Last Minute InDecision
Rebecca Traistor, in Salon.com, emotes for many of us the indecision we face over tomorrow’s Big Vote. Thought I’d copy and paste just about the whole piece (seeing as you can’t access ito online without something called Premium Membership) as she puts it so well. Once I realized Kucinich was no longer running and I couldn’t offer a throwaway vote in my first American Primary, once John Edwards, the most issues-based candidate, quit too, I found I had to actually think about the two leading candidates. Oh dear.
Much to my consternation, it’s almost Super Tuesday, and I am an undecided voter. I am a political junkie, a Democrat; I read the papers. But for the first time in my life, barring some truly dramatic last-minute development, I am going to walk into a voting booth on Tuesday, pull a curtain closed, and see how the spirit moves me.
This is extremely humiliating. Not simply to be undecided. But to be undecided hours before the first primary in my memory in which my vote will make one iota of difference; to be undecided in a race that is historic, that has provoked more excitement than any I’ve yet lived through. I’m undecided at a moment — one I thought might never transpire in my lifetime — in which I will have the opportunity to pull a lever for a woman or an African-American. I am undecided while many around me whoop it up, volunteer, yell and cry at rallies, and feel the thrill of political certainty that I cannot share.
How is it possible that this electoral moment that should have me jazzed has instead left me paralyzed, not only by my inability to make a goddamned choice already, but by the impending sense of shame. Why is everyone else feeling so good, when I suspect that whatever decision I make is going to leave me feeling so bad?
At the moment, I’m blaming John Edwards.
From the start, the Democratic field offered only varying degrees of dissatisfaction: Where was the candidate who believed that all Americans deserve educations, healthcare, the right to marry whom they please, and more reproductive freedoms that they could possibly use up in a lifetime? He or she did not exist, at least not in any purely terrestrial incarnation. But John Edwards, with his focus on eradicating poverty, his acknowledgment that we live in a nation riven by class difference — John Edwards was as close as it got.
Sure, as the race wore on, it was clear he wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew it. He joined the nasty post-Iowa rag-on-Hillary party, making derisive comments after the purported “crying” incident; this infuriated me, made me question my belief that he was the candidate most committed to women’s issues. It’s possible that, in my frustration with him, I might have called him an Orc. And yet, the fact remains that I likely would have chosen him on Tuesday, secure in the knowledge that in doing so, I could cast a vote in accordance with my principles.
But now John “Orc” Edwards has dropped out at a moment so inopportune that he has made me face the truth: He was never my only candidate; he was my refuge. Voting for the white guy — based on how I feel about the “issues” — would have afforded me a guilt-free way to rise above the nasty psychobabble of identity politics taking place between the two people who actually have a chance in hell of becoming president. I wouldn’t have to get my hands dirty by choosing between two very similar candidates whose major differences seem to swirl around their race and gender; I wouldn’t have to tap one under-represented population on the shoulder and say, “I pick you to advance first”; I wouldn’t have to entangle myself in the extremely sticky question of how, exactly, my gender and my feminist politics are supposed to be guiding me here.
It’s not that I hadn’t considered other ways of chickening out: There was a period when I was planning to vote for Kucinich. And I’ve done a lot of thinking, recently, about my late grandmother, who was so dissatisfied with Robert Wagner, who served three terms, as the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York that she walked into a voting booth every year he ran and wrote in her cat. This did not, all in all, sound like such a bad idea to me. Ike Traister would be a damn sight better in the Oval Office than the mammal we’ve got there now, for example.
But all these cunning plans unspooled in the days when I assumed that the race would be tied up by Super Tuesday, when a protest vote in the New York primary, which never matters, would function simply as a protest vote. But Super Tuesday is here; Kucinich has dropped out; Edwards is gone; Clinton and Obama are neck and neck; my vote matters. Just as Luke realizes, after his faux light-saber battle on Dagobah, that he must face Vader, so have these conspiring circumstances led me to the realization that I must confront head-on the question of whether or not to vote for Hillary. It is unavoidable. It is my destiny.
Never before have I understood the secrecy surrounding voting. Of course I understand secret ballots. But even as a child, I was perplexed by why it was considered impolite to ask my teachers, my friends’ parents, people at the voting booth, whom they had voted for. For me, support of a candidate has always been a public construction, such a part of my identity. Even as a journalist — journalism having evolved somewhat from the days when reporters were discouraged from casting votes or belonging to a political party — disclosure seems to me to be an honest way to get the subjective out of the way, thereby clearing honest space for professional objectivity and fairness.
But on Tuesday, I have a feeling that for the first time in my life, I’m going to keep my vote to myself.
All that said, I’m done with the thinking. Later: why I’m voting Obama.