When Undecided Voters Attack!

(This is the first in a series of articles about undecided voters)

I’ve been thinking about undecided voters a lot this week. I really want to know what makes them tick.

I think Thomas Frank got close to the problem in What’s the Matter with Kansas? Frank describes a disconnect between what people identified as their concerns and their own interests. For instance, a voter who is concerned about their job and the economy will not vote for the candidate that would best help on that issue because they don’t see the issue as being a political issue. In other words, they lack the vocabulary to talk about their needs and concerns in a productive way.

I believe undecided voters, on the whole, are in a similar situation. They lack the ability to ask the questions they really want answered, and instead get bogged down in minutia. Take, for example, today’s story about Katherine Fenton, the woman who asked about gender equality in the workplace at the Presidential debate the other night. In an interview with Salon.com’s Irin Carmon, she said she wasn’t satisfied with either candidate’s answer. She wanted specifics, you see; not what they’ve done before. If you accept, however, that past acts reveal priorities, then you know Mitt Romney will probably have women in his cabinet, and that President Obama will probably champion and sign legislation leading to mor equal pay between men and women. Both candidates were admittedly short on policy specifics, but you can get those from a position paper. Debates are where candidates tell you who they are as people.

The kicker for Ms. Fenton, however, was that $16 trillion dollars is “a huge figure” and that made her inclined to fire President Obama. Here we see the disconnect. This is what the candidates are running against.

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