The Presidential election is in 30 days, and I don't know who I will vote for on November 4. As I put it to one friend last week, "I've upgraded from a tent to a cabin with running water in the camp of the undecided voter." At some points in time I've been nearly sure of where to place my vote, only to return to undecided upon further consideration.
The issues at stake this year, and every election year really, are mind-boggling. There is little, if any unbiased press coverage, and I frequently find myself yelling at the TV news. Don't even get me started on the inflammatory e-mails that have arrived in my inbox lately. The more I think I know enough about the issues to make an intelligent choice, the more I realize that I know very little.
Economics? I don't think those two Econ classes I took 12 years ago are going to cut it. Foreign Policy? Well, I do own a passport and proudly claim a few stamps in it, but I know very little about the countries in the headlines these days. Social policy, Wall Street bailouts, tax cuts, tax increases, party politics, health care, education.... the list goes on.
One of my strongest convictions is that citizens of a democratic government should participate by casting their vote. But I admit that there have been times this year that I've been tempted not to vote this year, because it's just too hard to wade through the issues to discover which candidates values and policies most closely match my own priorities. But I take the responsibility to vote seriously, so I will figure it out and I will cast a vote on November 4.
I remember casting my first presidential "vote" in 1984. The students of my elementary school voted, like the nation, to re-elect Reagan. That year was also the first time I watched election returns on the news, the map of the states lighting up in a patchwork of red and blue. My teacher had sent us home with a blank U.S. map and instructions to copy the TV map with red and blue crayons. After I vote this year, I will do the same thing minus the crayons: watch the news until I fall asleep, waiting to see whether more states turn red or blue, indicating who will be the next President.
It was predicted to be an interesting election year, and I have not been disappointed.
(and it's wordy, sorry)
After finishing this post, I read an article in Reader's Digest (October 2008) called "The Super Voters," which profiles a number of swing voters, and notes that it is the undecided voters in swing states who will have the most significant impact on this year's election. For one thing, although I've been thinking that it is WAY past time to make a decision about my vote already, I learned that there are probably a lot more undecided voters out there than I thought. Apparently I just know very few of them personally.
Second, the article profiled a Christian swing voter who, like myself, believes that it no longer makes sense to vote on a single issue, specifically, a candidate's stand on abortion. While my views on this subject have not changed, and I remain personally opposed to abortion, I feel that because our president deals with so many complex issues in many areas, this issue cannot be the only issue I consider.
Lastly, the profiles in the article highlight which states will be the ones to watch as the returns come in on November 4. Any of the states mentioned (among others not profiled, perhaps) could be the state that selects our next president. Wondering which ones? Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire, Missouri, New Mexico and Pennsylvania. (Michigan was also profiled, but this was published before McCain gave up on the Great Lakes State last week.)