Recently, I completed a short story, “Mirror, Mirror,” a fable about a middle-manager for a political polling firm. Griffin (ask me about his name), is objective and detached not just professionally but personally. He struggles to make a decision about even the smallest things. With the presidential election at hand, some Americans can’t make a decision about the biggest matters.
At story’s end, Griffin waits until the last minute to go to his polling place then leaves his ballot unmarked. The next morning when he looks in his bathroom mirror, his reflection isn’t there.
This weekend, the two major candidates will court those who might not vote and those who will but remain perched on the fence. The latter’s hesitancy escapes me given the commitment by many prominent anti-Trump Republicans who made the unexpected decision to cross party lines and vote for Joe Biden.
Witness the Lincoln Project. This ad hoc group created in 2019 by former Republican communications gurus runs anti-Trump advertising in battleground states. Men and women who served in high-level positions in previous Republican administrations and retired generals and admirals also have thrown in their lot with Biden. They’re still conservatives, but they want to assure Donald Trump’s leaving office on January 20.
Why do fence-sitters remain? Some, I suspect, intend to vote (have voted) for Trump but are embarrassed to say so. Many on the lower rung of the economic ladder see Trump as vile but someone who represents grievances, real and imagined. Those at the top count on Trump to help them amass even more wealth but won’t reveal their motivation, which go against the values they teach their children.
Some Democrats on the far left may sit out. They loathe Trump but see Biden as a centrist and thus without principles. If Biden wins, okay. But they’ll remain unsullied. If he loses, they’ll have taught the Democratic Party a lesson: go all the way left or go home.
Independents—a significant chunk of the electorate and centrists by definition—may be put off by both parties. They see Republicans reflecting the far right and most Republican members of Congress supporting Trump publicly to avoid being primaried. Far-right adherents cast the most primary ballots.
Yet independents fear the far-left faction inspired by the avowed socialist Bernie Sanders, which has risen in, though not come close to dominating, the Democrats.
Third-party supporters? Many will support their candidate, who has no chance to win. Some will say, “My state’s a sure thing, so my third-party vote doesn’t matter.” Their purity of heart will remain unquestioned.
Note A: Enough votes could get a third-party candidate on the stage during the 2024 presidential debates.
Note B: Donald Trump may refuse to accept losing in the undemocratic but constitutional Electoral College. Every popular vote for Biden will reinforce a Biden win.
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 1), Friar Laurence says, “Virtue itself turns vice misapplied . . .” Principle sometimes morphs into self-righteousness. The forest disappears for the trees.
I expect a Libertarian Party friend to push back. That’s fine. If he wishes, I’ll share his thoughts with you.
As for me, the choices in this election are quite distinct. Whatever the result—and whenever—I’ll look into the mirror and see my reflection.