How is it possible to be an “undecided voter?”

Kerri got this email from Seth in Stillwater on Friday. The subject line was “Doghouse.” We wanted to share it:

Hi, Kerri.

I’ll start here: I love you. Really, really, really, I do.


I’m a 20-something voter and, up until very recently, I identified as undecided. After hearing this morning’s Round Table, I feel the need to represent.

You seem to suggest that being an undecided voter is logically impossible and that the young voter’s frustrations with Obama and with Washington indicate a certain lack of maturity and political wherewithal. Not so, say I. On the contrary, I feel that being an undecided voter is the more mature and responsible path in today’s highly partisan circus. And, as for the frustrations of the young…haven’t we adequate reasons to be frustrated? Shouldn’t we set high standards for our national leaders? This morning’s round table seemed to say, “Come on, already. There are two options, here. Just support one of them.” Isn’t this the root problem with today’s Washington?

Being truly undecided is not an impossibility, I can testify to that. At 26 years old, the more impossible task would be to sign my name next to one of these two candidates, to plaster their logo all over my front yard or Facebook page. No, thank you. I am blessed to see incredible examples of leadership on a daily basis at my workplace, at my church, in my community of friends. I feel that I would be lying, or compromising the standard that these personal leaders have set for me, if I were so quick to express support for either Obama or Romney.

I’m not undecided any more. I feel very grounded, very confident, in the vote I will cast two weeks from now. But, hear this – I would never have arrived at my current certainties if I had not first embraced a period of “undecided-ness”. In discounting the authenticity of the undecided voter, I feel that you discount the importance of discernment, and I can’t help but rage against that mindset. My view is that we voice support for our candidates too quickly and, in doing so, we cast ourselves in the role they should be playing: the role of defending their political preferences. We need to withhold our support – create a scarcity, if you will, if we’re talking supply and demand – and make these guys work for our vote.

Or, should we just decide who we’re voting for in May and then spend the next six months playing team sports?

  • Jamie

    I heartily disagree with the e-mail writer. He sounds very smart, but he is also apparently not very well-informed on some critical issues, and apparently has some difficulty with nuance and living in the real world. Yes, there are things we all hate about politicians, but we have to be grown-ups and make a choice between the candidates who are running.

    Of course there’s a lot not to like about both Obama and Romney. They’re both beholden to varying degrees to big-money interests, for example. But there are some big differences in this example: Obama is beholden to them largely because he HAS to be in order to get elected with the election system we all hate but have to live with for now. Romney *IS* a big-money interest, and so are his closest cronies and supporters. Romney wants to make the wealthiest, most powerful Americans even wealthier and more powerful, at the expense of the rest of us.

    That’s just one example of how they seem to be somewhat similar. If you look closely, or not even very closely, you’ll see that the similarities are very limited. But even if they were exactly alike in some ways, their differences are so glaring and meaningful that there can be no excuse for being undecided, unless you don’t know yourself very well, and/or you don’t know the world very well. If you want the Supreme Court to be even more extreme right-wing, then you vote for Romney. If you want to repeat all the failed economic policies of the GW Bush administration, then you vote for Romney. If you want women to be confined to kitchens, barefoot and pregnant (except for rich Republican women), then you vote for Romney. If you want the super-rich and religious zealots controlling our country, you vote for Romney. It’s not that hard to decide between the Republican world-view and the Democratic one.