Phil linked to this article recently, that said:
What you are trying to do, when you are trying to decide if somebody running for President is “electable,”[?] [...] The things that make a candidate “electable” are the exact same things that make them an appealing candidate to you, personally. [...] But if you stop being a consumer, and start trying to do the hard work of finding a message and an audience for them, they will never learn to get it right.
I don't disagree with the main thrust here, which is really just "know thyself". But I would like to argue against the idea that you just have to wait until a party vomits up a few candidates to choose from before you get involved in politics. And that you're then acting as a consumer and "buying the line" that one of them is selling. If you want to have any real effect in politics, you need to start much earlier and make sure good people run.
You may ask, "But I don't know any of those people!" If so, that's only because you haven't gotten involved in local party politics. You need to work for good candidates at all levels. The candidates for higher level office are the ones who got experience running for lower office first. If you want to be involved in presidential politics, you should get started 10 years earlier by helping good people with their first congressional run. The only way to have good candidates is to grow them.
People talk about how money is the most important factor in presidential races -- this is only true because we have a culture of "consumer" politics like the poster is describing. It doesn't have to be that way. If people undertake to educate themselves about politics and the issues, then the sleazebag candidates could spend as much as they wanted and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference. You can find good information if you know how to look for it and you take the time to do so. But, if you're waiting for the MSM and advertising to tell you who to vote for, you're f---ed.