I’ve seen in several places the argument or assumption that an undecided voter is necessarily uninformed – that the differences between the two candidates are just so obvious that anyone remotely paying attention should already have figured out who they’re supporting.
I take a little bit of offense to these statements, as I am, after all, still undecided. My dozen or so loyal followers* (Hi guys!) know that I’ve been blogging for just over a year, and have been following electoral news pretty much compulsively for the last 18 months or so. I wager that I am far more politically engaged than the average voter who HAS made up his or her mind, so this SNL sketch aside (which I actually love), it’s possible to be both undecided and informed.
I have a couple problems keeping me from coming down firmly on one side or another. Even if I assume that it’s possible to decipher exactly what policies the candidates do and do not support, I agree with President Obama on some issues and Governor Romney on others.
Broadly speaking, we can probably group most issues under the umbrellas of social, economic and foreign policy, though that leaves big, important issues like immigration and the environment without a comfortable place to sit. Even assuming those broad categories are useful, I see why no reason why I need to align my social beliefs with my economic beliefs, or why the candidate that I prefer as a foreign policy candidate should the same candidate I prefer as an economic candidate. Deciding how much to weigh each of those issues is relatively difficult.
Late, I’ll delve into those three policy areas with more detail and explain why even within categories I’m having difficulty making up my mind. Before I start, though, I’ll deal with the most obvious retort to this post: “Quite whining and make up your mind.” Here’s the thing – don’t we have campaigns for a reason? Don’t we pick a particular day for a reason? If I’m still equivocating on November 7th, then you can call me a whiner, but until then, I think a little indecision is a good thing – you wouldn’t scream at a jury to make up their mind while there are still witnesses to be called.
I also have strong doubts about the ability of any President to make that much of a difference in areas like the economy, and have even stronger doubts about my own ability to predict which candidate actually would make a difference if given a chance. Prediction is hard, and voting is essentially a prediction “I think the country will be better off if Candidate X is elected than if Candidate Y is elected.” Making that decision involves a complicated calculus weighing a) the candidates positions b) the effect of those positions c) the likelihood that they will actually be able to enact those positions into policy and d) the likelihood that the conditions required for those policies to work remain in place.
With that said, I do have positions and opinions about President Obama and Governor Romney and their likelihood of success in different areas of politics. So in a series of posts in each policy area (social, economic and foreign relations), I’ll explain where I come down personally, and why the factors of this election make it hard for me to make up my mind.
*: I’ve also seen the argument that undecided voters are really just “attention whores” who have made up their mind but want to pretend they haven’t for sake of appearances. Defense against that claim is essentially impossible, like saying “I’m not in denial.” You’ll just have to trust me when I claim that I am, in fact, undecided.