|The vast majority of
Americans know very well whom they’re voting for
in November. They don’t need $2 billion worth of campaign ads to decide,
because they’re aware that when it comes to the presidency we’re
electing a political philosophy, not a person.
In primaries it’s fine to focus on shades of policy differences and
even minutia like whether jeans trump sweater vests. But that’s over.
If you’re still unsure how you feel about health care, taxes and the
debt – to name just three of myriad issues on which the two parties differ
sharply – then nothing in a stump speech is going to help. Undecideds are
the Justice Anthony Kennedys of presidential politics, and like him they seem
to revel in their role.
Ask members of the GOP base why they vote as they do and you hear things like, "smaller
government and lower taxes; people need to fend for themselves.” Ask Democrats
and it's, "compassionate government and fair taxes; we must help those who
cannot help themselves." Ask an undecided, as the networks manage to do
almost every evening, and it's, "I need to know more about where the candidates
stand; I'm not hearing any details, what are their plans?"
Really? Both parties have outlined their plans in such voluminous detail that
few people are able to wade through it. In fact, as members of both bases know,
it's not that the positions are mysterious, it's that they're so painfully clear.
Take gay marriage: Obama’s for it; Romney’s opposed. The issue
may rouse passion but it’s insignificant when it comes to picking a president.
Yet, Mr. Obama’s recent disclosure about his position produced headlines
like this one in the San Francisco Chronicle: “President gives voters reason
to choose sides.”
No! It doesn’t give any knowledgeable voter a reason to choose sides.
The marriage thing is, and will continue to be, handled by the states. The president’s
views are symbolically important, but anyone whose vote would swing on gay rights
is bastardizing the electoral process – at least under our current system.
Undecideds represent somewhere between 6 and 8 percent of the total electorate;
however, they can only affect the results in fewer than a dozen “battleground” states.
So, when you boil it down, there are about 3 million voters in the U.S. who actually
pick the president. The campaigns will combine to spend about $650 on each of
these votes by people who should know better.
According to the Gallup organization’s records from 2008, most undecideds
dawdled until deep into September. Then, as summarized by Susan Page of USA Today, “By
Election Day, the number of uncommitted voters nearly disappeared.”
Nearly disappeared? Does that mean some undecideds will still be on the fence
come Nov. 6? What will finally sway them? Michelle Obama’s outfit when
she casts her vote that morning?
If Newt Gingrich is sticking to his assertion that Mitt Romney is a liar,
yet now supports him, that should provide a clue that this is about party not
One of the nation’s most articulate liberals, former Sen. Bill Bradley,
when asked on CBS what would help swing voters make up their minds, said: “How
people feel about the two candidates once they get to know them better.”
Please. Barack Obama has been in office for three years; Mitt Romney has been
running for president for much of his adult life. Getting to know them better – and
paying less attention to critical policy differences – won’t help
Unless the day comes when we have more than two viable parties, or if Republicans
and Democrats decide to stop treating governing as an all-or-nothing proposition,
then we’re stuck with red or blue. The purple people are driving the rest
of us crazy.
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle Syndicate.