WASHINGTON, October 23, 2014 — The next 10 days will be critical to this year’s midterm elections as the roughly 8 to 10 percent of undecided voters decide which way they will go.
In almost all of the contested races, 90 to 92 percent of voters have said that they know who they are voting for. Historically there is really little that can happen to change that vote. In these contests the politician out front usually has less than 50 percent of the declared voters.
How the undecided vote will break is unknown, but both sides in these close races are claiming the lead.
Some analysts claim that the undecided split their vote in about the same proportions as those who have made up their mind already, so that the current leader in the polls is likely to be the winner.
It doesn’t always turn out that way.
The undecided are often independent voters. They vote candidate over party, which means they may vote Republican or Democrat. The candidate they vote for will support the policies that most fully reflect their views and values.
President Obama’s poll numbers show that most people see the Democrats as putting the country on the wrong course. While the Republican alternative often worries independents, they may see Republican policies as more appropriate to fixing failures in leadership today.
The basic difference between the liberal and conservative views is often in the area of personal responsibility versus entitlement.
Democrats believe that government should recognize the social responsibility that all Americans should have toward the entire population. This responsibility includes insuring that all people have adequate money to buy food, shelter, clothing and health care. They believe that if a person can’t afford these necessities, the taxpayers should be required to pay for them.
Republicans argue that responsibility for these necessities falls primarily on the individual. Primary government responsibility is to provide people the opportunity to earn enough to pay for necessities themselves, except in cases where people are truly unable to do it. Then a helping hand should be extended.
The difference between these views is described by the parable of the fisherman and a hungry man.
The fisherman has accumulated a capital good (the fishing rod) and has accumulated sufficient knowledge so that he catches enough fish each day to provide for those he is responsible for.
A hungry man approaches him and asks the fisherman to “give” him some food. If the fisherman agreed with entitlement, he would feel a moral responsibility to share what he has and would give the hungry person enough food to insure that he was satisfied.
However, if the fisherman felt that the hungry man was responsible for his own care, he might decide instead of feeding the hungry man to teach him to fish.
Hence the proverb “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” from the 1885 novel Mrs. Dymond by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie (1837–1919):
“I don’t suppose even Caron could tell you the difference between material and spiritual,” said Max, shrugging his shoulders. “He certainly doesn’t practise his precepts, but I suppose the Patron meant that if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn. But these very elementary principles are apt to clash with the leisure of the cultivated classes. Will Mr. Bagginal now produce his ticket—the result of favour and the unjust sub-division of spiritual environments?” said Du Parc, with a smile.
The “kindness” of giving a fish, or entitlement, has resulted in two long term problems.
- The fisherman now has to provide enough fish to satisfy his responsibilities and provide fish for the hungry person.
- The hungry person is now dependent on the fisherman for food.
Instead, conservatives argue, the responsible, caring fisherman will show the hungry man how to fish, so he can take care of himself.
Of course the fisherman should agree that teaching people to fish solves the long term problem, but in the short term, they could starve to death.
The obvious solution, which in principle seems to elude politicians, is to feed the hungry man and teach him how to fish.
In his State of the Union Address before Congress on January 4, 1935, President Roosevelt declared, “the time has come for action by the national government” to provide “security against the major hazards and vicissitudes [uncertainties] of life.” He went on to propose the creation of federal unemployment and old-age insurance programs. He also called for guaranteed benefits for poor single mothers and their children along with other dependent persons.By permanently expanding federal responsibility for the security of all Americans, Roosevelt believed that the necessity for government make-work employment and other forms of Depression relief would disappear. In his address before Congress, Roosevelt argued that the continuation of government relief programs was a bad thing for the country:
The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. — From How Welfare Began in the United States at Constitutional Rights Foundation.
Historically the majority of Americans tend to take a centrist position, sometimes leaning to the right, sometimes to the left.
In 2008, Americans believed the country was leaning too far to the right and elected a president who would pull it to the left.
After six years of leaning left, increased entitlement programs, incoherent foreign policy, and inept government agencies from the VA to the IRS, most Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, that the leftward shift has been too great.
Although it may be true that all politics is local, when the undecided voter finally step into the voting booth, many may lean right. They will simply reason that it is time to teach the their fellow men how to fish for themselves.