Monday, November 3, 2008

In defense of undecided voters

October 30, 2008, at 11:23 pm, I decided who I was voting for.

That's right. Less than a week before the election and I finally decided who I was going to vote for. This is not new for me. In 2004 I didn't decide until I was actually in the voting booth.

I get really tired hearing pundits mock undecided voters.
"Who are these people?"
"Have they been living under a rock?"
"What could they be possibly be expecting to hear?"

Undecided voters aren't stupid, or uninformed; at least not the ones I talk to. We're frustrated.

We're frustrated with a political system that things that the two party system represents all the political ideologies in this country. Ideology has two component. It about what you think the government should do about moral issues, and what you think the government should do about economic issues. But those two components can combine to create four distinct ideological agendas. That means a lot of people in this country don't fall nicely into the political space mapped out by the two dominant parties.

And so, they listen, trying to decide if economic issues are going to be more important or moral issues are going to win this election. Does abortion or guns or their job at the local factory or health care or any of a number of issues have to be the issue they vote on because they can't vote on the issues, because to vote on the issues, there would have to be different, or more, or other candidates than are out there right now.

There are third party candidates.

I've voted for third party candidates.

I voted for Nader in 1996. And 2000.

I did not cost the election for Al Gore. First, because I lived in Idaho when I voted in 2000, but more importantly, because my vote did not belong to him in the first place. The two major parties try to convince people that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote, but as long as people are not voting for anyone else, there is no impetus for change. Al Gore should have won in 2000. He ran a terrible campaign. He lost that election on his own merits, and can't blame anyone for it. Well, maybe the Supreme Court. But he can't blame Nader. And he can't blame the people who voted for him either.

Voting is a precious liberty. I'm so impressed with the stories of people spending 4, 6, 12 hours in line to vote. It's horrific that they have to stand in line that long, but I am awed that they do. My vote does not belong to the Democratic Party. It does not belong to the Republican Party. I do not completely agree with either candidate. I have taken my time deciding for whom I will vote. My indecision is a sign of my commitment to the process, not my ignorance or flightiness.

So here's to you, undecided voters. I hope you can find what you are looking for in the next few hours. Or, if you can't, that you can at least find peace with your choice. Even if you don't make it until you're standing in a polling booth, looking at the ballot, and following your heart.


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