Another Perspective

The Undecideds

What's left for them to decide, except the outcome of this election?

By 10.15.08

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There are lots of things I don't understand -- monetary policy, electrodynamics, or the TV show called "Dirty Jobs" that features sewer cleanings -- to name a few. Here's something else I don't understand: the "undecided" voter. We are so very close to a presidential election and we're still having debates and ads and speeches aimed at the "undies" (a little name I made up). Even the political sage Karl Rove confirms that "there are probably more undecided and persuadable voters open to switching their choice than in any election since 1968." Wow.

The question of how these voters can exist this late in the game -- which is an important point -- is not what baffles me most. What I can't figure out is what are they wrestling with? Others are wondering too. Here are the words of one blogger: "I do wonder what these people are looking to hear or see that will make up their minds or are they just not paying attention and relying on being slapped in the face with whatever proof would float their boats." A columnist mused, "After the debate, pollsters in swing states still found holdouts that said the debate was not a game changer. They still had not shifted one way or another. How could this be, especially in a campaign season that has lasted about as long as it takes a graduate student to get a master's degree?"

Others think they have the answer. In a report on "The Psychology of the Undecided Voter" we read, "researchers report that people who think they are undecided about an issue often have made up their mind at an unconscious level. So while the latest national polls show [a percentage] of Americans still don't know who they will be voting for in November, the percentage of voters who truly are undecided may actually be much smaller…It's not that people are lying to the pollsters…it's that they may not consciously recognize the automatic associations that influence their decisions."

At "The Daily Show" they play these "automatic associations" for laughs, reporting the findings of comedian John Oliver's "poll" of undecided voters: "Let's look at the latest numbers. Right now, nationwide, it's Obama 49, McCain 43, Undecided 8. Those Undecideds can still break either way. But who are they? As you can see, they fall into a variety of categories: Attention seekers; racist Democrats; the chronically insecure; and the stupid. That is 45% of the Undecideds, John. They are the swingiest of the swing voters. And they, as they always do, will decide this election."

So I put it to you. How can anyone imagine that they are looking at an equivalent choice with little difference in the consequences? Liberal or conservative? More government, less me -- or more me, less government? Soup or salad? These voters have become the man in the burning theatre who couldn't decide whether to leave or finish watching the movie.

Do these undies wrestle with internal arguments such as "Gee, which do I like better: higher taxes or lower taxes? I can't decide. What about foreign policy? I don't know whether I want to be real nice to the bad guys or be real strong to the bad guys. I just can't figure it out."

Please, undecideds! Recognize that your choice will have enormous and unequal consequences. Recognize the difference that will make to you and to your country -- and choose soon and wisely.

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About the Author

Manon McKinnon is a writer living in Falls Church, Virginia.