If pollsters are to be believed, the outcome of November's national election rests heavily in the hands of the merely ten percent of Americans remaining undecided between the candidates. With just over four months until perhaps the most crucial election of our lifetimes, Democrats and progressives must make it imperative that these voters be reached.
So equally divided as to essentially cancel each other out, ninety percent of Americans are already certain in their intention to vote for the candidate whom they see as the crystal clear choice. They believe without a doubt that it is their candidate who offers the superior ideology and the superior vision for America, whereas the opponent offers nothing less than the end of civilization as we know it. No amount of jeering, chiding, reasoning, or pleading will change their minds. Democrats and progressives are no more likely to convert listeners of Limbaugh than Republicans are to convert favorers of Franken. So let's stop bothering to try.
Instead, let's look for the ten-percent solution. But is there one? Can these undecided voters be reached, or do they even want to be? Will reaching out instead only drive them away? Most importantly, why are these ten percent undecided anyway?
The demands of everyday life for some are so burdensome as to deny them the luxury of time to become familiar with national issues and national candidates. When asked for whom they would vote, they truly do not know.
For others, rightfully distrustful of both political parties, national elections are little more than a choice between evil and a lesser evil, and whichever candidate appears less horned and hoofed on election day will earn their reluctant vote.
For yet others, their uncertainty belies neither an implicit approval of the incumbent, nor an implicit disapproval of the challenger, but rather an indication simply of their fear of change. For these voters, even more so than is true for the rest of us, change requires courage. Clear and convincing reasons must be given as to why they must do so in order that they summon up that courage.
Finally, there are those, to the obvious disbelief of ninety percent of us, who may truly be conflicted between the positive and negative attributes they see in each candidate. More so than most of us, these voters understand that a true democracy recognizes and celebrates that there are intelligent people supporting each side of every issue. They understand that no issue exists facing us truly as simple as a choice between two absolutes, and they struggle to make what for them will be the right decision.
So how to collectively speak to voters undecided for such a wide array of reasons? Certainly not by way of the belligerent approach, mocking undecided voters as pundits often do. Labeling them "the muddled middle", or voicing suspicions that the undecided, having no ideologies of their own, are just waiting for the right ideology to come along, will not convince such voters to join the progressive cause.
Certainly not either by personally attacking the president. It is possible to criticize his policies while not impugning his motives. Resorting to name-calling and negativism will only serve to strengthen the position of those in power, as undecided voters are not likely to vote for change if unable to tell the difference between those on each side of the debate.
The ten-percent solution instead requires from every Democrat and progressive a mixture of joy, energy, and hope. Each one of us must personify the passion inherent in recognizing this crucial opportunity for our national restoration. While we must remain unapologetic for our indignation about what is, we must be seen only putting forth ideas and sharing the joy about what could be.
Rather than attack those who oppose us, let us be seen trying to convince them to join us. Knock on doors. Register voters. Write hopeful and positive letters to the editors. Talk with your friends and family members. Strive to be inclusive to anyone and everyone who, for whatever reason, shares the concern that our country is headed in the wrong direction. Those on the "left wing" must not assume that those on the "right wing" are necessarily comfortable with the course this president has charted for our country.
We must labor to convince undecided voters of our newfound and real passion to rebuild America and restore it to the standards intended by our founding fathers. We must appear not just the lesser of two evils, but the better of two choices. We must, each and every one of us, be the reasons why courage should be summoned to vote for change. Undecided voters must see in us a refreshing mix of genuine humility and compassion, as well as a burning desire to seek the solutions to our common concerns rather than the fulfillment of our personal or political agendas.
Preaching to the choir will not grow the congregation. Agreeing with only those who agree with you changes nothing. Unless we start talking with and listening to our undecided friends and neighbors, we could find ourselves with four more years to find the right solution.
Todd Huffman, M.D. (email@example.com)
is a Pediatrician & Writer
in Eugene, Oregon