Monday, September 24, 2012

Bill Maher, ‘SNL’ unfairly slam undecided voters

Last week, “Saturday Night Live” and comedian Bill Maher each branded undecided voters in the 2012 presidential election as idiots.
Their comedy bits took cheap shots at the percentage of Americans who claim they are undecided in the race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. (A recent Associated Press-GfK poll says 7% of voters are undecided. Maher put the figure at 5% and “SNL” at less than 4%.)
From their clearly partisan perspectives, Maher and the writers of “SNL” think the election is a pretty easy decision: Vote for Barack Obama. Maher and “SNL” just can’t fathom why 5% of voters haven’t come to that obvious conclusion yet.
Maher makes a good point about the media’s fixation with undecideds. I, too, hate those broadcast news panels of undecided voters called together to measure their reactions to the race.
I agree with Maher that the media is wrong to present them as “more noble and discerning than the rest of us.” But I wouldn’t call them “dipshits” either, as Maher does.
I could say the same thing about large numbers of uninformed voters who vote Democratic or Republican no matter who is running. Maher makes the same point when he points to a Pew Research study that says 40% of Democrats do not know that the Republicans are the conservative party.
Undecided voters used to be called independent or swing voters. That’s because they’re not locked into an ideology that makes them a lock for either party to count on year after year.
Romney was trying to make that point in that controversial video, surreptitiously shot in May but leaked last week. In presidential elections, Republicans can’t sway those 47% of people who are guaranteed to vote for the Democratic candidate. It’s foolish to campaign to them. You have to appeal to those swing voters who can go either way. Those are the idiots that Maher and SNL are talking about, the ones that can’t see the clear good-and-evil line separating Obama and Romney.
“If, at this point, you still can’t figure out who you like more Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, stay home,” Maher said. “Because you probably couldn’t find your polling place anyway,” Maher said. “I mean, what more information does someone need to make this choice?”
True, the public knows what they’re getting with Barack Obama. He’s been in office for four years and they can judge his record.
But even people who think Obama has done a poor job, especially with the economy, aren’t sure they want to back Romney. Obama is immensely likable, while Romney comes off as cold and arrogant.
The question isn’t “who you like more,” it’s who would do a better job as president?
Maher would prefer if we could skip the upcoming debates between Romney and Obama and head straight to the polls. No need to see the candidates side-by-side, answering (hopefully) tough questions to gauge their responses.
I can think of a lot of reasons why people are undecided.
For starters, there are those of us who are fiscally conservative and believe in smaller government, but are liberal about social issues. A choice for either candidate this year is a compromise of those principles. It’s the age-old better-of-two-evils quandary.
Some poll respondents probably aren’t comfortable voicing their support for a candidate and prefer to say they’re undecided. Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko famously used to encourage readers to lie to pollsters.
Many undecided voters are probably leaning one way or the other and are waiting to see if either candidate slips up at the debates or in the final weeks of campaigning to change their minds. But officially they’re undecided.
Still other undecided voters who dislike both candidates will cast protest votes either for trailing candidate (to rob the winner of a clear mandate) or a third-party candidate like Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. 

Photo: 7-Eleven convenience stores are holding a promotion called “7-Election 2012,” where shoppers show their support for presidential candidates through their choice of coffee cup.

Weblinks:

America’s Undecided Voters Need Answers On ‘Saturday Night Live’ (Huffington Post)

Saturday Night Live: Undecided Voter (Hulu)

Bill Maher Slams Undecided Swing State Voters And The Media For Celebrating Them (Huffington Post)

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