Diary of an undecided voter (GOP convention edition)

Diary of an undecided voter (GOP convention edition)

Summary: There are probably less than 10% of Americans who haven't decided on who to vote for in the November Presidential election. Yet, it's often the undecided voters, like ZDNet Government's own David Gewirtz, that eventually choose the winner. Here's David's review of the GOP convention.


Clint Eastwood

Look, I'm as much a fan of Clint Eastwood as the next guy, well, of the "Go ahead and make my day" Clint, not the Bridges of Madison County, I want to be an ar-teest older Clint. I loved mean Clint. I've snoozed through chick-flick Clint.

But the point is, Clint Eastwood is no Chuck Norris. And when it comes to endorsing a political party, Mr. Eastwood's "surprise" performance was more of a surprise than I think the Republicans counted on.

Granted, it was probably better -- and certainly more tasteful -- than a holographic Ronald Reagan addressing the audience. That was another of the "surprises" discussed prior to Thursday's big night of TV.

But rather than a ghostly Reagan speaking to the assembled throngs from the Republican stage, a wizened "Dirty Harry Callahan" spoke to an empty chair, in a dramatic monologue meant to address the spirit of the current Democratic president he hoped will soon be defeated.

Why an empty chair? It was weird, bordering on the surreal. It didn't work. It really didn't work.

Looking at this through the eyes of an undecided voter, this left me more baffled and even less convinced. I'm telling you, when I found out in 2008 that Chuck Norris was endorsing Mike Huckabee (one of the most brilliant political moves in history, by the way), I was almost instantly sold on the Huck, even though I disagree with him on quite a lot.

The GOP missed an opportunity here. Clint Eastwood is no doubt an icon of the 1970s and 1980s, but this is 2012. While Chuck Norris isn't really a modern icon either, it doesn't matter. After all, if Chuck Norris had been in Sudden Impact, he would have made Clint Eastwood's day.

Mitt Romney

Romney's speech started off without a grabber, but it slowly built up. The first part of the speech that really caught my attention was his short, rather elegant eulogy to Neil Armstrong, who died last Sunday. Although it was quickly turned to a political statement, Romney used the legacy of the Apollo program to talk about big accomplishments, and had a good line: "When the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American."

I noticed that some of the chattering class described that as a nod to the birthers, but I think that's a very long stretch. American exceptionalism has long been a campaign theme of both political parties. My bigger concern is whether this indicates a desire, like that of all recent presidential candidates, to meddle in the affairs of other countries and try to sustain being the world's police force.

One thing that's dogged Romney's campaign is what the media calls the "gender gap". In his speech, Romney clearly tried to address that, and I think he did a relatively credible job. He acknowledged his own mother's failed senatorial run back in 1970, the challenge of his wife raising five children, and the various female elected officials now in office.

At no point in his speech did I get any impression whatsoever that he valued women any less than men. If there is a gender gap in this election on the part of the GOP, it's the party overall, but it certainly doesn't seem to be resident within Romney himself.

Echoing Ryan's speech the night before, Romney hit a key point by saying, "What America needs is jobs. Lots of jobs."

This is a message I'll be looking for in the Democratic convention, because -- and I'll again remind you I wrote what is probably the most widely-read jobs book of the last decade -- I haven't seen a lot of job-positive policy work coming out of Washington. A key part of my decision as an undecided voter will be which candidate will make jobs a stronger focus.

Romney also echoed Ryan's promise to create 12 million new jobs. As I mentioned in the Ryan section, that's not enough to solve America's problems. Romney described five steps to creating those jobs, but one thing he didn't mention was population. Romney has five kids and 18 grandchildren, and so, in this regard, he's contributing to the problem -- rather than helping it. My detailed mathematical models showed that without some attention paid to reducing population, the jobs situation will continue to grow worse.

I was reminded, watching Romney, of previous campaign speeches by George W. Bush and John McCain -- as well as those of Ronald Reagan. George W's speeches always seemed full of bluster, while McCain's seemed vaguely out of touch with the reality unfolding right outside his convention center. Reagan, of course, was Ronald Reagan, and while it was hard to agree with everything he said, you had a sense Reagan had a mission, knew what it was, and America was his top priority.

I've been trying to tell whether Romney's in this because he wants the gig of President, or whether he wants to have an impact on America. There was some bluster in the speech (you can't have a campaign speech without it), but I was surprised to find that the multi-hundred millionaire seemed more connected to the needs of the vast majority of middle-class Americans than I've seen Washington be over these past few years.

Going into the Democratic convention next week, then, I'll be watching to see whether President Obama has the same connection to the realities of most Americans. I'll be looking for policy and priority, because -- as we all know -- the Obama administration hasn't really met the promise we all felt back in November of 2008.

Next: Overall impressions

Topics: Government, Government US


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Why a station wagon?

    With all those kids, plus the dog, why didn't the Romneys have a van instead of a station wagon? Couldn't have been money. Poor judgement? Do we really want this guy as president?

    Terri the Terrorist Terrier says "W00F!!" (No!)
    • Traditional minivans came later

      Other than the Volkswagon vans and some commercial vans, minivans as we know them today started in 1984 or so. Station wagons were the minivans back then.
      David Gewirtz
      • You're undecided?!

        Republicans have spent the last four years pulling dirty tricks on every initiative Obama tries to implement to improve the quality of life for average people? Face it, Republicans only care about their money. And your money, that's next - they care about that because it's not *yet* their money. The Republican Party is just a front, with a propagandist disinformation front called Fox News, that is out to bankrupt both the government and *you*. Any vote for a Republican candidate is a traitorous pledge cast against the majority of people who are *middle class*. Go ahead, vote for that one percent - but don't be surprised in 10 years when I warned you that they are just out to fleece you for everything. Everything.
      • David Korten: The Post Corporate World

        "In the 1980s capitalism triumphed over communism. In the 1990s it triumphed over democracy and the market economy."

        That is from the prologue to David Korten's book "The Post Corporate World."

        Capitalism is sucking every penny upwards into the hands of the obscenely wealthy. At this point in time Republicans are just tools for those wealthy to realize their ever increasing gains.

        Do you still want to vote Republican? Remember the good old days when people like Rockefeller took their mega-wealth and actually put it to the public good? These days it seems like Bill Gates stands alone in that tradition. All the other mega-rich have found something better to do with their wealth: keep it. All of it.
      • Korten has a lot to say about capitalistic colonization globally

        But to attribute that to the Republican party exclusively is nonsense. The big shot Dems drink from the same cup. Ironically there's only a thin line between Marxism and untamed (Ultra-) Capitalism, doubly so by modern framings. Want jackbooting? Name a modern corporation that isn't "politically correct" to an almost sickening degree.

        Also an inordinate amount of hi-tech mavericks are funders of the Democratic party. Just as many others are advocates for One World Order. You keep turning to stereotypical frameworks of the past, when increasingly they no longer apply (as they might have once upon a time).

        As for Bill Gates, please stop with the post-MS sainthood proclamations. Here's a guy who ran roughshod over anybody and anything in his path for years, drove even the majority of his own inner circle away with his incessant bullwhip, and now - largely thanks to his Catholic wife (and lots of bridge with Buffett) - has morphed into the second coming of Mother Teresa.

        That is, after stashing away more into private coffers than a Prince from antiquity could ever have hoped for. After all, he conquered the commercial world, arguably at his own country's expense. And like any Pied Piper worth their reed, other rats followed suit, quite eagerly. LOTS of them, lest they be left behind holding diminished bags. And all unchecked by our electors.

        So now he's on a crusade to feed the world. Bravo Bill. Too bad he couldn't take his substantive intellect and business prowess and, in like manner, attempt to apply it more to the country that nurtured him and gave him a playing field in which to bloom. Shades of what the rest of our once "American," now multinational crusaders endeavor for. The world at the expense of their own.

        And therein lies the problem. Politically, both the Reps AND Dems are afraid to do a thing about it, or see little reason to challenge the status quo. I wonder why? [think payroll-a instead of republicana]
    • Ahhh

      the full mentality of an Obummer supporter. Obviously you advocate 4 more years of lies and debt increases.
      • No kidding. He probably

        thinks the Romneys had the dog standing on the roof, scrabbling to maintain balance while they drove down the highway, all of the laughing as the poor animal clung desperately to the roof.
      • To be fair he'll mention Obama's eating dog next week

        Oh and population and unemployment aren't correlated as David suggests.

        Unemployment relates to the demand for labour and can be high or low in economies with small and large populations.

        As value is created in the private sector almost exclusively, look to party job creation policies to be targeted in that direction. Attempts by govt to create jobs will be short-term (must be funded from the productive sector). I suspect this policy deference will define the two sides.
        Richard Flude
      • Yeah!

        We want 4 new years of different lies and debt increases!
    • I'd ask obamas childhood dog how it feels, but..he ate it

  • Don't recall who said it but better the roof of a station wagon

    than the roof of his mouth. Obama says terri the terrier tastes terrific.
    Johnny Vegas
    • please

      Put the pistol in your mouth and pull the trigger. Save the world from your wit PLEASE !
  • Listen to Ry Cooder

    Mitt Romney, is what they say in Texas - Big Hat, No Cattle.

    But, listen to ry cooders mutt romney blues at youtube watch?v=TW_hE1jZWgY
    Your Non Advocate
  • I thought the empty chair was a good representation.

    Or maybe a golf cart. What else would you use for a career of voting present? Leading from behind? Ignoring simpson bowles? Ignoring Iran? Not being able to speak coherently off prompter?
    Johnny Vegas
    • I thought

      it was a mental upgrade over having Obummer there in person. At least he wasn't lying to Clint!
  • Conventions are publicity stunts

    I hate seeing all of the political commercials on TV during an election year. Why should I watch a several day long commercial? Sadly, I've been watching it anyway and the only thing I saw was desperation and expert manipulation of the uneducated masses using fear tactics. It has been one long hard-sell routine from expert salesmen, with very little new information actually revealed. There were also no real explanations for why he has such radical positions on some extremely important issues.

    I found myself looking at every speech about a policy position thinking, "What's in it for him?" In every case, it was obvious that he and/or his rich close friends were going to benefit financially from every single policy he has. He's won't be looking out for my best interests. He'll only be looking out for himself and his rich friends. All of the big corporations he and his buddies own stock in will benefit. He'll get bigger dividends. Reducing regulation and increasing tax breaks for the rich will benefit HIM, not us.

    Eliminating financial access to education for the middle and lower classes will make it so only the rich can afford to educate their children. Uneducated voters are their best target audience. They're easy to manipulate using fear tactics. Long term, the rich will get richer and the poor will remain firmly under their direct control. As a registered republican, my own party makes me sick these days.
    • There needs to be a 'None Of The Above' option

      on all ballots, particularly for the executive office. With a requirement that no candidate shall assume office without at least 30% of the total vote. If none succeed, a groomed monkey in a business suit is brought out from caged dormancy in the Green Room and given the task for the full term.

      I doubt any discernible difference would be glimpsed from what we get now.
      • Re "none of the above"

        Where would we get enough monkeys?
        • Achilles' heel

          Get enough monkeys? :O

          Seems there's always an unforeseen element in every new or promising initiative.

          Back to the drawing board... *sigh*
    • Sadly...

      ...it's been a generation since U.S. major party national conventions have been real decision making bodies. I notice that this time around, the Republicans passed their party platform without any debate or minority reports. That would have been unheard of in the 1970s, even if there wasn't a serious contest for the nomination.

      Notice also the high bar to even placing a name in nomination at this year's convention, and that votes for Paul and Santorum were ignored by the secretary (even the 1972 Republican National Convention recorded Paul McCloskey's one vote).

      This year's Republican National Convention was a combination rubber stamp and infomercial, so it's not surprising that the actual business of the convention got almost no attention, Sorry to say, I expect no better from the Democrats.
      John L. Ries