The Democratic primary is like buying a new car


Shit just got real

Indeed it did. The absurdity of watching 19 Democratic candidate all descend at once on Iowa like a bunch of ancient high priests around a fatted calf shows that the primaries are now here in earnest. We are less than 3 weeks away form the first debate, and the Des Moines Register is one of the polls that will be used to determine eligibility. Hence the crushing need to make an impression on local voters.

Most of the media coverage on the piranha feeding frenzy has centered on the necessity of the candidates saying or doing something that makes a positive impression on voters, to make them somehow stand out from the other contenders. But the simple fact of the matter is, even in this crowded of a field, the candidates agree on most of the major issues. It isn’t so much a matter of the basic substance, the impression comes from the “features,” or “accessories,” and that’s where the car buying analogy comes in.

I am not going to fall into the trap of saying that at some time or  another, everybody has shopped for a car. Because if I did, I am guaranteed to get at least one comment that states, “I’m 46 years old, and I live in a city with great public transportation, so I’ve never shopped for a car. Get your shit straight, wi;;ya?!?” So instead I’ll just say that at one time or another, most people have shopped for at least one car. Nyah-nyah-nyah. Got ya! But whether it’s a new car, or a used car, it it’s being bought from a lot or dealer, there’s a particular “pecking order” that the process seems to follow, and i think the media is missing a step in that process.

First, there’s the “wish list.” You start by walking around, scanning the lot, just waiting for cars that catch your eye. Style and price are the only issues in eliminating cars at this point, so your wish list tends to be rather sizable and unwieldy at the start. And like our current show lot of candidates, it’s easy to have 15-20 cars on your wish list. What the media is indicating is that once voters have their wish list, they start comparing features and accessories to eliminate cars from their list. And I have a real problem with that hypothesis.

How did you get your wish list in the first place? That’s easy, the damn car is on your list because there was something, or things about it that you liked! And when you come right down to it, it’s easy to find something to like. It doesn’t even have to be physical, it can be emotional and instinctive. Has anybody here ever simply met someone, and yet instinctively known that they were going to like that person, with almost no actual information? It’s easy to find something to like, what sucks large is trying to determine how much you like something. It must be important, that’s why you like it, so how do you determine which likes are more important than the other ones to cull down the herd. That’s where the step comes in that I think the media is missing.

To be able to cull down the list of available choices, you start to peer at those options through the looking glass. Rather than look for things that you like and try to determine their importance to you, instead you start to actively look for things that you don’t like. That’s much easier. Upon closer inspection, you can find something to dislike about almost anything. And you don’t have to register a degree of importance to your dislike, just the fact that you dislike it is enough to let you eliminate it from your list. Also, finding something to dislike is easier, because it’s purely subjective. You can let your mind wander, and find faults with something you were willing to overlook earlier, when you didn’t have as many options, but now those wire rim hubcaps just piss you off.

And now, despite the medias best efforts, that’s the stage that I think we’re at with most voters. They’ve all had a chance to wander through  and glance at everything on the lot. There were some that they immediately rejected as just not being them in the initial sweep. But n ow it’s time to winnow down the list to something more realistic. And rather than get down into the weeds of the minutae of what they like about each candidate, and how much, it’s much simpler to take a little closer look, find something that pisses them off, and strike that one from the list.

And this part of the culling down process is the worst part for the candidates themselves. because, while they can all try to shine themselves up as much as possible, and highlight their own particular features and accessories as being the most desirable, there isn’t a damn thing in hell that they can do if the customer finds that one thing that instinctively pisses them off. Welcome to the Presidential car dealership, and may the best model win!

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  1. A very good analogy, in addition to this what voters have learned from Dimwit Donny is ‘Caveat Emptor’.
    Check carefully, the shiny car on the dealers lot can turn out to have four flat tires, a blown engine, no transmission and ripped seats, and you didn’t notice because the dealer covered the seats, demonstrated how loud the horn was and you didn’t drive it because all cars are the same, right?

  2. I’ve bought three cars in my life, and the first one I bought from my sister, who had bought if from our parents. I think that’s the only one I didn’t need to test-drive, because I knew it had been taken care of, all the way back to the day it came home from the lot (1971, between the dock strike and Nixon’s embargo).
    The third car is the only one I bought new; it wasn’t the model I was looking at, but it’s the one I fell in love with on the test drive. It’s still good, seventeen years (and some major maintenance) later, and it still gets the EPA estimated mileage. I think I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

    • After seventeen years of reliable service and continued good performance, P.J.Evans has the peace of mind of a reliable vehicle and every reason to continue utilizing it. Is your nickname for your car “Joe”, P.J.?

  3. Hmm. I guess the analogy works. Plus I hate buying cars, and I hate presidential primaries, so that helps, ha.

    But the choice analogy is limited, I think, to working for any one voter. When it comes to the broader “electorate,” we often speak about what the party wants or what the voters decide. I don’t know if that feels like an actual choice so much as a massive series of random events cobbled together by a series of elections that produces a result that may or may not indicate a common consensus.

    I mean, that’s democracy, and you gotta love it, but in the end I personally can’t get my head around anthropomorphizing the electorate and suggesting that it’s making a rational or deliberative choice of some sort.


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