Stalking the Undecided

Until recently I could not understand how anyone could still be undecided about who to vote for on November 6. I check the internet news sites several times a day; I keep up with blogs I trust; and I wear out the numbers on the remote of my favorite news channel. Well, the answer is very simple -- other people have lives!

Where they get their news, and how frequently they keep up with it, makes a difference to their level of certainty. Unfortunately, this election is not one that lends itself to a last-minute brush-up on the candidates' positions. In order to truly appreciate this election, a voter would have to have been paying attention, and very rapt attention at that, for the last four years.

I achieved this revelation after I started a modest Facebook campaign of posting neutral but patriotic quotes each day. I despised the partisan posts made by some of my friends, so I vowed I would do my best to avoid the cringe factor when mine showed up on their news feeds. Initially, this was quite successful -- I generated "Likes" by friends I knew to be on both sides of the aisle, along with those on the fence. The ones that were most appreciated were also those that I considered to most innocuous. Any straying into advocating for free markets or a nonapologetic foreign policy generated less enthusiasm from a broader crowd, even though my more conservative friends were visibly on board.

This was interesting, but it made me uneasy. How to convey the gravity of the election without driving people to the alternate candidate out of sympathy or an aversion to partisan displays? When would my posts go too far and expose my very strong conservative leanings, forever cementing my bias in their eyes? Leading up to the VP debate, growing compliments emboldened me to post an evenhanded essay on things important to me, and how I felt each administration would support those priorities. The post clearly, but I thought gently, revealed my preferences. From my similarly-minded conservative friends, I received the highest praise. It was crickets from everyone else. Except one.

The day after my post, a fellow soccer mom called me and expressed her continued Undecidedness. I kept my exasperation to myself. It paid off -- after an hour and a half, she moved off the fence into the Romney/Ryan camp. Part of my exasperation with her was that, of all my friends, she is one of the least likely to not have an opinion. How could this person, who never misses a chance to teach and model principles of personal responsibility to her own children, ever have a doubt about which candidate would be better for the future of America? Her first question to me was, "What is this Benghazi thing you've been talking about?" Stunned, I said, "You know our ambassador was murdered, right? You don't know about that? You know the administration has been lying about it? You don't know about that? You heard about the video that's supposedly to blame for the attack?" Well, yes, she had heard about that.

What followed was a winding and intense conversation of mostly me reporting to her current events of the last four years, and her easily drawing conservative solutions to the mess we are in. I held back on displaying my absolute convictions on the far-left leanings of our current president, but I was knowledgeable about the facts. She came to her own conclusions. She moved to the more solid ground of Decided.

The Undecideds aren't stupid, but they are uninformed. They may have too much going on in their lives and with their families to pay attention to the multiple indiscretions of this administration, much less do the research our media should do. I'm not going to let them off the hook; as citizens we have a responsibility to make informed choices, but perhaps a little help from a reliable friend is what is needed.

Tread carefully. Undecideds are skittish, and have an irrational fear of making the wrong choice (as if the candidates were so similar you could easily mistake one with the other). Guard against the entirely understandable impulse to take them by the shoulders and shake some sense into their ambivalent brains. Give them some facts, and then some space to think. If they have time to see with their own eyes, and hear with their own ears, and think with their own minds, we have a fair shot at hoping for a big change.

Until recently I could not understand how anyone could still be undecided about who to vote for on November 6. I check the internet news sites several times a day; I keep up with blogs I trust; and I wear out the numbers on the remote of my favorite news channel. Well, the answer is very simple -- other people have lives!

Where they get their news, and how frequently they keep up with it, makes a difference to their level of certainty. Unfortunately, this election is not one that lends itself to a last-minute brush-up on the candidates' positions. In order to truly appreciate this election, a voter would have to have been paying attention, and very rapt attention at that, for the last four years.

I achieved this revelation after I started a modest Facebook campaign of posting neutral but patriotic quotes each day. I despised the partisan posts made by some of my friends, so I vowed I would do my best to avoid the cringe factor when mine showed up on their news feeds. Initially, this was quite successful -- I generated "Likes" by friends I knew to be on both sides of the aisle, along with those on the fence. The ones that were most appreciated were also those that I considered to most innocuous. Any straying into advocating for free markets or a nonapologetic foreign policy generated less enthusiasm from a broader crowd, even though my more conservative friends were visibly on board.

This was interesting, but it made me uneasy. How to convey the gravity of the election without driving people to the alternate candidate out of sympathy or an aversion to partisan displays? When would my posts go too far and expose my very strong conservative leanings, forever cementing my bias in their eyes? Leading up to the VP debate, growing compliments emboldened me to post an evenhanded essay on things important to me, and how I felt each administration would support those priorities. The post clearly, but I thought gently, revealed my preferences. From my similarly-minded conservative friends, I received the highest praise. It was crickets from everyone else. Except one.

The day after my post, a fellow soccer mom called me and expressed her continued Undecidedness. I kept my exasperation to myself. It paid off -- after an hour and a half, she moved off the fence into the Romney/Ryan camp. Part of my exasperation with her was that, of all my friends, she is one of the least likely to not have an opinion. How could this person, who never misses a chance to teach and model principles of personal responsibility to her own children, ever have a doubt about which candidate would be better for the future of America? Her first question to me was, "What is this Benghazi thing you've been talking about?" Stunned, I said, "You know our ambassador was murdered, right? You don't know about that? You know the administration has been lying about it? You don't know about that? You heard about the video that's supposedly to blame for the attack?" Well, yes, she had heard about that.

What followed was a winding and intense conversation of mostly me reporting to her current events of the last four years, and her easily drawing conservative solutions to the mess we are in. I held back on displaying my absolute convictions on the far-left leanings of our current president, but I was knowledgeable about the facts. She came to her own conclusions. She moved to the more solid ground of Decided.

The Undecideds aren't stupid, but they are uninformed. They may have too much going on in their lives and with their families to pay attention to the multiple indiscretions of this administration, much less do the research our media should do. I'm not going to let them off the hook; as citizens we have a responsibility to make informed choices, but perhaps a little help from a reliable friend is what is needed.

Tread carefully. Undecideds are skittish, and have an irrational fear of making the wrong choice (as if the candidates were so similar you could easily mistake one with the other). Guard against the entirely understandable impulse to take them by the shoulders and shake some sense into their ambivalent brains. Give them some facts, and then some space to think. If they have time to see with their own eyes, and hear with their own ears, and think with their own minds, we have a fair shot at hoping for a big change.