Callaghan: Suddenly, it's not as cool to be an undecided voter
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
I'm Peter. And I'm an undecided voter.
Sure, it was fun for awhile. Everyone wanted to talk to me, to court me. It was one big political party, and I was the guest of honor.
You want to be interviewed by CNN? Sorry, you're decided. They prefer people like me.
Want to get into that presidential debate? No room at the inn for the cocksure.
You'd love to get your hands on the dial during the debate and show how each syllable, each eyebrow raise, each zinger contributed to your final choice, right? Be like me. Undecided.
But now, with the final debate finally over and the sprint to Election Day under way, the tide has turned. Among the cool people, we undecided voters have become political pariahs.
"Forget Undecided Voters: They're Idiots" was the headline in the Huffington Post. It was labeled satire, but that's what they always say when they say what they mean but don't want the nasty phone calls.
Chris Matthews called us "boneheads" and said if we haven't made up our minds by now, we shouldn't vote at all. Of course, that's easy for him to say. He was probably born decided. You can't be a cable yakker if you have any self-doubt. Always advance, never retreat.
In his New York Times column headlined "Idiot's Delight" (am I starting to see a pattern here?), Timothy Egan ended with this message to undecided voters: "… we don't like you. Not because you can't make up your mind, but because you won't."
Can it get worse? Well, yes.
"I don't mean to be insulting," began Jeremy Schro on the Daily Kos, before asking of undecided voters, "Are they stupid?"
Good thing he didn't mean to be insulting.
The party's over
One day we're highly desirable. We're the deciders. The next we're derided. We're the ditherers.
I should have known the party would end. It always does and I'm always left feeling awful, worthless -- you know, stupid. Like four years ago. And eight years ago. One moment I'm on top of the world and the next, I'm in the gutter.
Clearly, I have a problem. I admit it now, I can't control my addiction to the attention. And I need help from a power greater than myself. That's right … Wolf Blitzer.
I wonder, though, how many undecideds are really decided and have decided not to answer questions from pollsters. I don't tell strangers on the phone who I'm voting for. It's hard to tell the difference between legitimate pollsters and push pollsters and partisan persuaders who try to sound like pollsters. (Though, whenever I'm asked questions like: "Would you be more inclined or less inclined to vote for a candidate who sacrifices goats in the backyard as part of a cult that worships Conan O'Brien?" I always answer "More inclined. Duh.")
I even tell robocallers I'm undecided just to stay in practice.
Seattle pollster Stuart Elway tells me that he can't tell whether undecided voters are truly undecided or just reluctant to answer. But he also thinks those who remain undecided this late in the cycle likely won't vote for that office. And the rare respondent who is undecided across the board likely won't vote at all.
Which is, of course, exactly what the decideds want.
No wait, what the decideds really want is for everyone to agree with them. They probably think those who disagree are stupid as well, but it's considered tacky to say that out loud -- at least in mixed company. So they reserve their wrath for the undecided voter who may in the end not be a voter at all.
I'm happy for the decideds. Being certain leaves them time to gather with the like-minded and tsk-tsk those who aren't as enlightened.
But given the recent volatility in the polls, I wonder if there's a category of voter they might have even more contempt for -- you know, those who dare change their mind.