Scott Hardie | June 28, 2019
We're only beginning the next presidential election season (something that actually used to be one season, and is now a two-year marathon), so this nuisance is still a long way from coming up, but I dread it all the same.

Every four years, in the final weeks of a very long presidential election season, you start hearing jokes at the expense of undecided voters. What kind of knuckle-dragging morons haven't made up their minds yet? Who could possibly not know yet whether they prefer Clinton or Trump (to borrow the last examples)? The jokes are lazier than Jay Leno's. Undecided voters are treated like idiots incapable of functioning as citizens.

This kind of joke is really toxic and promotes bad behavior, because we should all be undecided voters! None of us should fully make up our minds until Election Day or close to it.

It's fine to decide early that a particular candidate is not for you; I was certain after a week of Trump's pernicious campaign that I could never support him. It's also fine to be confident that you're very likely to vote for someone. But once you make up your mind and you're locked in, when you have decided that Trump is your man or Clinton is your woman, you stop considering new things about them, and having a closed mind is no way to be a citizen during this important process.

To pick on Trump for example: How many people embraced him early on and then had to overlook, rationalize, or ignore one terrible thing after another about him that came up in the news? His refusal to disclose his tax returns, his way-too-cozy relationship with Russia, the Access Hollywood tape and the multiple claims of sexual assault, all of these things should have made voters reject him en masse, but few people budged because their minds were made up.

I could list the same negatives about Clinton, things about her that infuriate many people on the right but that people on the left absurdly shrug off like they're no big deal. We on the left have been giving both Clintons a free pass to do some awful things for decades because they're our people, and no revelations about Benghazi or email servers or Clinton Foundation malfeasance or Bill's own rape accusations (and Hillary's apparent involvement in their cover-up) would turn many Democratic voters against Clinton.

It's wrong to keep a closed mind when the stakes are so high and when making a decision is literally the one thing you have to do in the process.

Maybe 2016 is a bad example for this, because both candidates were so rotten and had so much negative baggage. But you still hear those jokes about undecided voters even in good years when both candidates are decent people.

When you hear those jokes in 2020, ask yourself what value there is in deciding so early. If you don't like it when people on the other side of the aisle shrug off or rationalize bad news about their candidate, don't put yourself in their position. Keep an open mind until Election Day.

Aaron Shurtleff | June 28, 2019
Hear hear. I agree most heartily!

I would add the ridicule heaped upon those who decide that neither of the candidates of the major two parties are going to get their votes is also a bit counterproductive. I mean, I do understand that the two major party candidates are very likely to be the winners, and that voting for smaller party candidate can take a vote away from one of those two ( honestly, now. How many times did you hear that a vote for a third party candidate is as good as a vote for Trump/Clinton, depending on the political bent of the person saying it? I heard it a lot. A LOT.) I suspect that if people felt less like pariahs for voting away from the big two, they would vote for smaller party candidates, and seeing some movement away from a two party system might either affect the big party towards a more centrist position, or help get some of those third parties to be taken more seriously, and bust the two party system wide open for more options. I may be naive and too optimistic, but I can always hope.

But back to Scott's point, let me throw in a cheeky counterpoint. How does this opinion hold up to those who feel the last minute reopening of the email case by Comey led to undecided voters breaking towards Trump/against Clinton? If they had made up their minds earlier, would they have been less likely to not vote Clinton? Or do you think the reopening didn't have much effect? I personally try to keep an open mind, but maybe in some cases an open mind can be a hindrance?

Scott Hardie | June 29, 2019
Totally agreed about giving people grief for supporting smaller-party candidates. America used to have healthy third parties, then they coalesced into the Democratic and Republican parties, who drafted laws to make it very hard for third parties to grow, thus cementing this crappy status quo. Erik probably knows a lot more about this than I do, but that's my understanding anyway. European countries have healthy multi-party systems where temporary coalitions form around certain issues and governments must be formed out of these partnerships, and that seems to me like a better way to go.

People were so mad about Comey's last-minute letter for a while! ("Thanks, Comey" became a regular stinger by Paul Krugman for a while there, every time he mentioned the Trump administration doing something bad.) What I heard at the time, and have never tried to verify, is this: Investigations "re-open" all the time; if the FBI gets any new info at all, they look into it, even if only briefly. Agents at the FBI were going to leak to the press that the investigation into Clinton's emails was being "re-opened" with new information, which was going to be a stink in the press one week before Election Day, and which was going to force the press and Congress to go to Comey demanding answers. So, Comey felt backed into a corner, like he had to send this letter to Congress, as the least controversial way forward. I don't know if that's true, but it gives hope that he's as non-partisan as he otherwise seems.

Did Comey's last-minute letter turn the election? Probably not much, since I'm cynical and think most people made up their minds long before that final weekend of the election season, hence this discussion. Its timing made it seem much more important and influential than it was. That's my take anyway, but other people disagree with me, including the analysts at Five Thirty Eight, who are far smarter and more knowledgeable about this stuff than me.

Samir Mehta | June 29, 2019
[hidden by author request]

Scott Hardie | June 29, 2019
I'm in a similar boat. As an independent, I cannot vote in Florida primaries, so my opinion won't matter until long after the race is down to one Democrat against Trump against various minor third parties. And I'm used to disdaining my own state's politics; our governor went so far as to ban the words "climate change" from being mentioned by any state employee, even though we're going to suffer greater consequences from climate change than most other states.


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