Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Plight of the Undecided

This is not a good week to be unsure of whom you'll be voting for in November. Both the NYT and the New Yorker have printed tirades against the undecided, by "Seinfeld" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Larry David and Patricia Marx, respectively. Larry David claims that the undecideds, well, aren't, that they're just saying they don't know in order to get attention, and that real indecision is David's own inability to decide what to order in a restaurant. Patricia Marx mocks the undecided voters who feel they don't know enough about Kerry to make the decision, suggesting that the sorts of things the undecideds wish to know are, "Why has John Kerry remained silent on the issue of men wearing sandals with socks?" and "While on the campaign trail, do John Kerry and John Edwards share hair products?"

While both clever writers, Larry David and Patricia Marx ignore the legitimate reasons a person might, to this day, not know which candidate to pick. Suppose someone agrees with part of Bush's platform and part of Kerry's platform, and that this person knows a great deal about both. Let's say he does not have any one, overriding issue he cares about that would make it possible for him to choose a candidate by looking at his stance on that one issue. So he tries to decide which candidate he agrees with on more issues, but then realizes that he does not care equally about each issue. So he's left with two options: assign points to each issue and tally things up, or just go with which candidate is more likeable. Actually, a third option would be to remain undecided until something one of the candidates does makes it obvious whom to pick. So, to conclude, it is entirely reasonable to be undecided, even if it means facing the derision of witty writers.


Nick said...

hear, hear, for a stirring explanation of the tragic libertarian dilemma.

Phoebe said...

Libertarians, yes, and moderates.