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I’m undecided

October 8th, 2004 · 5 Comments

There. Now I’ve fulfilled my moral obligation. Or perhaps I’ve only condemned myself to the hottest places in hell.

David Weinberger today linked to Jonathan Alford’s Salon piece Looking for votes, finding America and quoted this excerpt describing the undecided voters:

It is easy to be dismissive of undecided voters. Who are these people? How can anyone be undecided in such a glaringly obvious election? But that feels patronizing and simplistic. Most undecided voters seem to me to be victims of a political process that seems alien and unresponsive.

Jonathan Alford later said that these voters are “confused”, “not ideological” or “well informed” but practical simple people, concerned with the day to day, “voting their gut”.

Apathy or confusion in my mind – or in my gut – are not the reasons why I am undecided. I don’t feel I fit with this profile. If anything, I fit with Alford’s synopsis of older undecided voters:

It is the older generation’s inbred sense of the importance of a vote. It is a precious thing, to be cast with care and deliberation.

Is the author describing two sets of people here – first critiquing older voters for being too deliberate, and therefore undecided, but then later coloring undecided voters as uninformed? I don’t think all undecideds fit under the same umbrella.

Part of my position comes from my impartiality. There is talk of “red” and “blue” America. I feel I am more purple and less partisan than either red or blue.

But the main reason I am undecided is my conscience. I don’t feel I can vote for either of the two candidates without breaking something inside me. To vote for one, I will have to go against core convictions of my soul. I have serious concerns about what might happen in America during the next four years. To choose one of the major candidates, I will have to make a major moral compromise. When I wake up on November 3rd, the morning after, so to speak, how will I feel about what I did on election night? I can’t imagine not having a regret, no matter which way I vote.

This election is more critical and crucial than any other I can remember. My vote may matter, unlike previous years and previous places we have lived. Maybe I’m older than my age, but like those elderly, I do see my vote as precious, something I want to give with care and knowledge. Yet my soul shudders at this dilemma, afraid to move. In the meantime, I should mention that my mind has been reading this book review, and these intriguing posts this week…

So I am undecided, with 24 days to go. Sometime between now and then I will figure out which line to draw on my absentee ballot. I have noticed that the Democratic party of Washington has been sending us paper mail and calling us on the phone, urging us to get an absentee ballot. At the meetup this week, when I shared this, others proposed that the Democratic party is more inclusive, encouraging more voter participation by emphasizing the absentee ballot, but when I talked to the caller, she specifically mentioned that the absentee provides a “paper trail” which is “good”.

Today Dan Gillmore encouraged Silicon Valley voters to vote safely and use the absentee ballot.

Why? Santa Clara County is one of many counties to have switched to electronic voting machines, which have yet to prove their trustworthiness. There’s no paper trail for the voter to verify that his or her vote has been cast as intended.

I remember when we moved to Cupertino and I was surprised that amidst all this technology, we were still using paper ballots to vote. But paper leaves a paper trail which could be important this year…I’m expecting to receive mine soon…

So we’ll sit down tomorrow night and watch the debates. Last time last week the kids watched with us too. Although homeschoolers have been described by one source as the best grass-roots workers in the nation, we don’t belong to either Homeschoolers for Bush 2004 or Homeschoolers for Kerry and Edwards.

But through a homeschooling yahoogroup, I did discover Debate Watch 2004 from Kids Voting USA. There are sample ballots to use for teaching. There are trading cards from past Presidential debates. There’s a bingo board that could be fun for Abigail, including squares to mark when “candidate laughs” or “candidate hesitates”.

How about “candidate cries”? Of course, no one would do that at the debate. But perhaps it would be more appropriate. Maybe I seem apathetic or indecisive, unfocussed or flippant. But inside I grieve for this country. I don’t know where we are. I don’t know where we are going. The change that needs to happen is huge. It is larger than changing the person in the White House. It is a change that has to happen in every house. It is a change that has to happen in me.

Tags: news

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Sample the Web // Oct 8, 2004 at 8:38 am

    A perspective from the fence…

    Julie Leung writes a very insightful entry about an aspect of this election—actually of all politics in America—that often goes over-looked. America dichotomizes its issues too often, and this leaves actual human beings—who live in…

  • 2 pops // Oct 8, 2004 at 10:08 am

    No, us Dems are not more inclusive. If you’d given money or some other form of support to a Republican candidate you’d get just as much mail and just as many phone calls from the GOP. Think of it was getting more mail from Alaska since you’re part of their frequently flyer program than getting mail fro United because you’re not on their frequent flyer program.

    That’s just Get Out the Vote 101 which my grandmother, the ward healer, was a professor emeritus.

    This is an interesting post. I grew up in a very political and highly partisan family. My grandmother and mother had many patronage jobs via the local machine bosses which kept bread on the table so they could help “win” elections. And when our fellow crooked Irshman Jack Kennedy ran for office that was just a Holy Crusade!


    Never met anybody who was until I read this post.

    I have no idea what to make of it.

  • 3 David Weinberger // Oct 8, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    Julie, I love your thought that voting for either of these two will break “something inside me.” But I take as axiomatic that voting is always a compromise. Then the question is: Which of the two is less of a compromise. For me, there’s no question that Kerry lines up better (but not all that closely) to my views on the economy, ecology, foreign relations, education, etc. etc. For the issues that matter to you, are Bush and Kerry indiscernible?

    I agree it’s a disheartening decision, especially for Deaniacs who saw a glimpse of how a campaign might not demean democracy, but I don’t find it a hard decision. But, then, they happen to divide evenly along the fault lines of the issues I care about.

  • 4 Jim Thomsen // Oct 8, 2004 at 2:43 pm


    Your post spoke to me personally. I too share your agonizing indecisiveness. Agonizing because I can’t in good conscience pick either Bush or Kerry … and agonizing because I don’t feel NOT deciding is a good-conscience option.

    In summary, I think Bush is a dangerous, manipulative moral no-show who bullied this nation to needless war on the strength of lies and obscured truths. But I think Kerry is a slippery opportunist who has no core convictions about how to lead this country, and has tried to fill his lack of inner character with the idea that being the anti-Bush is good enough. I see nothing resembling leadership and conscientous decision-making emanating from John Kerry. In my view, he’s just not good enough.

    I probably feel more strongly anti-Bush than I do anti-Kerry. But I wonder a) do I really want to make this most important choice in November on the dubious strength of a lesser negative?; and b) Am I just acting out of the immature, intellectual but intelligently hollow knee-jerk liberalism of my youth?

    With a little over three weeks to go, I don’t know what the hell to do. And it keeps me awake, staring at the water stains on the bedroom ceiling at 3:02 a.m. It really does.

  • 5 Julie // Oct 12, 2004 at 1:24 am

    Thank you, everyone, for the links and comments. I figure that this is part of the purpose of blogging: to allow us to help each other sort through our convictions and confusions.

    Since the last election, many intense changes have happened in our lives and I’ve been undergoing a bit of a personal evolution/revolution. I am having a hard time choosing which issues matter to me or what the issues themselves mean. In the past it was pretty clear, not a compromise. But I don’t think the same as I once did, and I may not vote the same. I’m realizing too how voting is a matter of national, personal and family identity. Part of my struggle is self-centered certainly, as I wonder who I am, and with whom I will choose to identify myself. I still have doubts about the candidates, and about my own convictions, re-examining them all continually…

    Again, thank you all for your help with this! I may be “undecided” now but I will certainly be “decided” by November 2 or sooner…