Looking over the political landscape one is immediately impressed with the great gulf that is fixed between Democrats and Republicans. Years ago, both these parties had many areas in their party platforms that crossed over. There were many points of agreement, with just as many nuances in those same agreements. The stock idea was that Republicans were the pro-business, pro-Wall Street party, and the Democrats were, by and large, a party of the working class, overwhelmingly supported by the unions.
But this is 2020, and nothing that was is the same.
We hear Democrats talking about how Wall Street will benefit if they are elected, and Republicans grappling with health care and Covid-19 relief.
Amid this is the most curious of political elements: the undecided voter. Surely, the undecided voter has played a role in every presidential election in our history. However, there are two reasons why their existence is more important now, whilst all the more odd. This reason has to do with ideology.
There has perhaps never been an election in our history where the ideological gap is so wide. Under Trump, the country has been led by a populist president whose modus operandi is to “fix” that which he feels is broken and to put policies on the right side of the political spectrum. The Democrats, on the other hand, have taken a left-hand turn under the influences of Bernie Sanders and the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There is no doubt that Joe Biden, should he win the presidency, will carry out policies that are more progressive than we have seen in many years—perhaps ever.
Which brings us to the question of the undecided voter.
Given the fact that Democrats and Republicans are far apart in their core values, what, we may ask, is motivating the undecided voter? Put another way, how can one be undecided when the differences between the two candidates seems to be as clear as a mountain stream?
Again, we are living interesting times, and much of what drives people now is appearance and perception, not necessarily ideology.
For example, many of those who voted for Trump the first times around may be having second thoughts, not because of policy, but because of personality. For example, many may have liked Trump initially because he was straight-forward and plain spoken. Now, after four years, his bravado may come off as arrogance and his decision making may appear to lack compassion.
Many of the aforementioned voters may be leaning toward Biden because the perception—not necessarily the reality—is that he is a Washington insider who knows the ropes and will bring a less chaotic administration to the White House.
One would also have to figure in all the social upheaval going on in our country: the question of police brutality, Black Lives Matter, the unrest in our cities, and the belief that systemic racism is steering our country.
Many Americans are befuddled by the social whirlwind around them and may be examining their own moral and political beliefs. They are wondering if they should go down the “path not taken,” or the one that is well trod. They may not feel that the country is facing a decision to totally turn the helm in another direction, and are rather wondering what kind of personality they want to see in their president, and not so much what kind of policies he may bring to the table.
We of course cannot leave this subject without mentioning that there are many Americans that are not politically inclined and go about their business with a shrug no matter who occupies the Oval Office. But this is a year that has surprises, seemingly, behind every turn. Whether Trump pulls off another shocking election, or Biden’s momentum leads him and other Democratic candidates to a crushing victory, the average American is going to be impacted. Certainly, one wonders how anyone can stay in their glass bubble amidst the present carnival atmosphere.
But this is not the America of the 1950’s. Indeed, this is not even the America of the 1960’s—it is rather an America that seems to be tumbling down an endless hill with giant question marks on all sides.
The undecided voter in 2020, may indeed be the lynch pin who will decide when the tumbling will stop—or the water boy on the sideline that simply stares and watches the whole game collapse.
Joseph M Bianchi is an independent journalist and author based in Greenville, SC. His work has appeared in national and international publications.