"The truly undecided voter is rare, say those who study the psychology of voting," Joe Garofoli wrote in The San Francisco Chronicle. "Since neuroscientists say 90 percent of thought is unconscious, an undecided voter may have already decided--he just hasn't revealed his pick to himself yet."
Whether I'm a rare bird or a typical victim of self-denial, I didn't know how I was going to vote until election day--or, to be more precise, a election minute. Roughly 15 to 20 percent of 2008 primary voters have had similar trouble getting their unconscious to talk to them.
Most of the electoral procrastinators are conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats--party loyalists whose influence has been diluted by independents who vote in their primaries. As has been widely discussed, conservatives were unhappy with the entire field of Republican presidential contenders. Less noted but no less significant has been the effect of John Edwards' departure from the Democratic field.
Lefties don't have a candidate.
Like most hardcore liberals, I had planned to vote for Edwards. I'm a registered Democrat. I live in New York, a "closed primary" state. That left Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
I studied the printed grid inside my mechanical voting machine, a steel beast from the 1950s. New York keeps threatening to replace the classic booths. I hope they keep them forever. Old-school machines have a feature I treasure: you flip a switch to make an "X" appear next to your choice. You're not committed until you pull the lever to open the curtain; you can flip the switch back and go with someone else instead.
I moved the switch to Hillary, to see how it looked. Hillary. Ted Rall votes for Hillary. I asked myself my usual test question: If she won, and I watched her being sworn in next January, how would I feel?
Bored. And slightly depressed.
I thought about the experience issue, her biggest advantage. "I am offering 35 years of experience making change," she says. Though way overstated--35 years of what? being a lawyer?--living in the White House has to have left her with some insights. Unlike Obama, Hillary wouldn't lose her way searching for the restroom. But political dynasties suck. Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton would be a sad statement. A nation of 300 million people shouldn't keep turning to the same few families for leadership.
A woman president is a couple of centuries overdue. But issues matter more than affirmative action. I couldn't overlook Clinton's votes to go to war and to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on the never-ending horror show of Iraq. Thousands of people are dead because of her.
Hillary Clinton didn't think Iraq had WMDs. No one smart did. The polls were running for the war, and so was she. She pandered. It was disgusting. But I was even more appalled by her lousy political skills. It ought to have been evident, even then, that (a) the war wouldn't go well, (b) Americans would turn against it, and (c) this would occur before she was up for reelection in 2006. It was obvious to even me at the time, and it took me ten years to get a bachelor's degree.
She was wrong. She had bad judgment. And her September 2007 vote for possible war against Iran proves she still does. I moved the lever left. The "X" disappeared from Clinton's box.
I made an "X" pop up next to Obama's name. "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of..." I wasn't feeling it.
For what will soon have been eight long years, I reflected, left-of-center Americans have endured an illegitimate administration of morons, thieves and bullies. "[The press secretary's] job is to help explain my decisions to the American people," Bush once said, describing how he interacts with people who disagree with him. Bush stacked the Supreme Court by appointing right-wing extremists to replace moderates. Compromise was an alien concept to the Bushies. They did whatever they wanted--wars, torture, tax cuts for the superrich, tapping political dissidents' phones--and Democrats did nothing to stop them, even after they regained control of both houses of Congress.
After 9/11 Republicans repeatedly screamed that liberals were pro-Islamist, anti-American traitors. Right-wing opinion mongers--Ann Coulter, Andrew Sullivan, James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard (and now The New York Times) accused me of treason. (Hey, I'm not the one trying to get rid of the Bill of Rights.)
Former GOP presidential candidate Alan Keyes suggested that I be imprisoned or shot. And "mainstream" Republicans indicated their tacit agreement with cricket-chirping silence. Not once did a Republican Congressman demand that their neo-McCarthyite allies apologize for their statements. Not once did a Republican opinion columnist take issue with equating the Democratic Party with anti-Americanism. Not once. Compare that to the Democratic practice of "Sister Souljah-ing" lefties who annoy the conservative hyenas.
"I want the Republicans to feel the way I did in 2004," an Iowa Democrat told The New York Times. So do I. I want them to watch everything they care about disassembled. Take Reagan and Bush's names off the airports, nationalize major corporations, demolish Gitmo, gay marriage--anything that pisses them off.
I want revenge. Obama preaches reconciliation. "I will create a working majority because I won't demonize my opponents," says Obama. The Illinois senator is an interesting politician and might make a good leader. But not yet. Give me eight years of Democratic rule as ruthless and extreme and uncompromising as the last eight years of Bush. Then we can have some bipartisanship.
Obama's let's-tiptoe-through-the-tulips-with-the-GOP shtick amounts to bargaining with yourself. If a vendor at a flea market offers to sell you a lamp for $10 and you're willing to pay $8, you don't offer $8. Demonize, Barack, demonize!
Oh, and Obama says he wouldn't have voted for the Iraq War. I say he's lying. So do his votes for funding the war since he joined the Senate. His voting record on Iraq is the same as Hillary's.
Hillary, no. Obama? Nobama. What to do?
"Hundreds of thousands of Democrats and independents who were motivated enough to go and vote on February 5 did so for Edwards, knowing full well that he was out of the running," reports The Nation. I was one of them.