USA Today‘s front cover yesterday featured an upbeat piece stating that by two to one, voters are more enthusiastic than usual about this year’s election. Meanwhile, here in South Carolina, The Post and Courier, Charleston’s 205-year old local rag, goes with, “Candidates woo state’s undecided voters.”
The public’s enthusiasm is hardly surprising. There are still eight realistic candidates for president (nine if you include Ron Paul, who some are now tipping to win the Republicans’ Nevada caucus on Saturday); there is a palpable desire for change that almost all the candidates are attempting to invoke; and the compressed primary season means that this time the post-Iowa, pre-“Super Tuesday” period operates in different ways compared to previous primary seasons.
But especially for the Democratic candidates, the indecision seems surprising. Clinton, Obama and Edwards—on paper at least—represent the identity politics of gender, race and class. Yet despite this and the recent (primarily media-distorted) controversies surrounding Obama’s “you’re likeable enough, Hillary” comment and her discussion on the relative contributions to the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King and President Johnson, voters refuse to be pigeonholed. While I’ve been in Charleston, I’ve spoken to well over 200 voters. This has included African-American men voting for Hillary, poor white pensioners voting for Obama, both those demographics going the other way, a heap of undecideds, and a single John Edwards supporter.