Tuesday, October 23, 2012

FTT Off-Topic: The Undecided

Most important, Most Hated
As always with FTT O-T, not sports, not arguing. Move along or not.

Some of the things that you hear in your social media feeds is how stupid, venal, lazy, pestilent, etc., the Undecided Voter is in any big election, especially in a close race between very different candidates. It's about the only group in America that you can just slag without remorse or a second thought, regardless of which side of the aisle you are on. And the closer you get to the date, the more it seems like each side hates this guy or girl more than even the folks that are counteracting their vote on the other side.

I have no doubts that many undecided voters are, well, just as awful as all that. Just the same way that some of the people voting my way, and some voting the other way, are also truly regrettable people. We're people, and many of us aren't wonderful, especially when we go outside of our comfort zone. But as always, a moment of charity, or considering how much of your story you are treating as fact, can bring forth wisdom.

In 2004, I was far more politically active then I am now, to the point of driving from my home in the San Francisco Bay Area to Reno, Nevada, aka the closest "Swing State." I wound up serving a few hundred hours, over a six month period, to try to get my guy elected in 2004. (And if you want to hear way too much about this, send me your email address, and I'll send you a book. Seriously.)

Nevada, like many states now, has early voting. So a Get Out The Vote effort is frequently about going to people who are registered as your party, and getting the means to vote early to them, then checking back to make sure it happened. Then, you can take them off your list and spend more time going after the rest of your list, or maybe the independents. If you have enough boots on the ground, this kind of thing can swing a race by 1 to 4 points, which is to say, it can swing a race. A lot of them, really.

One afternoon, I had a woman on my list. She was 67, registered our way, but had told someone before me that she was on the fence about voting this year. So I went to talk to her, and discovered exactly why she was undecided.

Her 95-year-old mother, for whom she was more or less providing hospice care in her last weeks of life, was taking up all of her time. The rest, she was working 2 other jobs to try to keep things solvent. She told me this, not with venom or anger or self-pity, or anything beyond the highest level of fatigue that I've ever seen another person endure.

So, um, she had other things to worry about. Barely had time to sleep, let alone pay attention to a political campaign. And had a 40-year history of always voting, but only after she saw the debates.

You see, she wasn't undecided for any bad reason. She was undecided for reasons that were better than anything I could ever articulate.

I did what I could for her, which was get her registered to vote by mail.She thanked me. I left.

And have remembered her ever since.

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