Don't want the presidential primaries to be ugly and shallow? Don't fall in love with a candidate
Repeat after me: There is no perfect candidate.
Did you say that with real conviction, or was there an asterisk attached? If there was a single scintilla of doubt in your voice (mental or out loud), slap yourself and say it again, with feeling.
I’ll go further. There is not just no perfect candidate—people who believe there is make democracy weaker. You can look outside the Democratic primary for that. Look at any given Trump rally, for instance.
You can care about one issue above all others and have a strong candidate preference based on that issue. You can believe one candidate is the most likely to beat Trump. You can care about a candidate’s character and/or personality and just really be drawn to someone. You can believe that one candidate will have the best long-term impact on U.S. politics. But the minute you elevate your preference on any of these things to the be-all and end-all, you become politically vapid and useless, and if enough of us go in that direction, there’s no chance at meaningful political change—everything is a cult of personality, and anyone participating in a cult of personality should feel ashamed.
You don’t know who is the most electable. No one does. Your candidate may be better on your issue than all the other candidates, but that is not the only issue. Likable in your eyes does not necessarily translate to the rest of the electorate, and anyway, screw likability.
You’re allowed to dislike a candidate or two. It’s when it stretches into all but one of them—or one, plus another to whom you occasionally dole out faint praise—that you have a problem. That you are a problem. Test yourself: How many candidates can you say at least two good things about? How hard is it not to add a dig at the end of those good things, or a “but my candidate is much better”? How hard is it to criticize your candidate? If the answer is fewer than three on the first or even a little bit on the second, you’re participating in the poisoning of our politics, however pure your motives may feel.
One thing, though: Men who have good things to say about multiple candidates, but all those candidates are male? We see you.