Actions and Words: an Election Day Lesson

One of the most basic principle in strategy is that there is a critical difference between actions and words. Both words and actions can be misleading, but actions speak louder than words for a simple reason: all actions have costs. Words are cheap. Nothing is more dangerous than basing our actions on the words of others when others have an incentive to mislead us in order to get us to do what they want.

On election day, this sounds like a lesson about all of politics and the differences between the words of policians and their actions, but my focus is narrower than that. The point is that there is always a difference between the polls and people's actual votes. This has been true in every presidential election in memory.

Polls can only measure is what the people who want to talk are saying. They cannot measure the difference between what people say and what they will actually do or the difference between those who talk and those who do not. Every election cycle we learn that what is said about the votes is different than the votes themselves. The last thing we want people to think is that their actions don't matter because of what people say. Action always counts. Words only count to the degree that they affect actions.