Thursday, April 24, 2008

Just Make Up Your Mind



"They have the potential to control the fate of the world. They look just like everybody else, and they live among us. Nobody knows what they are thinking or what they will do. They are the... Undecideds."

No, that's not an ad for Hollywood's latest blockbuster. It's a description of the most inexplicable demographic in American elections. Others may talk about rich voters, poor voters, white collar, blue collar, African-American, Caucasian, older or younger voters. But for me the most interesting group are those who still haven't made up their minds. And of course, my big question for them is, "What are you waiting for?"

I understand and respect people who want to get to know as much as possible about a candidate before deciding how to vote. They don't just want to vote for a Democrat or a Republican because of party affiliation, or for a liberal or a conservative because of political philosophy. They want to get to know the candidates before they make their decision. But how well do they have to get to know these people?

This campaign has been going on for two years. What is left to learn about the candidates? We know about their marriages, where they went to school, how they dress, and their views on every subject. We know more about them than the people we're going to walk to the polls with.

How many of you waited to fall in love until you checked out everything that special person had said or done since they were born? How many of you forced your spouse to debate that rival you liked twenty times before you made your choice? When you were a kid deciding who was going to be your best friend on the playground, did you insist on seeing all the kids' tax returns?

I'm not saying that voting for the possible president is an unimportant decision. But I am saying that it seems that by this point, people should know everything they could possibly want to know about the three candidates. At the beginning of this month, nearly 4 out of 10 Democratic voters in North Carolina said they were undecided. What's left to learn about Obama and Clinton? Their favorite pizza topping?

Jenna Bush just revealed on "Larry King Live" that she's not sure who she's voting for. What do you think she's waiting for?

All right, maybe it's possible that some people have gone back and forth between Obama and Clinton because their positions on most issues are so similar. But how do you explain all the people who are deciding between McCain and one of the Democratic candidates? This time around, it is such a clear choice, the Republicans and Democrats have such different positions, that I don't know how someone could feel that it's a coin toss for them. They're almost the opposite of each other on so many issues. When the Undecideds go to dinner do they say to themselves, "I'm either going to have something really bland or the spiciest thing on the menu?" Are they torn about their vacation plans? "I'm either going to backpack in the Sahara or get a suite at the Four Seasons." Are they saying to themselves, "I don't know what to do tonight. I'm either going to watch 'American Idol' or read Proust?"

Again, those who defend the Undecideds might compliment them on their deliberation. However, when interviewed, many of the Undecideds say things like, "I don't know who I'm going to vote for. I guess I'll decide once I get into the voting booth," or "I'll see what my heart tells me on that Tuesday." In other words, many of them aren't actually going to make a particularly informed decision after all this time. They're just going with their gut, which they could've done months ago.

Maybe the Undecideds like being wooed. Maybe they like being talked about on the endless political talk shows. Or maybe they just can't make up their minds. That is their right. And they certainly make a political race interesting. I just hope I'm never behind one of them in a buffet line while they're deciding what to take for their dinner. I might starve to death.


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