Ha, ha! Up until today, I have remained undecided whom to vote for President. Searching for a photo to adorn this post, I came across this one; it was perfect. It highlights the chorus of ridicule I’ve heard aimed lately at the undecided ‘wishywashers’ among us. I am tempted to return the favor. However, examining this from a symptomatic point of view instead will get me farther.
Support the Tribe
It is easy to see how tribal instincts are clearly running the show here. Which tribe are you on, the Democratic or the Republican? If you can’t decide, well, then you must not be one of us. If not one of us, then you are “UN-AMERICAN”. This kind of groupthink is endemic, although usually not as pigheaded and ignorant as this sign portrays. No, often the undecided are just scoffed at as fools who can’t make up their minds about anything, from choosing between chocolate or vanilla to — heaven forbid — choosing between Romney or Obama.
The ironic truth of the matter is that many of the people who so quickly decide on which team they support (often unquestioningly) also wish the two teams would cooperate enough to make government function efficiently. That is a perfect example of wanting to have it both ways! On one hand, we give Congress a bottom-of-the-barrel approval rating; on the other hand—through our blind partisan choices—we keep voting for those most likely to ensure we’ll have a dysfunctional Congress. When a politician is certain he has your vote, what is his incentive to be as honest or competent as possible?
When we decide between alternatives, what actually drives the decision? Is it free will that chooses, or is it our emotional bias rooted in need and fear that chooses? All evidence points to the latter. For example, take standing up to fetch a glass of water; I just did that because I was thirsty and wanted a glass of water. My need for water chose, not free will. The most I did was observe and record the experience just now. Any thirsty animal would have chosen to drink water. Only a human would observe and record the experience after the fact.
The only time such a mundane decision becomes worthy of ridicule is when I can’t decide if I want bottled or tap water, chilled or flavored water, or some other petty option at which any thirsty nomad in the Sahara could justifiably scoff. However, being undecided about who to vote for isn’t a petty option. That said, options, petty or important, are about desire.
Challenging desire’s pull is where the journey to wise decisions begins. As chapter 64 notes, Taking this, the wise person desires non desire. It helps to be as undecided as possible, weigh the ostensible facts as best we can, and know that every side out there wants to entrap us using our own desires as bait. Chapter 15 sums this approach well… He prepares as if fording a river in winter; as if like in fear of neighbors.
I suspect that if the polls were saying that 50-75% of the country was undecided about whom to vote for, politicians would have to either be more honest and mature, or step down and make way for those who were better qualified. As I’ve said before, we get the kind of government we earn and deserve. Government can’t possibly be more mature and responsible than the masses it governs… government is us.
And the Envelope Please
I finally decided, filled out my absentee ballot, and will hand it in tomorrow. Up until now, I just didn’t know which way to go. I like and dislike some aspects of both Romney and Obama. Also, as you can see, I don’t expect much to change. What happens in Congress matters most. There is a chance that Romney will actually be more adept at getting the opposing forces in Congress to cooperate more. Serving the lower position, as chapter 61 put it, appears to be Obama’s weak point. It just isn’t in his nature… yet anyway.
So, I voted for the Libertarian fellow, and a few other candidates that were certain to lose. If many more people threw away their vote this way, at least politicians wouldn’t take the electorate for granted as much. As long as people perfunctorily commit to tribes, we can expect politics to be more like that of a children’s playground than the grownup ideal for which we dream.