Cindi was off on Friday when I wrote my Sunday column, but asked me to fax it to her. She promptly told me that my original draft had described her role in the endorsement discussion inaccurately. I had correctly put her statement that she might sorta kinda be leaning to Obama AFTER she asked me whether a tie would prevent us from endorsing, but I had failed to get in the cause-and-effect relationship, which was that she wouldn’t even have said that much if I had said her vote would deadlock us. So we negotiated new language. But apparently I still didn’t fully communicate the depth of her neutrality, since some folks in their comments counted her as a pro-Obama vote. She insists, in this column and in private conversation, that she is still torn and undecided.
I know from long experience with you partisans out there that you can’t possibly imagine that a thinking person could be undecided. And what’s particularly amazing in this case is that Cindi is seldom without a strongly held opinion. But be nice to her, folks. I understand her completely. I have decided whom to vote for in presidential elections more than once in the voting booth itself. So be patient with Cindi; she’s in an uncomfortable place. Also, I’ve probably already teased her about it more than a supervisor should.
Undecided, and awaiting an epiphany
By CINDI ROSS SCOPPE
I BOUGHT myself two weeks by copping out when our editorial board decided whom to endorse for president. For all the good it’s done so far.
One week to go, and I remain an undecided voter.
I’ve never been in this position before. Never stayed on the sidelines in an important endorsement decision before.
Oh, I’ve been undecided about what I would do in the voting booth. But that indecision wasn’t over which candidate to support; it was over whether I could hold my nose hard enough to cast my ballot for the candidate I agreed we should endorse, or whether to leave that race blank. What’s different this time is that I want to vote for both the candidates.
Neither is clearly superior in my mind. Both John McCain and Barack Obama bring an approach to politics that is sorely lacking in Washington and, increasingly, throughout our nation. They see it not as a game to win — and certainly not as an opportunity to demolish “the other side” — but rather as a way to debate issues and reach conclusions that are best for our country. Both have shown they’re willing to look beyond party labels and rigid ideologies; Sen. McCain has a much clearer track record on this score, but at the same time, he has strayed further during this campaign than has Sen. Obama. If for no other reason than their approach to politics, I believe that either man would greatly improve our nation.
I much prefer Sen. McCain’s approach to foreign policy; not a week has passed since 9/11 when I have not bemoaned how much better off our country, and our world, would be had he been elected in 2000. But over the past year, we have watched Sen. Obama grow more responsible on the topic; he has demonstrated that he will surround himself with smart advisers, and Colin Powell’s decision to endorse him certainly has reduced my worries. I believe that either candidate would greatly improve our standing in the world, which would improve our world.
I prefer Sen. Obama’s approach to domestic policy. He’s further to the left than I find comfortable, but I believe our nation has swung far too far right — dismantling regulatory systems, adopting policies that have produced the greatest wealth disparity in modern history between workers and executives; and say what you will about Sen. Obama’s health insurance plan, Sen. McCain’s would dismantle the very notion of “insurance.” (David Brooks’ fine column on the facing page does a much better job explaining where I’m coming from — on all but insurance — than I can.)
What worries me is that a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress would swing the pendulum too far left — just as the Republican president and Congress swung it too far right. I do believe Sen. McCain would be far more willing to work with a Democratic Congress to make pragmatic changes than the current president ever has been, but I also believe that if the Democrats went too far, the voters would put Republicans back in charge of the House, the Senate or both in two years.
I’m not sure that a more activist government isn’t what our nation needs right now. Both candidates have come to realize that we can no longer take such a laissez-faire approach to the financial markets. But we also need a president who believes in regulation even when the bottom isn’t falling out. One who believes the Consumer Product Safety Commission needs to actually look out for the safety of consumer products, rather than seeking to further dismantle the agency even when defective Chinese products are flooding our markets. One who believes the Agriculture Department should actually try to protect consumers from mad cow disease, rather than protecting the cattle industry from those who would protect us. I think Sen. Obama sees this; Sen. McCain, on the other hand, has a track record of pushing for deregulation, although he is much more a pragmatist than a devoted member of the Church of the Free Market.
What I am not considering in making my decision is the venom being spewed by the so-called supporters of each candidate. Every new e-mail with the doctored photos and clumsily concocted “facts” about Sen. Obama’s alleged Muslim heritage pushes me a little toward voting for him — if only to disassociate myself from the racists who peddle such lies. But there are equal and opposing forces pushing me back toward Sen. McCain — most notably those self-satisfied souls who proclaim that the only reason anyone could possibly not vote for Sen. Obama is racism; what utter nonsense.
These aren’t supporters. They are opponents of the other candidate, the other party, of anyone who doesn’t share their opinions.
When Sarah Palin speaks glibly of Mr. Obama “palling around” with “domestic terrorists,” I am turned off; she’s counting on people assuming that he really is “palling around,” and doing it with Islamic terrorists. Sen. Obama and his campaign haven’t been nearly as misleading — you don’t have to be when you’re leading in the polls — although this “third term of George Bush” nonsense is wearing.
What would help me decide? An epiphany, I suppose.
But I’m not holding my breath. The last one of those I had was the sudden realization that there aren’t a lot of epiphanies to go around, that what we have to do is make a decision and act on it — act on it as though we had an epiphany.
Fortunately, there’s no wrong decision this time around.
Ms. Scoppe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 771-8571.