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Beware the Man in the Middle (recycled)
Originally posted October, 2000. Recycled because Joe Gandelman is pondering the state of undecidedness. Mark Noonan has some salient observations on the matter. I concur with Mark about both moderates AND Joe Gandelman’s blog–it’s simply one of the best around.
After two debates, poll watchers cannot help but conclude that the people are stupid. By the people, I mean that horrid lot in the middle—the great-undecided voter, the noble vacillator, the independent voter, the moderate.
First, the idea of being a “moderate” or an independent or an undecided bothers me. It seems un-American. Learning begins, not from ignorance, but from prejudice. Learning is the process of supplanting prejudice with proof. Without prejudice—–without deciding based on mere happenstance or observation how things are–—we cannot learn. It makes sense, then, in my narrow view, that anyone who, three weeks out, has not so much as a prejudiced idea of whom to vote for is less than ignorant. He is incapable of learning. Socrates and Glaucon could rise from the dead and argue the root of justice to the bitter end before this “voter’s” very eyes, and the great undecided would still want to “hear more about the issues that concern “me.“”
I will go a step further: I utterly despise voter registration drives. I believe that far too many people in America vote—not too few. That some percentage of those registered voters who have not yet decided whether to vote (much less for whom to vote) will vote November 7 is disturbing.
No, not disturbing, it is downright offensive. If you have not yet decided to vote, sleep in that Tuesday. Impress the boss by being one of the few who makes it to work on time. Proudly proclaim, ““Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote.“” In the course of a day, I run into many people whose vote ought not be the equal of mine. I read too much, I argue too much, I concern myself with governmental, moral, legal, and economic problems dating back to Biblical times. My vote should count for ten of those cast by brainless soccer moms whose primary concern is whether the candidate said nice things about mandatory side-impact air bags in next year’s minivan lines or that of the Winnie Skinners of the world, begging a candidate to hand out free pharmaceuticals at the local senior center like a pathetic, aging junkie demanding a methadone clinic closer to his flop house.
Two generations make up a large portion of this middling clod: Seniors and aging Boomers. So many people in these demographic groups seem ready to sell their mothers or granddaughters down the river for a few points on the NASDAQ or on their Social Security COLA. How about we toss the entire federal budget surplus into a giant mosh pit with the Boomers on one side and the Greatest Generation on the other and watch the two “me” generations fight over the loot like starving Dobermans tearing down a screen door to get at a rotting piece of flesh.
In the past two weeks, exclusively for the edification of these self-serving Hamlets, Al Gore and George W. Bush staged “debates” at which each man subjected himself to difficult, embarrassing questions from a supposedly unbiased moderator. At the end of each event, research organizations sought the opinions of the undecided (oxymoronic or what?) as to which man performed better and how that performance influenced their votes.
After the first debate, these people responded, largely, that Al Gore was the better. Then, they said, because of Gore’s victory, they were now leaning toward voting for his opponent, George W. Bush. The following week, they judged Bush the winner, but they didn’t switch over to Gore. This time, they remained pretty much as they were.
Clearly these people learned to make decisions by following the stock market where investors think it reasonable to sell stock anticipating bad news, then, when the bad news is confirmed, buying the stock back because the news is as expected. It would be like crying out in horror anticipating the pain of being burned at the stake, then laughing at the realized pain because it met expectations. Perhaps this is good investing, but it seems like a risky way to choose a president.
In the Bush-Clinton debate of 1992, a pony-tailed lefty stood and, with quivering voice, demanded of President Bush, “When are you going to worry about me?”
In one tiny, childish sentence, that man encapsulated both the extremist self-interest of the moderates (what’s in it for me, only for me, and completely for me?) and their rampant stupidity (will Bush or Clinton cause government to do more for me?)
In selfless interest of the republic, let them stay home. **Mortimer Adler said that “Freedom is the emancipation from the arbitrary rule of other men.” ** He may have had the undecided voter in mind.