Are the Undecided’s thinking about The Big Issues — Terrorism, Iraq, Economy, Domestic Policy, Foreign Relations — and failing to come to a conclusion, or do they just lump it all together into a gut feeling as to whether Bush or Kerry will cause more good / less harm?
Terrorism: the thing about terrorism is that the Bush administration is all talk, no walk. You can’t defend America from small groups of suicidal fanatics with conventional military forces, you need to fund, train, and support a huge number of domestic resources — from the intelligence services to the local cops. I have a friend who joined and then quit TSA because they only officially hire new recruits as “part-time” (no benefits) but then demand mandatory overtime (60 hours) because they’re understaffed.
Iraq: once the Bush administration unilaterally decided to confront Hussein, I supported an invasion because I thought that it was important that neither the U.S. nor the U.N. look like paper tigers (and I was under the impression that Saddam was developing nukes and that he was so crazy, he’d probably use one on Israel). But how can you vote to rehire those responsible for running this totally incompetent post-invasion occupation?
Economy: I don’t think Presidents have much to do with economic cycles, but the Bush admin has been extremely effective in passing tax cuts that are running up the national credit card while triggering very little positive economic growth. The Bush admin says “Well, the recession was a short one…” and credit their tax cut, but remember that your kids are going to have to pay off those credit cards. It’s not in the economic self-interest of anyone making less than about $200K to vote for Bush. The Republicans fear-monger about the Democrats passing tax increases, but remember that the Republicans control the Legislature. The truth is that Kerry won’t be able to pass tax increases beyond maybe rolling back some of the tax cuts to the highest-end payers. (Of course, that means that he’s not going to be able to deliver universal health care and he’s not going to be able to fund 100% port inspections, and so forth. Democratic Presidency + Republican Legislature == lack of fundamental change.)
Domestic Policy: this is the one area where I think the Bush administration is most effective (Republican Presidency + Republican Legislature == fundamental change). I don’t agree with their domestic policy initiatives, which have mostly been either direct giveaways or ill-advised deregulation for industries. Meanwhile, when asked what to do about out-sourcing, Bush’s answer in the debate was “Learn a skill at community college.” Again, from an economic self-interest standpoint, unless you’re at the “live-in help“ level, it doesn’t make sense.
Foreign Relations: apparently, Bush voters believe that the world secretly approves of what the Bush administration is doing, that we’re playing a kind of global “good cop-bad cop“ thing. They don’t.
The conservative life-style issue is about the only area where I can understand a person coming to a pro-Bush conclusion. You think the assault-weapon ban was a bad thing, you think it’s important that Christian references be explicit in the public sphere, you think gay marriage should be constitutionally forbidden: Bush is your guy. (Although for me, even if I felt that way about those issues, I can’t see how I’d let them outweigh the threats to national security and our economy resulting from the other failures of the administration.)
Obviously, just about exactly 50% of the electorate disagrees with my conclusion that Kerry must be better for the country than Bush. I’m going to guess that the “conservative life-style” issue accounts for about half of that 50%. I’m going to guess that another 15% fall for the administrations bull about how they’re better against terrorism. But I think the reason the election is too close to call is that people fear that Kerry would appear weak, as Carter appeared.
I think the debates probably swayed some of those who had that fear, but obviously things are still on a razor’s edge. For that reason, I don’t have great confidence that the undecideds will break heavily for Kerry, which is the common wisdom (although everyone admits that it’s all too close to call).
I’d love to read something from a true undecided that gives some insight into how someone could not have formed a strong enough opinion about the current administration to know how they’ll vote. Anyone?