perfect” candidate, as Professor Kennedy suggests, has never and will never exist.

    In order to bring together a coalition of people with varied backgrounds, varied values and beliefs about what the common good should be in support of a single candidate, compromises (that evil word) have to be made. Not only by the candidates themselves, but by you and me as voters as well. There used to be an “old saw” about “no one ever getting everything they want, let alone what they need.”

    So what are your core values and visions for what this Country should strive to be? Whichever candidate the Democratic Party selects won’t be perfect, will have deficits, and will be flawed in some fashion. It will be a 100% certainty, however, that whichever candidate the Democrats nominate will better match your goals and beliefs than Donald John Trump.

    We will only be doomed to failure, if large number of voters, who agree with most of what that candidate proposes or at least that we as a Country would be headed in the right direction — even if they don’t like everything — don’t vote for the Democratic nominee because they want a candidate that agrees with them 100%.

    I think that’s what Professor Kennedy meant by needing to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”

  21. I definitely agree with “vote blue no matter who,” even though the presidential candidate the Democrats field might not have been my choice in the Primary. However, I am concerned that Sen Sanders is too much in one direction and a more centrist candidate would be better from a national vote-getting perspective. With a less centrally balanced individual, I’m concerned that too many will vote to keep ‘the devil we know’ or just throw up their hands and not vote at all.

  22. I must admit, that this discussion of the potential weakness of the Democratic Party, only confirms my long-time position that Trump must ALSO be confronted outside of party politics if we are to continue with some form of SOCIAL DEMOCRACY.

  23. ML…

    I am mystified by the people who are lamenting about the DNC while dismissing the popular votes in three states thus far. They will also defend a DNC who will blow off the popular vote for what their Donors want in a candidate. SMDH

    To me, this illustrates the difference between true progressives and those who’ve bailed from the GOP to adopt the Democratic Party as an alternative to racism, misogyny, etc.

    Sanders, in a diverse state like NV just killed his opponents while the likes of Chris Matthews cries for the loss of the nation. It begs the question, “What does Chris have to lose by the people electing a candidate that supports ‘We’ the people?

    The next several months will be quite fascinating and I fully expect the DNC and their controlled media outlets to pull out all the stops possible to defeat Bernie Sanders. Those attempts will be met by even more campaign donations and more volunteers for the Sander’s campaign.

  24. Todd and ML:

    MSNBC isn’t the problem. Maybe if you are a competing entity, they are, but that particular network is NOT the opposite of Fox News. It is NOT the destroyer of truth and fact. Those titles belong exclusively to RIGHT-WING REACTIONARY MEDIA like Breitbart. MSNBC isn’t running a Bullshit con game on the unsuspecting populace.

    The problem is that the voters are generally not sophisticated enough, nor have the time to analyze complex social issues and long-range issues like Climate Change. They mostly need to hear what Trump tells them. The truth doesn’t matter.

    For those of us who want to defeat the yellow muskrat and the Republican party, we must show these voters a different message. They won’t respond favorably to being told that they screwed up in 2016. They have to be reminded of Trump’s lies and illegalities 24/7 until election day. Forget about removing the electoral college. Forget about posting nasty pictures of Melania. Hell, the Trump voters love that stuff. Forget about free college for everyone. Just promote advanced education in vocations and colleges for the poorest kids who can qualify for college. You’ll be amazed at how small that number is. How many votes will come from poor families whose kids go to shitty schools and can barely balance a checkbook let alone take a college entrance exam.

    But I ramble on…. My books on Amazon say it much better. I’ve been writing this theme since 2009. Only Marv and Sheila have read any of my stuff. Enjoy.

  25. Vernon,

    “But I ramble on…. My books on Amazon say it much better. I’ve been writing this theme since 2009. Only Marv and Sheila have read any of my stuff.”

    Vernon knows what he is talking about. I would, especially, re-recommend reading “Why Angels Weep: America and Donald Trump” as Vernon has spent a significant amount of time living in and around the Austin/Dallas area which is the EPICENTER of the disastrous movement we are all faced with, now being led by the neo-fascist Donald Trump.

  26. So OK, I read at the top of the Blog:
    “We can concede that today’s Democratic Party is hardly a monolithic organization of angels and still recognize the superiority of its core beliefs: climate change is real; women are people entitled to control of their own bodies; background checks are not inconsistent with the Second Amendment, etc.”

    What about an elected official who: “Who votes with Trump nearly 70% of the time, has an ‘A’ rating from the NRA, is anti-choice, and has received tens of thousands of dollars from the Kochs.”

    Reelection support from Americans for Prosperity Action, a super PAC funded by billionaire Charles Koch. As HuffPost reported, reelection bid is also backed by “large national and Texas corporations and business associations, including the American Bankers Association, Texas Bankers Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Laredo Chamber of Commerce.”

    So Who could this be??? Why it is Texas Incumbent Democrat Representative Henry Cuellar.
    This is the first time that Americans for Prosperity Action is backing the election campaign of a congressional Democrat.”

    Cuellar has Primary Challenger, so a visit was made by Nancy Pelosi for Cuellar. We want this to be not only a victory, but a resounding victory for Henry Cuellar,” Pelosi told dozens of Cuellar campaign workers and supporters.

    The challenger is Jessica Cisneros.
    Referring to Cuellar and other right-wing Democrats like him, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Saturday that “there are [Democratic] reps in SAFE blue seats who side with the NRA, are anti-LGBT+, and yet are protected because they advance the interests of big donors, Wall St., fossil fuels, etc.”

    “It’s not ‘wrong’ to take that on and do better,” the New York Democrat wrote. “This isn’t about swing seats or pushing communities ‘too far left.’ It’s about accountability. Working families deserve so much better. And if we aren’t willing to admit where we can do better, then what is the point? Our job is to serve the people, not the powerful.”

  27. There are scores of college educated people living in suburbs that in 2018 rejected what the GOP had become under Trump. I cannot believe the Democrats would give those voters back by nominating Sanders.

    There is just no way I am going to vote for a socialist as President of the United States. I cannot do that. A starting point for any candidate is that they believe in capitalism. I never thought that was too much to ask for from the Democrats, but apparently it is.

    While I would never vote for someone as corrupt and incompetent as Donald Trump, I cannot throw away everything I believe in by voting for Sanders. Ds can you please come up with a better nominee? You had some excellent candidates at the start of this process. Sen. Bennett was great. So too was Gov. Bullock. Mayor Pete is one of the most gifted candidates out there. Klobuchar is fine. I have reservations about all of them. But all of them are a 1000 times better than Trump and Sanders.

  28. Todd,

    Sanders won a DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS in diverse state, i.e. Nevada. There is a HUGE difference from winning among Democrats and having enough broad appeal to win in a general election.

  29. I think trump and the fear of having him as president another four years is making democrats as well as the liberal media say and do desperate things. We are up against a disinformation campaign like no other. Not trying to justify Chris Matthews or Nicole Wallace – I just know that the thought of trump being reelected makes me feel physically ill. The thought of having to avoid political discussions with life-long friends makes me sad. I’m over 70 and I’ve never seen our country so in turmoil. Having dems take over won’t solve all our problems, but what is the alternative??

  30. Just to clarify – being old, of course, I’ve witnessed our country being in turmoil many times, but this division, this animosity and lies, lies, lies – just feels different than past upheavals.

  31. Linda,

    “Having dems take over won’t solve all our problems, but what is the alternative??”

    It’s to deal with the TRUTH, instead of pulling punches as the pro-democracy forces, which includes the Democratic Party, have been doing, feverishly, since the presidential election of Ronald Reagan.

  32. Paul K. Ogden; could that Russian support of Sanders rumor have inspired the Republicans to crossover to vote for Sanders to give him that almost 50% margin? Something not quite kosher about those numbers. And did Steyer move in with the leaders to replace Bloomberg to maintain a billionaire on “our” side?

  33. Every “vote blue no matter who” recommendation from now to Election Day will elicit a response from someone saying that’s what’s wrong with Democrats but IMO most of them will be from Trumpublican/Russians trying to sell that as bad as Trump is socialism is even worse.

    Keep in mind that the US has always had a mixed economy of socialism served and regulated capitalism served markets. That has never changed and nobody is proposing to change it now.

    However as we always have done we need to continue keeping it up with the times.

    These times scream the dysfunction of the US’s regulated capitalistic health care and insurance system and the global failure of regulated capitalism to serve the essential stakeholder that is the limits of earth in the ability to serve some 8B-11B of us unlimited growth.

  34. Thank you Sheila, thank you Aimee, thank you David F

    For a starter, I never worried about the “evil, monolithic party bosses” – I cut my political teeth in a radical organization that was called “communist” by our Democratic congresswoman for backing an anti-war (Vietnam) primary challenger. The all-powerful UAW (it was all-powerful in Democratic politics in Detroit at that time) were mad at us for opposing their anti-civil rights, anti-equal rights, pro-union State Senator. They were angry, and scared of how well we did. Four years later, they dumped their State Senator for a new, pro-civil right, pro-equal rights, pro-union candidate. Oh, the organization was called the 17th Congressional District Young Democrats of Michigan. We didn’t take marching orders from the party, we pushed them to change. I haven’t stopped.

    “Lesser evilism” was a phrase in 1968. My candidate wasn’t perfect, but I truly believe he would have been one of the truly great Presidents. He was assassinated. So, I supported the “lesser evil” (still too young to vote then.) Too many people didn’t. Say what you will about Humphrey. Had he been elected, tens of thousands more people wouldn’t have died in Vietnam and he wouldn’t have bombed Cambodia. His plan to end the war was to end it, not prolong it to ensure a reelection – and he wouldn’t have been driven from office in disgrace.

    As Marv pointed out, we have to neutralize Trump now (as much as we can) and defeat him in November. It is that simple.

    Also, I have noticed an increased number of Trump trolls recently. I suggest what I was taught in the Usenet days – don’t feed them. They are here for a reaction, not to contribute. The trolls will go away; those that just disagree will stay and present arguments.

  35. Our November choice is clear. Pull back from the abyss and re-embrace our Constitution or prepare for the Fourth Reich.

  36. Len,

    “As Marv pointed out, we have to neutralize Trump now (as much as we can) and defeat him in November. It is that simple.”

    Better late than never. We can start right now. What should we call the movie?

  37. Len,

    How does TRUMP CARD sound? I purchased the URL:, 7 days after Trump announced he was running for President. I still own it.

    “I skate to where the puck is gonna be, not where it has been.”
    ~Wayne Gretzky, Nationa Hockey League great

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