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Jason Notte

Jason Notte

Posted: October 24, 2008 11:00 AM

Americans Still Undecided on How Much to Hate Undecided Voters


Please don't be angry with Sarah Palin for excluding all those big, funny places with skyscrapers from "Real America" and its "Pro-America" borders. Nor should you blame John McCain's adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer for excluding Northern Virginia from the "Real Virginia," or Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann for looking under her Capitol co-workers' beds for sheet music to "The Internationale."

Reserving criticism for these politicians just increases voter bitterness and further divides the nation. Observers from both sides of the aisle should seize upon this opportunity and focus their collective rage at its source:

Undecided voters.

Without our dear friends the undecided, Bill Ayers' Weatherman helmet would still be collecting dust in the attic, Charles Keating's savings and loan misdeeds would be sandwiched between Gary Coleman and Kajagoogoo in a VH1 '80s special and Joe McCarthy wouldn't have to cheat on the woman who loves him most -- Ann Coulter. Instead, for three presidential debates and one vice presidential contest, the networks assembled their four-by-four lines groups of professional hedgers to see who had paid the least attention during the last 20 months.

The loser? Anyone unfortunate enough to be watching the whole, sad spectacle.

While it is nice to see fellow Americans giving their future leaders the same consideration they'd give a gym membership, one would think that the nation's faltering economy and perpetual state of war would merit more attention than Nautilus machines and a smoothie bar. Remember the primaries, the conventions and the debate process? Consider that your free trial.

When Jason Jones and Samantha Bee of The Daily Show laid into a group of undecided voters last week, at one point asking if Barack Obama had come to a voter's house and give him or her "a reach-around while he discusses his economic policy," they and their writers lived out every sensible person's fevered dream. They got to be the guy at the fast food place who shouts "Today, pal!" when someone who ample time to look at the menu orders as if they'd never seen a Big Mac before. They got to lay on the horn and startle the driver who couldn't decide when to get off of the highway and, instead, flipped on the hazard lights and sat in the triangle between the exit and the main road. Facing down our national nightmare, they lived the dream.

That they never came to understand why these people were undecided was fitting. Were they all from generations of undecided voters who had resorted to naming their children Joe-Jennifer just so they wouldn't have to make a decision? Were they happy with that given name because it as adequately described a bus-riding plumber as it did a stroller utility vehicle-pushing yuppie mom? Were they all from New Hampshire and just got a kick out of being contrary?

We may never know, or care. However, as millions of blogs, social networking pages and online videos prove each day, we are a nation of children who want mommy to watch us go off the diving board. Thus, the people who comprise undecided voter panels have no motivation to make up their mind, or to tell anyone if they've done so. So long as they remain uncommitted, they will continue to get air time, blather on for a stretch that would cost a Super Bowl advertiser at least $750,000 and go home and tell their friends that Katie Couric wasn't nearly as gross as her colon special had led them to believe.

In the meantime, the candidates will do everything short of carving an undecided voter's name into their arm to get his or her attention. It doesn't matter if said waffler is to dumb to work a doorknob, too lazy to have read about or watched at least a portion of this nearly two-year campaign or too apathetic to warrant a tree's ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their voter registration form. This moment belongs to the unswayed, uninformed and unloved 7 percent that Real Clear Politics poll numbers show as uncommitted.

For now, it's their "Real America." Everyone else just has to live here and put up with it.

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