Most American voters select candidates based on their party affiliation rather than the candidate’s specific qualifications. This is especially true for the “down-ballot” races that, despite the description, are in the aggregate more important than the one race that consumes virtually all voters’ consideration. But in this election we see how true it is even of the presidential race, even where one major party candidate’s specific qualities, ideas, and qualifications are so flagrantly disturbing.
Using party affiliation as a heuristic for candidate selection doesn’t have to be a bad thing – if people are adequately informed about political issues and how electing their party’s candidates would impact how those issues are resolved. Instead, party affiliation for most voters seems to be more a matter of cultural identity than thoughtful deliberation. As a result, democratic outcomes represent not our conscious, reasoned decisions but the deep biases and unexamined prejudices we unconsciously receive from history.