Conventional wisdom in American presidential politics runs along the following lines:
A candidate running for the Democratic Party nomination needs to appeal to that party’s core in order to gain the nomination. Since the Democratic Party core tends to be substantially left of the American center, the winning candidate will need to “tack” to the left just far enough to gain the party’s nomination, but not so far to the left that the candidate is unable to (credibly) tack back toward the center for the general election, where the majority of the votes will be found at that time.
Meanwhile, a candidate running for the Republican Party nomination also needs to appeal to that party’s core in order to gain the nomination. Since the Republican Party core tends to be substantially right of the American center, the winning candidate will need to “tack” to the right just far enough to gain the party’s nomination, but not so far to the right that the candidate is unable to (credibly) tack back to the center for the general election, where the majority of the votes will be found at that time.
Mainstream media, and party faithful, are well aware of this conventional wisdom and seem suspicious of candidates who appear to be ideological purists. So, for example, Ronald Reagan was thought to be too far right of center, and too unwilling to change that fact, to win the general election of 1980. And Bernie Sanders may have lost the Democratic nomination in 2016 because Democratic party operatives assumed he was too far left of center, and too unwilling to change that fact, to win the general election of 2016.
Note the interesting paradox that results from this analysis:
We criticize our presidential candidates for “flip-flopping” on issues, the assumption being that someone willing to change positions on important issues lacks firmness of character. But then we criticize our presidential candidates for failing to understand the obvious importance of “tacking to the center” in time for the general election. (“How stupid can they be? Don’t they know they have to soften their positions?”)
We Spirited Reasoners are willing to admit this type of thinking is “conventional,” but we do not view it as wise. We understand that a majority of electoral votes will be necessary to elect the next president. We also understand that the issues people care about in one state may differ from those in another, so there may be multiple ideological dimensions at play, not just a single left-right axis. We would rather elect a thoughtful person who has formed positions on issues based on principle, rather than a politician whose positions are based primarily on the determination of the center-point of the American electorate, if such a point even exists.
We Spirited Reasoners look for candidates whose approach to the issues is thoughtful, reflective, research-based, and grounded in our founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the reasoning nature of their approach, not the resulting conclusions, that stimulates our spirit.