Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2000/ 27 Tishrei, 5761
Taking it to the streets
NEW YORK CITY | Three debates later, with less than two weeks before the presidential election, 10 percent of voters -- more than half of them women -- are still undecided. What gives?
How can anyone not know at this point which candidate best represents their values and goals? How can two substantively different candidates pose such conflict in the final dash? I decided to take the question to the streets.
Admittedly, mine was an unscientific poll. First of all, it was raining on Madison Avenue, from which you can conclude that my interviewees were hurried, possibly tourists, and of a higher income level than people I might have startled in a less prosperous neighborhood.
But I didn't stop there. I also interviewed service people in hotels and restaurants, as well as cab drivers and fellow diners. Basically, I was obnoxious, remembering with sudden clarity why I always hated man-on-the-street assignments, but determined to discover the truth of this election.
What I found was that, yes, many people, mostly women, really are still undecided. Those who aren't undecided are reluctant to 'fess up. Men especially eyed me suspiciously, figuring me to be a Gore fan, being a woman and all. I guess they expected me to sneer contemptuously or slap them or, worse, to lecture them.
Basically, my findings supported the polls. White men are for Bush; minority men and women are for Gore.
Women like me -- the "WM2" target audience of white, working, married mothers -- are, guess what, undecided. What's wrong with these women? What are they waiting for?
The answer to the first question was unanimous among my polling group: "I can't decide because I don't really like either one of them."
Fellow Americans, meet the voters who will decide your election. The Nov. 7 swing vote won't be principally about issues, but about something not even quantifiable. For these women, the question essentially comes down to: who can I stand for four years? Can I stand the finger-pointing 12-volume, leather-bound know-it-all? Or can I stand the smirk that bespeaks thin, unread paperbacks?
One WM2 woman, 41, said she'd have to turn off the television for four years if Gore were elected, though she prefers his plans for prescription drugs and his clearer stance on abortion. Another, 45, said she prefers Bush's tax cut and reduced-government spending proposals, but she's concerned that he lacks intellectual depth.
Sound familiar? What they're waiting for, meanwhile, is a certain keystroke -- an act of brilliance or a fatal flaw -- that will confirm what their instincts hint. The undecided-women's-intuition vote, which on the surface seems emotional rather than rational, makes some people nervous.
Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, said on television recently that people still undecided at this point shouldn't vote at all. He called it irresponsible for people who can't make up their minds to be part of the election process.
Of course, why draw the line there? Why not preclude voters who've never paid a government tax or raised a child? What do they know about balancing budgets or juggling work and family?
The fact is, when it comes to politics, where everything is staged, rehearsed, polled and polished, intuition may be as good a guide as any. On the big decisions, I'd trust a working mother, regardless of race, who's managed a marriage, job and family above any other group that comes to mind. I figure she's got pretty good instincts, and better she should take her
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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