Undecided voters are the key to the election.
They hinge on decided voters’ nerves by injecting additional drama into an overblown political theater and uncertainty into a very tight election.
But the mounting tension they add to campaign trails is not being properly addressed.
A narrative has risen to discredit these people, insisting that they are either low-information voters or are somehow cold and uncaring. First, Bill Maher devoted a segment to maligning undecided voters as morons who are likely to get lost on their way to the polls. “Saturday Night Live” featured a skit portraying undecided voters as ignorant of common everyday knowledge. “Can women vote, because if not, as a woman, I’ve got a big problem with that. And by the way, if men can’t vote, in my opinion, that’s also a big problem,” the SNL skit jokes.
The mainstream media seems intent on ridiculing and demeaning this critical voting block of undecided voters, rather than embracing these political wildcards.
In case Bill Maher and SNL forgot, the American people have become dyspeptic over the presidential election, which has been reduced to the election of the lesser of two evils. In the end, all politicians appear the same. In such a heated political scene, it is admirable for undecided voters to care too much about the details rather than care too little.
Perhaps undecided voters are still waiting for the presidential debates. So far, our perception of the election has been constructed by the media narrative: small edited sound bites, spins provided by surrogates and fear touted by detractors. The conflict between the two candidates has never been direct. It has always been zigzagged through the media and its spin doctors.
The debates will change all of that for voters. If watched closely, the debates might show viewers a completely different set of candidates. This direct conflict might give voters the straightforward answers they’re looking for, whether they were undecided or not.
We must see the candidates face each other before we vote for them.
No matter how well prepared the candidates are for their debates, the debate format forces them to show to the world who they really are. We might be surprised by what we see. Voters were certainly surprised in 1976 when the debates showed Gerald Ford’s ignorance on foreign policy. Voters were horrified in 1988 when Michael Dukakis appeared to be soft on rape. He was leading by 15 points before the televised debate.
These candid moments matter and no undecided voter should be castigated for wanting to see them. There is nothing wrong with preferring to see the candidates in an unfettered forum media.
Watch the debates and see the difference for yourself.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @coltongavin