Who won the Vice Presidential debate Tuesday night?
Some with say Tim Kaine was dominant with his attacks. Others were enthralled with every grin and smirk by Mike Pence while he delivered well-timed zingers.
It’s a binary choice.
We hear it all the time as people explain how they can support one party’s candidate or the other despite the horrible things they are accused of doing by the other side.
This is the problem with American politics. There are only two real choices. If you don’t like one of those choices, you migrate to the other. With two candidates breaking records for historically low approval ratings, most voters aligned with a candidate are actually just very misaligned with the other.
Hillary Clinton is polling with support from about 45 percent of American voters. That number is strikingly similar to the number of voters who identify as Democrats. There is this funny thing where people register as Democrats because they tend to agree with Democratic candidates.
Believe it or not, Republicans make up about 40 percent of the electorate. If you are paying attention, you have a pretty good idea of where Donald Trump is polling nationwide.
There are always reasons that people identify with a party. That makes it entirely unlikely that the Democratic candidate could say anything that would make even a handful of Republicans leave the party whose beliefs obviously align more with their own.
As Trump is proving on almost a daily basis, there is almost nothing a candidate can say to make voters leave them if they are inclined to belong to the same party.
So for the 15 percent of voters who register as Independents or with other smaller parties, there is good news. You get to decide who the President will be.
Sure, there are factors in elections like turnout. A candidate who makes voters excited to cast a ballot will get more of the members of their teams to the polls when it counts than a candidate who embarrasses a party and makes voters give excuses for their support.
But the turnout margin is almost always negligible. The winners pull more of the unpredictable voters to their side.
But it isn’t all of the independent voters. If you live in a state like Oklahoma and Kansas and you are an independent voter, you just eliminate yourself from primary elections. Your electoral votes are going to the Republican so your vote is an exercise in civil responsibility more than decision making.
Most of our elections come down to uninterested voters in about 13 swing states who watch game shows instead of news shows and figure out who they like a week or so before the election based on some strange reason no one will ever know. These are the people who bet on horses based on the color the jockey wears. They don’t know why they made the choice, but it just feels right.
So why do you get so mad at your Facebook friends for saying who they will support? Did you really expect a religious friend to throw his support behind Hillary Clinton because Donald Trump called Miss Universe “Miss Piggy” 20 years ago? Do you really think that your liberal friend is going to pledge her allegiance to Trump because Clinton sent some emails from the wrong server?
These decisions were made years ago. The vast majority of voters do not vacillate from election to election. There aren’t many Bill Clinton/George W. Bush/Barack Obama voting patterns out there. Sure, you know a guy at the coffee shop who says he did. The reason he tells the story is because it is interesting because it is unusual. If you see a dog on the way home from work, you don’t mention it. But if you see a Bigfoot, your friends are going to hear all about it.
So relax as you read your crazy friends and family members’ posts on social media.
Other people think things. So do you. It’s okay if they aren’t the same things.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.