Relections on the “undecided voter”

We have fetishized the “undecided voter.”   In a political campaign with fairly profound contrasts (just like the last) the media seems to be showing us a steady stream of “everyday Americans” who still have not made up their minds in the current contest.


It’s not as stupid as it sounds.  Sure, there probably is a measurable number of people who are confused and still unable to make a decision.  We live in a time of complex political issues, especially if you don’t have any established personal analysis of them.  But most of these “undecided,” I think, are coming from somewhere else.

We live in a culture that has embedded the misinterpreted words of Andy Warhol, who posited that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”  Leaving aside what he meant, we all have this expectation–almost this need–to be recognized as something special and unique.  In our warped and eccentric need for individuality, we think each one of us is special and that “special” is worthy of noting.  It gives us a sense of value, of worth. (This is especially true in a world where we are subsumed by the massiveness of the forces around us, made almost invisible in our own daily lives.)

When a media outlet tells somebody they are “special” because they are undecided and then puts them in a room to watch the debate and comment on it, we are nurturing the addiction, feeding it if you will.  People get attention for being “undecided” and then are unwilling to give up that attention, that sense of specialness.  Even if you don’t make it on TV, the media is communicating to you that you are special if you are undecided.  It’s a never-ending cycle.

No wonder then, as the 25 undecided Ohio voters hosted by Soledad O’Brien of CNN did, these voters seem almost fixated on maintaining their “swing” status.  Though CNN’s electoral EKG tracker of this group showed a clear preference for Obama and his presence, a straw poll by O’Brien resulted  in a vote of 14 for McCain and 11 for Obama.

Or maybe everyone’s racist.


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