Sympathy for the Undecided

Neither Candidate Has Laid Out Specifics for Voters

thinkstock

By Gal Beckerman

Published October 29, 2012, issue of November 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

We are days away from the end of this election cycle, which also means it’s open season on that much ridiculed, mystifying yet rare species: the undecided voter. A mock commercial on “Saturday Night Live” captured the general disdain toward the folks we are repeatedly told will tip this election. In it, a series of sincere-looking citizens, the undecided, ask probing questions like, “What are the names of the two people running?” and “We hear a lot about our dependence on foreign oil, but just what is oil?”

It’s easy to dismiss these undecided voters — whoever they are — because we mostly all live in places where there’s not much question about the political preferences of our friends and family members. The choice is almost reflexive. But what if you had to decide without falling back on any prior allegiance to party? Would it be so easy to compare the two candidates’ visions for the next four years — which is, in large part, what each presidential election demands of us?

I don’t think so. I’ve got sympathy for the undecided because this election has been strikingly void of specifics, much more so than any race I can remember. It has all played out as a contest between vague and vaguer.

You’ve got President Obama, who has yet to really present any big, sweeping project for his second term. To the extent that Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have divulged any of their plans, they sound instead “like rear-guard actions preserving what they see as their accomplishments,” wrote Peter Baker in The New York Times. They want to finish implementing the health care plan passed in the first term and begin taxing the very rich in order to reduce the deficit. Granted these are not small items, but they are a far cry from “that vision thing,” as a former one-term president once put it. What happened to climate change or immigration reform or improving our infrastructure?

Then there’s Mitt Romney. Though he does seem to have hit on an effective — and to my ear, credible — trope by wondering why the president hasn’t set forth any big ideas, Romney’s own proposals seem to lack any basis in reality. None. He wants to repeal and replace Obama’s health care plan. But with what? We don’t know. He will lower tax rates by 20% and offset lost revenue by eliminating loopholes and deductions. Which ones? He hasn’t said. As Baker pointed out in the Times, Romney repeated the phrase, “I know what it takes,” seven times during the second debate. To which I want to respond: “Great! Please tell us then.” But he doesn’t say. And just as the Republicans’ central complaint about Obama’s lack of vision captures a certain truth, so does the Democratic argument that Romney and running mate Paul Ryan ignore basic arithmetic.

Between these two, is it any wonder then that someone could be undecided?

Yet, still, a good citizen has to vote. And in the absence of any real clues as to the change either of these two candidates wants to effectuate, we are left with two other measures by which to judge them: ideology and record.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.