Too often we have heard it said we cannot compare apples and oranges. They are both fruit, they grow on trees, they are generally roundish, juicy, sweet, and nutritious. They compete with one another in terms of price and availability. If you stop to think about it, we shouldn’t have much difficulty comparing any given bushel of apples to a basket of oranges using any of the above criteria (not to mention other desiderata) though when it comes right down to it, your personal preference is probably simply a matter of taste.
The fundamental lesson of our old “apples to oranges” idiom cannot be overstated, however. In performing an evaluation of two alternatives, we need to be make a point of trying to compare like with like. For example, how many calories will eating an apple cost me, when compared with this orange? How many dollars will this Apple cost me, when compared to this Dell? How many years of government experience does this guy from the Big Apple have, compared to this gal from the Windy City?
Which brings us—inevitably and intentionally—to the matter of presidential politics. (For state-level politics, in Oklahoma, please check out Great Plains Skeptic.) When engaging in an argument about what the major party candidates have done—or have proposed to do—too often we allow our interlocutors to subtly (or blatantly) change the subject rather than firmly demanding that they compare like with like.
To give you a sense of what I mean, it helps to come up with quantifiable categories and see how the candidates compare head-to-head:
|Category||H. Clinton||D. Trump|
|Daily newspaper endorsements||153||3|
|Federal annual tax returns released||39||Zero|
|Business-related e-mails released||≥ 30,322||Zero|
|Improper gifts from family foundation||Zero||$25,000|
|Estimated federal debt (ten years)||$200 billion||$5,300 billion|
|People groped or sexually harassed||Probably zero||Probably >> 0|
You probably get the idea. By clearly defining what is being measured, we can compare the two frontrunners without resorting to qualitative wishy-washery, hifalutin rhetoric, or overcooked hyperbole.
I’d be happy to add new columns to the table, if you commit to filling in the rows. (Looking at you, Cherry.)
I’d also be happy to add new rows to the table, if you give me some good ideas in the comments. (Looking at you, Prussian.)