Can It Be?

The current presidential contest — which got underway, if memory serves, back in the late ’50s or early ’60s — appears, impossibly, to be in its final days. It has seemed so hyperbolically prolonged, like some geometric distortion of spacetime itself, that I rather suspect that when it is over the world will end in a thunderclap, as was the predicted result in that old story about the monks moving metal discs in the temple in Benares — but more likely, I suppose, is that Wednesday will simply dawn as usual, the parties’ lawyers will get on with their lawsuits, and the rest of us will get back in the barrel.

We’ve been hearing a lot about undecided voters, and many of the commentators on the political shows have expressed their amazement that anyone could still be “undecided” at this late date. We hear the same point made again and again — that the candidates are so different, and their views at odds on so many issues, that any rational adult with an intact corpus callosum should have been able to pick one by now.

For example, David Sedaris, writing in the New Yorker, doesn’t get it. We read:

I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. … To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?

The answer, of course, is quite simple (Sedaris even notes it in passing, but simply moves on). In contrast to the True Believers, for whom Obama is the Kwisatz Haderach, or McCain the Great White Hope, there are those for whom both men leave various things to be desired. Obama is bright, and speaks well, but he’s young and untested. McCain is seasoned and loyal, but he’s awfully old and a little flaky. McCain is surely steadfast on national security, but Obama is far more popular with our allies around the world. McCain’s got Sarah Palin, but then again Obama has Joe Biden. McCain may be too far to the right on various social and economic issues, but then again Obama may slide too far back to the left if elected.

And so on. The fact is that there are a lot of folks who have carefully added up all the pros and cons across all the various axes and issues, and have ended up with the columns evenly balanced. (Even I would still be dithering a bit, I think, were it not for that Awful Woman.)

Yes, of course, we aren’t going to learn anything new in the next few days that is likely to help undecided voters make up their minds. But the fact is, you don’t have to make up your mind until you pull the lever (or punch the chad, or tap the screen) on Tuesday. And for many people, it’s not such an easy choice.

I will say that the campaigns this time around have made the most entertaining use to date of the enormously varied possibilities of the new electronic media. I leave you with this amusing item, sent to me today by my friend and co-worker Jenn Goodson.

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