Yeah, yeah all of you have about the old saying that "too many cooks spoil the broth." Right? In politics too much of anything can be a very bad thing. As an old political operative I know that targeting is the way to electoral victory in the modern political campaign playing field and environment. Less is more is a great rule of thumb. So try telling that to Democrats and their ever-widening roster of presidential hopefuls, narcissistic name recognition hounds, and people who just have no real hope of even making the second round in the presidential circus.
Is that how these yahoos really think they're going to beat Donald Trump?
Behavioral science tells us that too many choices create confusion, and that as humans our brains are not programmed or designed to handle all of these multitude of choices all at the same time. Moreover, this is definitely NOT about so-called American democracy. Not because you can exercise your democratic rights to run for political office means that you should or that you are automatically qualified to run because of this right. This Democratic Party "presidentialfest" is just getting way out of hand.
Its going from the hilarious to the outright bizzare. Hello? It used to be democrats criticizing and laughing at Republicans in 2016 when they fielded about 7 presidential candidates including Donald Trump. Back then it was just Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders if you leave out the Green Party candidate and other zany wannabe politicians without any hope or prayer of becoming the POTUS. They just siphoned off Democratic votes and helped the present occupant of the White House win the election. What a bunch of spoilers!
And what's with all these misnamed and overhyped CNN "presidential town halls? Since when a declared not certified candidate becomes "presidential" just because he or she expresses the intention to be the next president? They are simply a bunch of people with the desire, the wish or yearning, to be president. That's all. To date, not one voter signature has been gathered; not one campaign office opened or any of the other things that signal that the presidential season is in full swing and a candidate is serious. Maybe it's the ratings and viewership that translates into advertising revenues that CNN is after.
In fact, the first Democratic presidential debate is scheduled to take place over two nights and three TV networks in June. But the laughable thing is that the stage isn't big enough to handle the dozen-plus candidates seeking the party's nomination, so they must surmount a variety of hurdles involving polls and fundraising just to qualify. So in essence who will make the cut is dependent not on voter support but on who can meet some silly and arbitrary fundraising threshold, and how a candidate performs in immediate polls that can be doctored and slanted.
Yes, this crowdfest is not a Democratic Party primary; it's political fandango. Its like a music festival where you can have a really hard time choosing among all the loud, off-the-wall bands with competing time slots. This growing list of candidates will give Democratic voters what behavioral scientists call "choice overload." Bluntly put, having too many choices can make it harder to make an objective decision, and this is likely to have a profoundly negative effect on the Democratic 2020 campaign and its hopes and chances to oust President Trump from office.
And yes, it might seem as a great thing for American democracy to have a soccer team's worth of candidates to choose from with substitutes and all, but behavioral science predicts that too many options will, counter intuitively, result in lower satisfaction among Democratic votersand possibly lead to lower enthusiasm and as a consequence - lower voter turnout. Don't believe me? We just saw an instructive demonstration of this problem in the recent Chicago mayoral race, where a crowded, diverse, but qualified field of 14 candidates without prohibitive frontrunners coincided with the lowest voter turnout in that city's history at an embarrassing 33.4 percent.
Here are the other factors that militate against an overcrowded field of candidates in any election including a presidential one. The thing is that an abundance of marginal candidates (and there are many in the Democratic presidential hopeful list) will make it harder for Democratic primary voters to comfortably evaluate the candidates with realistic chances of winning and that will reduce enthusiasm for the party's eventual nominee. Choice overload allows us to make some educated guesses on how, in this case, primary voters are likely to react to a group nearly large enough to field both sides of a softball game.
Those voters most engaged in the processes hardcore Democratic primary voters will bump their heads against the "political wall" only for so long. Then they'll become disillusioned, lethargic, and tune out the process because they are unable to make the best/right choice. The thing is that those who do decide to vote are even likelier than normal to default to the better-known candidates, making it harder for the candidates now polling in the single digits to break out of the pack despite their credentials and nauseating and unending media coverage.
The solutions? Well, in a crowded political field, smart candidates embrace simplicity and limit the number of attributes they highlight. You have a 20-point national security plan to trump Trump's? Bully for you. But put it on your website and just tell voters, in a couple short sentences, what America's role in the world is.
And yes, you think you have America's tax conundrum solved. Your tax plan is the best and will save the beleaguered middle class a gazillion dollars? Awesome. But just tell me how much I'll save, or better yet, tell me how much I stand to lose monthly if I vote for someone else. Oh yes, wear the same outfit every day, literally to make it easier to pick you out of a crowd. As crazy as this sounds it works. Trust the experience of a veteran political strategist.
One more thing: I've been highly critical of CNN's town halls because I believe its kind of overkill and saturation. But they do serve one important thing they are effective in creating more exposed, public in-depth discussions reaching broader audiences and potential voters. This is a good thing.
THE TRUMP POLITICAL CONUNDRUM
Let's start from the fact that incumbent presidents usually get reelected. That's because voters almost have to be really convinced that an office holder is so bad that he or she needs to be ditched. And because incumbent United States presidents usually get reelected, it's often very difficult to tempt top-notch candidates to run against them.
But Trump is a different political kettle of fish from most incumbent presidents. For starters, his initial electoral victory was weak. He lost the popular vote by a significant 46 to 48 percent, marking him from the start as an unusually unpopular winner. He followed that up with a distinct lack of humility, and did essentially nothing during the 2016-'17 transition winter to try to reach out to skeptics, independents or assuage doubters.