A lot of people say they don't understand undecided voters. But perhaps undecideds view politics the way I view football. Every year, I show up at a Super Bowl party with a bucket of chicken and no one to root for. I like football, love going to games, but I don't have a "team." People don't get how I can ride through the season and playoffs without a favorite. Well, here it is: 1) I don't pay attention. 2) I don't care.
This must surely be what's at play with undecided voters. Think about it. It is certainly true that not everyone who has made their pick has been deeply engaged in the political process. But everyone who has been engaged has surely made their pick by now.
What else but willful disengagement can explain the claims of undecideds?
"I still don't know anything about him," Joe Random calls in to a radio show. "I haven't heard him explain his plan."
Cue Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes…"If you don't know me by now, you'll never, never, never know me…"
After several months of a rollercoaster race for the presidency, complete with debates, interviews, speeches and editorials, how can anyone claim not to know either candidate's platform, plans or favorite tie color? I want to call it "bull," but that would insinuate that people are just pretending.
Maybe it's for attention. After all, according to political pundits, "it all comes down to the undecideds." Perhaps undecideds relish the thrill of deciding the country's fate at the last minute. They could be getting a kick out of political ads tailor-made just for them. Or maybe they just don't want to explain their decision to family and friends who feel differently. "I dunno" is a sure-fire way to give the slip to annoying relatives.
After the second presidential debate, CNN's Soledad O'Brien asked 25 undecided voters if they had made up their minds. Almost a third raised their hands. What in the world did 90 minutes of a town-hall debate provide that the last 18 months haven't? Again, we're back to football and how I eventually choose my Super Bowl team. A few minutes into the first quarter, I finally choose a side based on a cute player's profile or a riveting head coach story…whatever grabs my attention first.
"The notion that people don't know who I am is a little hard to swallow," Obama told ABC's Charles Gibson. "I've been running for president for the last two years. I've campaigned in 49 states. Millions of people have heard me speak at length on every topic under the sun." In other words, ignorance, at this point, is a choice.
Entertainment Weekly asked Jon Stewart what issue he thought people would end up driving people's votes. "Whatever happens that week," he replied. Sadly, Stewart is probably right. A highly informed, undecided voter is as oxymoronic as an uplifting McCain-Palin rally.
I used to buy the line that undecided voters were the unbiased and skeptical among us, people who were fair and required the fullest possible information before making up their minds. But in these last days of the race, indecision suggests less about objectivity and more about laziness. And while choosing a team based on a superficial whim adds harmless fun to the Super Bowl, it's an irresponsible and dangerous strategy for choosing the next president.
Faith Maginley is a freelance writer and journalist in Central Florida.