I just had lunch with one of my closest friends. He’s my former boss, in his 70s, a classic nice guy. Today I found out he’s an undecided voter. When he asked what I thought of the debate, I said “You first.” I know he’s a thinker, not a feeler, a person who wants the situation laid out for him precisely, so I wanted to wait and see.
I raised my eyebrows questioningly when he said he hadn’t decided. He explained why he felt that way. I said one sentence, he responded with body language and I said “We will never talk about this again, ever.” He started to say something and I said “I mean it. Not a word.” There were plenty of other things to talk about, and as usual, I enjoyed myself.
This is what my friend said (I’m paraphrasing).
I’m a scientist. We develop hypotheses, and then we find out the details that relate to them. I didn’t hear any details last night, so I didn’t make a choice.I said “Obama has done a lot of good things,” and he simply shrugged. That was when I said “We will never speak of this again.”
On my way home I had to figure out why he felt that way, other than that I knew he was a conservative, but he has always had little interest in politics. I’m guessing and generalizing to others like him so I can understand. Here’s what I came up with.
Later: I now think that this is a total exaggeration of his thought process. I've done him a disservice. Please take the following as possibilities for people who live in conservative places and haven't dug into the details of the candidates.
1. He lives in a conservative mid-sized city. He’s active in Rotary and has a lot of friends. There’s no reason he’s going to hear anything convincing, or even surprising. He’s probably not a Fox News fan, but I’m sure he doesn’t tune in to MSNBC. The local newspaper is conservative.
2. He doesn’t read, see or hear anything seriously negative about Mitt Romney or seriously positive about President Obama. He ignores political ads on TV, at least consciously.
3. The personalities have nothing to do with it. Likeability, connection with people, caring about the middle class don’t relate to the facts and details, so he doesn’t factor them in.
4. Character doesn’t matter either. Politicians say stuff, but without details we don’t really know anything about them.
5. What has President Obama done that makes him a better candidate than the other guy? He just shrugs.
6. Romney’s changing his position to suit his political purposes doesn’t register. All politicians change their views as needed, and he doesn’t pay enough attention to track their positions on issues anyway. Not that he’s indifferent, just that he doesn’t zero in on the variations.
7. Mitt Romney may have shut down some businesses, but that probably had to be done for good reasons. And everybody tries to minimize their taxes, why is he any different?
8. The issues don’t matter. There are no clear, factual, detailed statements about what the candidates would do about them.
9. Budgets: Republicans save the government money. He isn’t sure what the Democrats would do, but their reputation is to spend. Not that there’s anything wrong with social programs, of course, in most cases, but in some cases…
10. Something about the 47%, but he’s not sure what. It probably doesn’t matter.
It’s pretty much six of one, half a dozen of the other for him and others his age. He’s waiting for the details. When he gets them, he’ll decide. (I don’t think he’ll ever get what he wants, but that’s a different topic.)
My friend is a good, kind, intelligent person, but he’s undecided. I’ve just thought of ten reasons conservatives, even smart ones, won’t hear the truth. We can’t fight on all those different fronts. Maryland is a blue state, so it doesn’t really matter, but this troubles me.