Top of Mind Thursday May 16, 2019: The Paradox of Choice

Top of Mind Thursday

As of yesterday, there were 23 Democratic candidates officially running for President in 2020, and at least a half dozen more contemplating joining the race.

Leverage2Market LogoTalk about a noisy process! There are now so many candidates that even two levels of presidential debates won’t likely fit all of them.

While it’s great to see so many people actively engaged in the electoral process, is it really good for the country to have so many people chasing one nomination?

The 2000 Jam Experiment, conducted by researchers at Stanford and Columbia, revealed that when they had just a few flavors to choose from, consumers readily bought jam. But when the number of flavors expanded greatly, people actually stopped buying–because they were overwhelmed by having too much choice.

In the 14 months between now and the Democratic Convention in Milwaukee, the field will be winnowed. Some candidates will decide to drop out. Others will leave because they run out of funding or see no feasible path to the nomination. Still others will capture some primary and caucus votes and hold on to try and influence the party’s nomination.

Let’s hope the departure process happens sooner rather than later, to give American voters a number of choices that is likely to engage them rather than drive them away.

Skipping a jam purchase at the supermarket is not a big deal. But skipping a presidential primary because there are too many choices puts the country in a jam that hurts all of us.

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