Every Presidential election year brings out the hypocrisy in everyone. Otherwise we wouldn’t have fantastic sites like Factcheck.org or . All candidates try to put one over on the people in some measure. Some through outright lies, some through innuendo and some through cleverly marshalled facts.

So the common reaction and complaint heard over the past few decades is that the candidates don’t focus on the issues. The fact of the matter is, issues can be found much easier than ever before. All candidates have websites where they state their beliefs and proposals. Plenty of third-party websites exist to collect what the candidates have said and done over the years. So what is it that US citizens wish for?

I think the dilemma comes down to the nature of decision-making. Research indicates that emotions play a large part in our decision-making process. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied people with brain damage that affected their ability to generate emotions and found their ability to make decisions seriously impaired. Research at the University of Iowa found that lesions of the amygdala disrupted emotional conditioning, and lesions to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex caused diffculty with conflict situations. In both cases subjectes had seriously impaired decision-making abilities.

This is why we struggle so much at election time. This is why so much negative campaigning and lying and spreading of fear works in helping candidates win. Happiness seems much harder to inspire than fear, so the negative campaigning intends to prey on our emotions and sway us. Lying is handy in setting up a candidate as a perfect embodiment of the friend or neighbour we trust.

The key then, is not to try to take the emotions out of the equation, but to understand our own emotions. Are they inspired by a substantial grounded reason, or have we been manipulated by clever turns of phrase, lies, music, appearance, etc. Once you recognise that emotion is going to sway your decision no matter what you do, you can prevent yourself from being manipulated, or at least manipulated easily.

The people of the US aren’t dumb. They’re just not taking into account the reality behind what’s swaying their decisions. I think a key to changing how elections are conducted and eliminating some of the things we all agree are counterproductive to a democracy, lie in teaching people to be more critical of how they are being led. If we as a people learn to look through the fog and identify our own feelings, we have a chance at clearing up many, certainly not all, but many of the tactics that ave lead to a deeply divided electorate, that seems subject to shallow almost immature ploys of influence.

On a personal note this is why I join no party and identify myself as nothing politically. For me, politics is not a sports team. I will not give undying allegiance to any group or organisation. I hesitate to even call myself an Independent as many make claims to represent that and turn it into a party of its own. I will do my best to educate myself on what the candidates say they believe, what they have done, and how they attempt to manipulate me. I hope you will too.