Asking the above question at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw links to an article by Dave Helling of the (typically very liberal) McClatchy Newspaper chain, which suggests that, “People’s minds are made up, unlikely to change.” Jazz responds:
If the voters are already living in a deeply divided nation (politically speaking) and begin seeing reinforcing messages on a daily basis as much as a year in advance, I’m guessing it can have an effect. If you’re already leaning one way or the other, the constant flood of “information” can serve to bolster those feelings. If you’re already leaning in Romney’s direction, all those ads from Obama about Mitt’s “shady” overseas dealings, investments and outsourcing will probably roll off your back as little more than poorly spun side effects of a successful, competent business career. If you’re pretty well leaning toward Obama, ads talking about massive spending, debt and unemployment will probably be interpreted as “just the way things are now” after the GOP broke the system before Obama took office and the way they “won’t work with him” to fix anything.
It’s easy to see how the “undecided vote” could be pared down to a far slimmer margin much earlier than it used to. And those unfortunate enough to live in the roughly ten or so swing states have doubtless grown accustomed to the constant presence of the candidates on their TV screens and in their public squares as little more than a bothersome fact of life.
Sure, the election may be over for a vast majority of Americans… possibly as much as 90 to 95 percent. But it’s that last little bit who will decide which side of the razor this election lands on. And with that in mind, the two sides are going to be fighting all the harder from now until election day morning.
Of course, that places the election in the hands of Jonah Goldberg’s favorite class of voters — the undecided independents. As Jonah wrote in January of 2004 (and he expands upon this topic in his recent book, The Tyranny of Cliches):
These are the people we hear from the most in the final weeks of any presidential campaign, largely because politicians are going to hunt where the ducks are and, duh, the undecideds haven’t decided yet. After every presidential debate of the general election, there’s a focus group filled with undecideds; they’re treated like Olympic judges rather than astoundingly uninformed citizens. They complain that they didn’t get enough information from the candidates, or they didn’t get enough “details” on this or that policy. They ape Rodin’s Thinker over whether to choose George W. Bush or Al Gore, Bob Dole or Bill Clinton, Poppy Bush or Michael Dukakis.
Here’s how one undecided explained her thinking in 2000 to the Boston Globe: “One day I’m for Gore (her mother called from California to say he’d protect the environment), the next day it’s Bush (she thinks he’s funny). . . . If I had to go out to dinner with one of them, I’d choose Bush. . . . But here’s what goes through my mind. Let’s say a meteorite was coming toward Earth*. Who has the better judgment?… I wish I could decide.'”
Now, I am all for taking civic responsibilities seriously, particularly voting. I’d greatly prefer very low voter turnout among serious-minded people to high voter turnout among people who saunter into the voting booths between trips to the mall and the face-piercing spa. But let me make one thing very clear: Being undecided, in and of itself, is not a mark of seriousness or intelligence. If you really are undecided between having a bowl of strawberry ice cream and being smacked in the forehead with a garden rake, you’re not very intelligent; you’re just very, very stoopid.
No, I’m not saying that all undecideds are dumb, and I’m not saying that the choices in presidential elections are as cut-and-dried as the strawberry ice cream versus the garden-rake smack. But what I am saying is that the rush to show one’s independence of mind in contests between Republican and Democratic candidates usually stems from intellectual vanity and insecurity, not intellectual discernment or rigor.
There’s nothing wrong — and there’s actually a great deal that is right — with being independent-minded on the issues, on art, on music, fashion, food…whatever. So long as it isn’t a pose. Conformity based upon sound judgment is certainly more admirable than acting like a jackass to prove you’re different. Our culture mocks those who join the herd, to be sure. We exalt the drummer who marches to his own beat. But the herd laughs its butt off at the maverick who prances around outside the herd right when the wolf pack shows up. And we only admire the solo drummer when he’s very, very good. If all he does is smush around a chicken leg on his drum, we don’t applaud, we call a nurse.
* Clear anticipating the revolutionary candidacy of SMOD 2012. Mister, we could use a creature like Yog-Sothoth again.