February 28, 2016 by swingstatevoter
For the first time in my life, I am an undecided voter.
Not the typical undecided voter that looks at a field of candidates, listens to them speak about their platforms for 16 months, and still cannot find anything on which to relate to a candidate passionately enough to vote for them. Those people frustrate me, and I will never understand them.
This is a different kind of “undecided”. I am irresolute about whether my vote in the Ohio primary should be for my candidate of choice on the Democratic ticket, or if I should cast my vote against the Republican candidate I find to be repulsive and destructive to our political process.
I had my mind made up the day Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy that I would vote for him in the primaries. Although I have kept abreast of the positions, debates, speeches, and forums of each of the Democratic candidates along the way, I have kept a very watchful eye on the primary race for the Republican nomination. Or, perhaps what could more accurately be described as the evolution of our political process into the Jerry Springer show.
Minus Steve the bouncer, of course.
I live in a swing state, which has proven to be both exciting and frustrating. The advantages are many – political candidates and news media visit often, tax dollars and technology innovation are pumped heavily into our state to keep us relevant (if not ahead of the curve), and we have a sense of importance because we know no presidential candidate can win the White House without us. Consider swing states like Ohio to be the golden ticket to the proverbial chocolate factory.
You’re welcome, George W. Bush.
How is it, then, that in this presidential cycle I feel as if the swing state is in danger of being obsolete in this clown car of a primary race?
If the Republican Party nominates Donald Trump – an unmistakably racist, crude, misogynistic, and un-presidential asshole – they are rendering the swing states completely irrelevant. Swing states have always been somewhat of a microcosm of the country as a whole – very diverse constituencies, a good mixture of rural and urban, a lot of industrial potential, and well-known institutions of higher learning. Because the demographics are so diverse, we can swing conservative or liberal depending on two important factors: the candidate and the level of voter turnout.
Sometimes these two things are not mutually exclusive, by the way. A likable candidate can lead to complacency, but a horrible candidate can lead to higher turnout of voters to keep the state from handing them the presidency.
Not until this past week did the Republican institution begin to realize this beast of a marketing guru named Trump was steamrolling his way to the nomination rather than becoming an early footnote like they all believed he would. They suddenly realized the American people weren’t asking any tough questions, nothing the other candidates were throwing at him was sticking, and they had wasted a lot of time ignoring Trump while he was gaining support from an entire army of people who didn’t care that he is full of shit.
Essentially, the Republican institution focused on painting the walls while the house was on fire.
If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, the Party will forever tie its name to a polarizing candidate who is guaranteed to confirm the stereotypes Republicans have worked hard to deny – racism, homophobia, white supremacy, and tax policies that favor wealthy businessmen over the working class.
And that is something that has the potential to lean swing states like Ohio indefinitely into the blue category.
How is it possible that the Republican institution was so completely out of sync with its voter base, and not able to predict that a candidate like Donald Trump could become as popular as he seemingly is? Apparently, they underestimated the enthusiasm of voters for baseless promises delivered with tiger blood #winning language and the inability of the media to properly report the news.
In a recent interview with CBS’s Martha Teichner, chief film critic for the Washington Post Ann Hornaday spoke about the inability of movie viewers to think analytically about the “liberties” (also known as fabrication or exaggeration) taken by Hollywood writers when watching movies that are “based on a true story”. Hornaday was asked about Oliver Stone’s film “JFK”, which was “based on” the assassination of President Kennedy, yet focused highly (via exaggerated dialogue and character development) on the conspiracy theories about who else could have been involved with the murder. She stated that there “is an inherent danger [to advertise the movie as a true story] but I think the responsibility lies with the viewer. If schools aren’t teaching history, that’s a problem in and of itself. But they should be teaching media literacy at this point.”
Hornaday touches on the exact reason Donald Trump is currently the leading candidate in the polls on the Republican side. Much the same way a Hollywood writer or director will embellish a story line in order to incite emotion in a viewer (and therefore make it more likely for the film to be a box office smash) the current state of the mainstream media is to provide wall-to-wall coverage of Donald Trump because he is an emotionally charging candidate. For better or worse (mostly worse) he creates a sense of uncertainty in his ability to keep calm or refrain from saying insane sounds bites that will eventually go viral. Every television news source wants to “be the first” to report on whatever offensive comment he makes, so they live stream each of his town halls, press conferences, or interviews at the expense of fairness in reporting all other candidates. Ratings win; the American people lose.
Ideally, the American voters should invoke critical thought to these viewing opportunities and would realize the media isn’t attempting to report facts or operate on a level of fairness. They are only concerned with driving up their ratings. The film “Wolf of Wall Street” wasn’t a film telling a true story in documentary form, as the writers were attempting to balance the story with the elements that would drive audiences to the theater. It is up the viewer to realize what they are watching on film (and on television) is always made with the intent to have a return on investment, and truth is never as sexy as fiction. Rather, truth is often inversely proportional to the amount of money needed from the producers, directors, and writers involved.
Only now is the Republican party realizing the lack of critical thought in the typical American voter will harm their chances at keeping lunatics off their party’s ticket.
I agree with Ann Hornaday that we should be teaching media literacy in our schools. Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood is difficult enough, let alone if we do not have the tools necessary for a built-in bullshit detector when we are flooded with such an incredible amount of data being thrust at us in this Information Age. Where it becomes most important is in the election process, during which we should be critically analyzing the candidates running for office and predicting where they will take us, where they may fall short, and if their promises even make sense.
My bullshit detector is running on overdrive every time Donald Trump speaks. I find it completely frustrating and goddamned frightening that someone has come as far as he has without saying a single coherent, substantive, or relevant thing about his policies or how he would be able to benefit the American people. He has exploited the lack of critical thought in our voters by giving performance after performance in front of cameras saying nothing more than marketing slogans. When I hear Trump say, “Mexico will absolutely pay for that wall,” or “We will bring jobs back from China,” or “I am going to make this country win so much, you’ll be sick of winning,” there is one simple question I am shouting incessantly at my television: “HOW????”
But none of his supporters ask that question. They simply cheer for the soundbites. ‘Murica!
Should the American people be educated in critical thought, analysis, or media literacy, Trump would have been forced out of the race a long time ago. Few people would have accepted his one-liners without asking, “How are you going to do that?” and they certainly would not have bought into Trump’s usual bullshit answer of “Because I’m a businessman”. He may as well be saying, “Because, purple!” Obviously, Trump has no real answer to the question of “how”, and his competitors should have made him look like a fool about a week after he rode down that escalator to join the race.
Yet, American voters apparently have not been properly educated in the marketing tactics of the business world – bait and switch, fine print, and using glittery words to make consumers feel warm and fuzzy work wonderfully to gain admirers only as long as those consumers aren’t smart enough to say, “Show me your facts and figures to back up your claims.”
In the past, the media has been somewhat responsible for supplementing this analysis for the American people, but since the onset of cable news networks the media has increasingly become complicit in this game.
I get it, voters are pissed that politicians suck. However, if the problem we currently have surrounds the inability for politicians to keep their campaign promises, the solution of choosing the candidate who has no factual information to back up his purely narcissistic claims of bringing awesomeness, winning, and ballsy fuck-yeah trajectory to the United States is an entirely new level of ignorance.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Republicans have not championed a candidate like John Kasich, who is a more level-headed and likable candidate with a lot of experience. I do not agree with Kasich on everything, especially with his recent decision to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio or his implementation of privatizing prisons. However, given his record of balancing the national budget in the 1990s, his willingness to support marriage equality even though he is opposed to homosexuality, and his detailed explanation of how to form consensus in times of disagreement, I have a level of trust in Kasich. I trust that if he were faced with an issue in the White House where he found himself at odds with the American people, he would take an honest assessment of the situation and attempt to determine what was right for the country, even if that end result were something he personally opposed. John Kasich is the only Republican who, if placed on the national ticket opposite Democrat Hillary Clinton, would actually make me consider voting Republican.
Which is why the Republicans have gone, as Lindsey Graham said, bat-shit crazy.
Centrists would vote for Kasich. Ohio and other swing states vote heavily in favor of centrist candidates. Hillary Clinton (the presumed nominee on the Democratic ticket) is a polarizing candidate that isn’t 100% trustworthy to centrist voters. Therefore, the Republicans are wasting a golden opportunity for the presidency by marginalizing a potential winner like Kasich to nominate any of the far-right-wing candidates.
Kasich has already said if he doesn’t win Ohio, he will drop out of the race, so I find myself wanting to give Kasich a win to keep him in the race and provide the Republicans a chance at sparing this country from anymore of the childish antics to which Trump has resorted. Thus, I am faced with a dilemma in how I cast my primary vote.
As a responsible swing state voter appreciative of the intent of the voting process, I know I should vote my conscience. I have always done so. But at this time, I do not know which carries more weight – showing my support for Bernie Sanders to win the Democratic nomination, or casting my vote against Donald Trump in an expression of my desire to ensure a higher standard of politicians is in the presidential race.
I certainly want Bernie Sanders to win the primary in Ohio, and I want to cast my vote thusly. But with every fiber in my being, I do not want Donald Trump to win the Ohio primary, because he is a horrible human being that has no business winning anything tied to my state, or this country.
I know the writing on the wall. Bernie needs to get some states to stay relevant in the race, and if he doesn’t win primaries like Ohio, he’s likely off the Democratic ticket. That makes me want to feel the Bern all the way to the voting booth. But the reality is, when it comes to the general election I will still likely vote for the Democratic candidate, no matter who is on the ticket, because my support for progressive policies will most definitely be maintained by a Democrat than with any of the Republicans running this year. Especially if Trump is the Republican nominee. Eff that.
Since it seems inevitable that I will vote for the Democrat in the general election, should I utilize my power in the primaries to potentially give Kasich a win and hope the dominoes will begin to fall against Trump? Or do I let the chips fall where they may for the Republicans and use my vote to show Bernie how much I feel he’s the better candidate overall?
For the first time in my life, I may not decide how I will cast my vote until voting day. Being undecided is a very unsettling feeling, but certainly not as unsettling as the prospect of Donald Trump in the White House. I have a lot of thinking to do before March 15.