Close Encounters of the Undecided Voter Kind

Taking the elitist bus home from some of my errands today, I encountered an undecided voter.  She saw my GOTV clipboard that I picked up from the Obama campaign after jury duty, and she started talking to me about the importance of voting.  A disability impaired her speech and muscular motion, so it was a bit of a challenge to understand her.  But I believe she said that she first registered to vote on her 18th birthday and that she was waiting until after the debates to decide who she would be voting for.  I said that made sense, and she proceeded to tell me that she leaned toward John McCain or "none of the above". Needless to say, I squinted and asked her why that was.  Here is a rough outline of our surprisingly genial conversation:

Undecided Voter: I don't really know why I prefer McCain.

Me: Well...what are your priorities?

Undecided Voter:....?

Me: I mean, if you prioritize equal justice, social justice, economic justice, or really just justice, then, you're probably going to want to vote Obama.  If you're more concerned about not taxing the top 1% and not overly concerned about a growing disparity between the rich and the poor, then you want McCain.

Undecided Voter: It's not quite that simple.

Me:  (doubtfully) I guess there's a little gray area in's pretty much that simple. (lady across from me who happened to be a fellow Obama supporter smiles and nods her head)

Undecided Voter: I'm concerned about compliance.

Me: Then, you're talking about infrastructure investment.  Technological and otherwise.  You're probably going to want Obama.

Undecided Voter: ADA compliance.  Our state ADA compliance laws are stronger than the federal laws.

Me: I know what you mean.  That definitely has a lot to do with social equality and infrastructure investment.  If you want a president who is more likely to prioritize those things, you're definitely going to want Obama.

Undecided Voter: But I'm pro-life.

Me: For you or for other people?

Undecided Voter: Good question....(long pause)....I'm a Quaker, and I value human life.

Me: Yes.  But do you want people to be forced to have children that they may not be prepared to deal with or care for properly?

Undecided Voter: I think abortion is murder.

Me: Really?

Undecided Voter:...?

Me: So, you think a woman should go to prison for having an abortion?

Undecided Voter: Good question....I don't think a woman who is eight months pregnant should just be allowed to have an abortion.

Me: Do you think women are that flaky?

Undecided Voter: No.

Me: And if they were that flaky, would you want them to have a kid?

Undecided Voter:....They could adopt it out.

Me: You can't really force potentially unfit parents to adopt out their kids.  Plus, there are plenty of homeless kids and foster kids right now.  Either way, if we want to actually reduce the number of abortions in this country and reduce the number of uncared for children, then we want a president who's focused on social and economic justice issues.  Education, a progressive tax system, etc...

Undecided Voter: What do you like to read?
In the end, this conversation was very satisfying for a few reasons:
1. It was honest.  There was no hidden agenda.  She knew where I stood, and I knew where she stood, and we were both relaxed enough about our positions that no question or issue prompted tension.  If anything, we both just got more thoughtful. (To some extent, I think the slowness of our conversation and my intently asking her to repeat herself when I couldn't understand her--both the result of her disability--actually helped the conversation, because it was proof of patience and good will on both sides.)
2. The woman in front of me who was on my side and listened to our conversation indicated that she got something valuable out of it as well.  It's my opinion that these are the debates we should be having right now, and when we do it in public spaces, everyone can take the opportunity to think about issues in a new way.  But only when the debates are honest.
3. I think about our human need for justice (karmic and otherwise) a lot, but I never truly thought about it in terms of my support for Obama.  While I'm still annoyed with him about FISA (how many times can that horse die?), given the choice between Obama and McCain, there's really no contest.  Verbalizing that fact actually made me realize it.

All in all, I found my close encounter with the undecided voter today fairly beneficial.  I hope she did too.

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Nothing New byslag at 7:42 PM

3 dispense karmic justice! (or just comment here):

Gye Greene said...

Good stuff!

"Undecided Voter:....They could adopt it out.

Me: You can't really force potentially unfit parents to adopt out their kids."

True. But it would be good if people who are "pro-life" would fund an infrastructure that facilitated carrying fetuses to term, and facilitated adoptions.

"Plus, there are plenty of homeless kids and foster kids right now."

Apples and oranges.

Homeless kids: That's a poverty issue (or "screwed-up-parents" issue), not a "giving birth to kids" issue.

Foster kids: They're due to the govt. not being able to permanently take kids away from "transitionally(??) unfit parents". A fair number of foster parents would **love** to adopt their kids -- but they can't.

In both cases, these folks have had their kids **despite** the legality of abortion.

"Me: Either way, if we want to actually reduce the number of abortions in this country and reduce the number of uncared for children, then we want a president who's focused on social and economic justice issues. Education, a progressive tax system, etc..."

A more direct solution would be "more sex ed". :)

As you probably know, what frosts my preserves is when people -- on ANY side of a debate -- hold logically incompatible views.

If folks want to reduce the number of abortions occurring (which is distinct from making abortions illegal), then they need to:

1) Increase sex ed (so folks don't get themselves pregnant)

2) Increase access to contraceptives

3) Facilitate the adoption of unwanted babies (some sort of ''Craig's List''?)

4) Institute programs that minimize the personal impact of unintended pregancies (e.g. paying a stipend during the 6th month of preganancy, onwards).

Conversely: Depending on their rationale for vegetanarianism (grossly mispelled!), more veggies and ''anti animal testing'' folks should also be questioning the relative value of human fetuses.

(ethically, 1 dead cow = X fetuses?)


Gye Greene said...

Addendum: BTW, I refuse the oft-trotted out argument that banning abortion would lead to more child abuse, child neglect, etc. of "unwanted children".

I don't have numbers on this -- it's antecdotal -- but historically I don't think ''unwanted children'' were necessarily abused and mistreated by ''unfit parents''. Instead, they were left on church doorsteps, ditched with relatives, etc.

FWIW: I'm officially ''undecided'' on this [highly-devisive!] issue. Thus, I don't advocate for either position. Or rather, I view it as a difficult continuum, rather than as a dichotomy: I don't have a problem with aborting clusters of 16 cells; but I view the difference between an 8 mo. fetus and a live birth as just a technicality of which side of the abdominal wall the kid is. So, clearly the threshhold is at some point in between -- which I personally haven't decided yet.

But it annoys me that -- and mentioned in my previous comment -- that so many people hold poorly-reasoned, logically-inconsistent sets of beliefs. I can poke pretty large holes in either argument.


A.F. said...

You rock!

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