Readers weigh in on America's undecided voters, the myth of the "security mom," and Fox News' apology for its fake campaign story.

By Salon Staff
Published October 8, 2004 9:41PM (EDT)

[Read "Looking for Votes, Finding America," by Jonathan Alford.]

Alford's piece was great. Until now I have tended to write the undecideds off as stupid or uninterested. This gave me a much better sense of what some of the concerns are for people in middle America. In a time when all of the news from the U.S. seems to be bad and forecasts are gloomy, it is heartening to know that people are grappling with some of the key issues that will affect their lives for the next four years. I only hope they will each cast a vote for positive change in November.

-- Christina Laffin

I cannot agree with Alford's assertion that people who vote with their gut are "standing up for the simplicity, the honesty, of mere experience."

It is our responsibility as citizens to vote in an informed, educated manner. People that vote for a candidate because they "just like him" are abdicating that responsibility and voting solely on marketing, spin and baseless rhetoric.

The point is that if you're not paying attention, you're not living up to your responsibility. If you're not making an effort to understand what the merits of the Swift Boat Vet allegations are or what the CBS document fraud issue is, you're not living up to your obligation as a citizen.

Sure, it's what the majority of our population is doing these days, but it's not "simple" or "honest."

It's stupid.

-- Seppo Helava

Alford puts his finger on the reason many voters are still undecided in this election. So many people feel overwhelmed with life, with surviving, with maybe getting a bit ahead, or at least staying in place. They don't have the time or the opportunity to get past the spin, past the "message of the day" fed to the media by the campaigns (think "flip-flopper").

The media is no longer a truth-finding group and it works hard to stay in the middle of the blue/red divide, saying whatever's necessary [not] to lose ratings in either. It is a policy that has just engendered confusion, mistrust and, at worst, erroneous thinking.

-- Heidi Hadley

Alford's piece is the most honest, patient and thoughtful look at the issues behind the "issues" I have read in a very long time.

I see my country becoming more and more polarized, on opposite sides of a line drawn solely by poll data and demographic. By packaging political issues as a sterilized A-or-B choice we have allowed the two-party beast to subjugate all of our beliefs and concerns into a simple checkbox answer. This fuels apathy.

When I helped raise $800 at a bake sale for Kerry this summer, it wasn't Kerry we were supporting. No one at the event had voted for him in the primary. Most didn't agree with his positions. But he was our "best chance" against Bush.

When you don't feel the candidate you vote for will represent you, apathy is just right around the corner.

-- Brian Kirkbride

What a talented writer Alford is. A beautifully written article that brought a tear to my eye. I'd say you should put this guy on staff, but I'm worried you might corrupt him. Just keep buying his stories.

-- Shameiz Hemani

[Read "I Love You, Security Mom," by John Brady Kiesling.]

I was refreshed by the clarity and correctness of this article. I am a Canadian, a position that gives me an interesting view on the United States. On the one hand my security is bound up, whether I like it or not, with yours.

America is our largest trading partner, second-longest ally, and immediate neighbor. Our only neighbor, in fact. But our relationship has become more and more strained over time. Although the boomer generation, which is still largely in control of national policies, desires the tight relationship with the U.S. that we have had since WWII, the younger generation is looking overseas and looking inward for inspiration.

Kiesling makes the point that Europeans wonder when America will wake up and acknowledge that the world is changing. They're not the only ones. Canada also is wondering how much longer America will try to hold on to an outmoded identity as global superpower before it wakes up and finds itself in the 21st century.

Is America really willing to replace its great vision with fear, just to hold on to an identity that will disappear regardless? I honestly hope not. But as long as it does, I can only predict further distancing between our two countries. Because Canadians, especially the ones who will be running our country in 10 years, don't want to make the same trade-off.

-- Scott Drennan

I love you, too, Brady, but why the patronizing tone? I know you're busy being an important diplomat, and we're all so proud of you for that, but if you'd been reading the papers lately, you'd know that the "security mom" is a myth. Married white suburbanites of both genders have leaned Republican for years and, despite some ill-conceived and short-lived press coverage, it's really got nothing to do with "security" or being a mom. White suburban women -- even Republicans -- are no dumber, on average, than other Americans, so stop talking down to us.

You were right about one thing, though: It's a scary world out there, and it makes a mom shudder to think about dirty bombs and anthrax in the mail. But we're not all stupid enough to think that that smirking Howdy Doody look-alike is helping. And some of us have even been staying up nights worrying about stuff like the future of the social safety net, global warming, skyrocketing college tuitions, permanent American job losses, and the quiet class warfare being waged by the Texas elite that will probably erupt into an increasingly troubled and violent American culture just in time for our kids to inherit it.

Maybe you've read, as I have, that we girls pay less attention to hard news and public-policy-oriented discussions than you boys do, and maybe that's why you felt you had to dumb things down for us. But that's not what we need.

If you really want to do us moms a favor, how about going to some of those PTA meetings so we can stay home and watch "Frontline"? How about buying us a subscription to Harper's instead of that Victoria's Secret teddy? (Better yet, how about both?) How about engaging us in intelligent conversation about stuff that matters to us, like our kids, rather than treating us like ninnies?

-- Beth Gallagher

[Read this week's edition of "Right Hook," by Mark Follman.]

I wanted to say that the apology from Fox News over Carl Cameron's "nasty little story" came too late for some.

I am an Illinois resident who is helping the Kerry campaign in Wisconsin. Last week, I went door-to-door in the (mostly Republican) town of Waukesha. It was there I learned that John Kerry "gets manicures," "gives manicures," and "got a manicure instead of visiting the hurricane victims of Florida prior to the debate." I had no idea where this came from.

Until much later in the weekend. It was too late for an apology from Fox. The damage was done. These (Murdoch) people are ruthless, and while they "apologized," the "apology" meant nothing.

-- Leslie Walsh

Salon Staff

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