Politics

A Nation of Decideds

Remember something called a Presidential honeymoon period? That was the time right after an election when the winner was given a brief respite from attack by the opposition. It now seems like a very old and very quaint notion. Rather than honeymoons, recent Presidential elections have been followed by attempted annulments. We seem to be irrevocably stuck in an age of 365/24/7 politics. Battle lines are never erased and swords are never sheathed. Minds are made up, and they stay that way.

And yet each new Presidential election cycle brings us story after story about the so-called “undecided” voter. The analysts claim that this is the guy who will determine the election results. He gives pundits something to talk to each other about, news magazines something to feature on their covers, and pollsters someone to blame when they get it wrong. There’s one thing that’s missing from this picture, however: a living, breathing undecided voter. Like the unicorn, he’s fun to talk about and an interesting figure to contemplate, but I believe he’s a myth. There may, indeed, be voters who tell pollsters that they haven’t made up their minds, but I believe they say that either because they want to sound thoughtful and reflective or they think it’s more polite than saying, “It’s none of your business!”

Were you undecided as the last Presidential election approached? Was your significant other undecided? Your co-worker? Your neighbor? Do you know anyone who was likely to wander into a polling place mumbling, “Hmmm, Bush or Kerry, I just don’t know. They both seem like really swell fellows, and each has some very interesting ideas. So which one of these fine men will it be? Let’s see, where’s that coin?”

Those who write about politics will tell you that the letters, calls and emails they receive reflect absolutely no indecision. Readers who agree with you think you’re brilliant and those who disagree think you are a moron. No one writes to tell you that your thoughtful piece has changed his or her way of thinking.

That’s why I’m not too alarmed by all the shouting matches that pass for political discussion on the cable news networks. It’s just entertainment with each side preaching to its own choir. There is not the slightest chance that a single viewer will change his position.

Changing demographics do seem to favor “red” America. The growing Hispanic population tends to be socially conservative. And, as more and more African-American voters see their economic conditions improve, they are becoming less apt to vote as a bloc. It’s trends such as these that seem more likely to cause shifts rather than what the politicians, reporters, talking heads and bloggers try to convince people to do.

That’s the trouble with trying to influence an undecided voter. First you have to find one.


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