I got a phone call today from a canvasser regarding the California Assembly race in my district between Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles (I'm not going to say which side they were calling on behalf of, as that would distract from the point of the post).
I was actually kind of glad to get the call, since I'm undecided in the race (both are Democrats, the candidate I voted for in the primary didn't advance). Moreover, while each candidate has a pretty clear tribal identity, so to speak (Wicks is the Clinton-Obama candidate, Beckles is the Sanders-DSA candidate), it had seemed to me that on the vast majority of issues that were pretty much identical -- or, at the very least, I hadn't heard a lot that differentiated them on an issue basis.
So I asked the canvasser: I said that it seemed like both candidates were quite similar, and I was curious what were some issues where they were differentiated from one another.
And boy, did that question seem to throw him for a loop.
Now, that's mildly unfair of me, since again it seems that on the majority of major issues they're very close together (after the call, I did some more research and this Berkeleyside article gives some key points of differentiation).
But still, "how the two would vote differently in Sacramento" was clearly not on this guy's list of prepared talking points. He kept on trying to go to resume, or fundraising, or "tribe", or personal dislike (e.g., calling the other candidate "slick" -- that affirmatively turned me off, since I'm sick of Dem-on-Dem violence in cases where it is obvious that both candidates are fine).
Each time, I had to repeat that what prior jobs the candidates had held, or who endorsed them, or who was a "fighter", were not "issues"; how were they different on the issues?
The one he was able to give me was their divergent stances on Proposition 10 (concerning local authority to enact rent control ordinances): Beckles supports it (giving greater authority to local government), Wicks opposes it. And I thanked him for that, and said I would look into that issue -- since again, it reflects an actual issue-based difference between the candidates.
But yeah, it was for me at least a little bit of a depressing experience. One might hope that "how the candidates differ on the issues they'll face once in office" would be a sizable factor in backing one candidate over another (and, to be fair, maybe in a race where there were more sizable differences between the candidates, it would take on greater salience). Alas, apparently not.