In a mere year, the next presidential election will be upon us. While this may seem like a long time for some Americans, candidates have already kicked into campaigning mode; for registered Democrats, primaries start in Feb. 2020.
In 2016, six politicians ran for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, with Hillary Clinton coming out on top — only to lose to President Donald Trump. However, as of Oct. 24, 17 major candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for the 2020 Democratic Nomination. This causes a problem for Democratic primary voters: how can one choose who to vote for when all of the candidates’ ideas begin to blur together? There are simply too many candidates in the running, and it is becoming extremely hard to distinguish who is who.
A poll from the Des Moines Register/CNN found that only 18% of Iowa caucus goers are enjoying the variety of candidates, while 47% are wishing several candidates would drop out to make their decision easier. This occurrence is what behavioral scientists and analysts are calling “choice overload”; there are just too many choices for us to comprehend. A recent example of this has actually just occurred in Chicago; this past spring, 14 candidates ran in the mayoral race (with no big frontrunners) and resulted in almost the lowest turnout in city history, with only 33.4% of people voting.
The large number of candidates also poses another question: what makes them all different and how can a voter distinguish the differences between their policies? For instance, 11 out of the 17 candidates believe in abolishing the death penalty, and only three policy positions have been outlined so far on the issue; a policy position is a stance taken by a candidate. In the case of the death penalty, for instance, the three policy positions that have been outlined are abolishing it, halting it for a period of time and keeping it for certain circumstances. With only three stances and 11 candidates taking the same side, it makes it difficult to differentiate who you want to vote for. Every Democrat, however, supports legal abortions. It makes it very difficult to back a candidate when all of them stand on the same side of an issue and do not have diverse ways of going upon it.
So, how can we possibly choose who to vote for? First off, the widely publicized Democratic debates should not yet be combined. During the Oct. 15 debate, 12 candidates took to the stage to debate their policies; others did not reach the requirements given by the DNC to qualify. However, in the approximately two and a half hour length of the debate, eight of the 12 got to speak for more than 10 minutes while only two candidates were able to speak for more than 15 minutes. Only three of the 12 were able to speak on all 10 topics brought up during the debate, including gun control, the economy and women’s rights.
While some may feel that it would be better to have them all together to see them hash out the topics at once, it is impossible for each candidate to represent their viewpoints as proven with this debate. Even with this arguably long time frame, Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard were given less than ten minutes to talk and only discussed five topics each.
A solution to this can be having more relaxed conversations between commentators and candidates. A one-on-one setting could also be very helpful, as voters can learn about their policies and get to know each candidate more as a person behind the politics.
The 2020 Democratic race has been off to an arguably loud start, and the noise is affecting the voters. It has been proven before that races with many options lead to a lower turnout. That is not what the DNC will want in a year when they are envisioning putting a Democrat back in the Oval Office. Having many candidates is challenging; hopefully, new strategies can help voters control the noise and find a stance where they can focus on the candidates they believe in.