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.


Overall impressions

I always find it both fascinating and disturbing to watch politicians give speeches. They make claims that are sometimes completely factually inaccurate, sometimes aspirational (but ludicrously false), and sometimes complete, purposeful misrepresentations of what the other party said.

It's not just that the Republican speakers often bend the truth that bothers me. After all, you know a politician (any politician) is bending the truth because his or her lips are moving.

This convention seems somewhat more serious than those of the George W. Bush era. Perhaps that's because Mitt's a more serious man that Dubya ever was. Perhaps that's because Mitt inspires far less passion among his own party than George W. ever did. No matter what, I prefer this more-serious, less-childish version of convention behavior.

From a production design point of view, I found one of the staging elements rather ill-advised. The speakers were backdropped by a large wall of screens, but when they showed up on TV in close-ups, they only had a mottled color background behind them.

For most of the first day, the speakers were backdropped by an over-saturated image of the parchment from the Constitution. Unfortunately, when the speakers were presented on TV, viewers didn't see the Constitution. All they saw was what appeared -- more than anything else -- to be almost explosive flames. What should have been patriotic seemed more Devil's Advocate -- clearly not the intention of the campaign's handlers. You want your candidates to bring a little hellfire and brimstone to their speeches, but not appear to be from there.

Romney himself was backdropped by just a gray background, almost as if he were standing in front of smoking rubble. While you can read a lot into these production design issues, one key point to take away is that the staging of this convention wasn't quite as carefully choreographed as previous outings.

There's a lot of oddity in conventions. After all, after tailgate parties at football games, pretty much the only place you'll see people wearing cheese hats is at a political convention. But in this case, there was a strange little back and forth about what Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney listened to on their iPod playlists (where both candidates mentioned the iPod brand by name). In Ryan's case, it seemed relatively natural. In Romney's case, it seemed like something he was convinced to do against his better judgement.

That, in fact, is my big takeaway from the convention. It seems like Romney does have considerable better judgement and outside the enormous gravitational pull of special interests, he'd probably make good decisions and be a good leader. But he does seem to be convinced, regularly, to go against what he seems internally comfortable with, and I have to wonder whether -- if elected -- we'll get the Romney of the better judgement and better angels, or the Romney who is swayed constantly by trying to fit in with the conflicting demands of all those special interests.

Nothing here has convinced me to make a choice. That's good for the Republicans, because -- in previous elections -- there has often been something in a convention speech that made it clear I couldn't support the party that cycle. This time, with the exception of a little too much blind religiosity on the part of some speakers, there was nothing that was a complete deal-breaker.

There was nothing that closed the deal either. I still remain an undecided voter. I probably won't have definitive opinion until after the debates. In any case, next week, it's the Dems.

Bedtimes and politics

One of my more interesting observations this convention season is one I didn't expect: bedtimes affect political engagement.

I know this will seem weird to a lot of you (and very familiar to others of you), but for years, I went to bed very late at night (as late as 5am and 6am). I always liked writing and programming in the quiet of the night, and I naturally gravitate to late nights if I let myself.

This schedule used to make watching politics easy, especially with the help of a Tivo. I could record events like convention nights and debates, and watch them for hours later that night, taking notes, and discussing each interesting point with my wife.

But recently, I've changed my schedule to one where I go to bed at 11pm and get up at 7am. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the big one is I need to be available during working hours for clients and contractors.

I've discovered that I've been reluctant to allocate five hours a night this week to the convention. First, the coverage ends after my bed time, and second, I don't want to try to go to bed all riled up from political sports-fannery.

So, rather than full body immersion to the convention, I've been Tivoing the thing, and then picking and choosing the speeches I want to listen to, some of which I've listened to the next morning, rather than the night of the speech.

It's been an interesting change, and it's helped me realize why so many Americans (many of whom must have structured bedtimes dictated by their work schedules) have such a difficulty engaging in these bigger events.

It's hard to allocate 15 hours of your week to consume politics when you have other work that needs to be done. That, plus family time, takes a whole lot of your discretionary pre-bed time away from the 24/7 politics fire hose, especially if you're working multiple jobs.

ZDNet Government's coverage of Election 2012:

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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • 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