In presidential election years, as polls report on the percentage of undecided voters even a week or so before Election Day, I always wonder: Who ARE these people? Can't you make up your mind after all these months of charge and countercharge, then debates? What kind of knuckleheads are you, oh indecisive ones?
Now I'm stuck in the same situation.
A month away from Election Day, and I can't quite make up my mind: Joan or Jill, I keep asking myself, Joan or Jill?
More about them in a minute. First, the cause of my dilemma: I don't feel I can vote for Barack Obama because, as I've written before, I find his use of killer drones deeply troubling and unworthy of a nation founded on the rule of law. The president is a lawyer, but he shouldn't be the judge and the jury, deciding personally who lives and who dies on the other side of the world. Aside from that moral concern, there's the practical consideration that these drones are creating more new enemies than killing old ones. One fine day, this is going to come back to haunt us.
So I need to withhold my vote, in protest. Some would argue that if you don't pick one of the two major-party candidates, you are throwing away your vote. Others would say that the two major-party candidates are just two different faces painted on the corrupt, bought-and-paid-for duopoly that runs our country.
But there really is a difference between these two men. As bad as Obama has been on the drones, Mitt Romney is scarier to me, because his foreign policy advisers are a boatload of hawkish neocons. (I was going to say "battalion of hawkish neocons," but that would have been an inappropriate word for them: They never actually fight in wars, just cheer loudly for other people's kids to do the dying.)
Luckily, the Electoral College -- that rickety contraption that the founding generation chose to elect our presidents -- rides to my rescue. Along with its many failings, it has one benefit: It lets me cast my vote as I wish. Whatever happens in the remaining debates, Barack Obama will carry New York and win its 29 electoral votes. So my vote doesn't matter inside New York, and it doesn't matter outside New York, either. Why? The national total popular vote, in our system, is currently irrelevant.
In 2000, George W. Bush won the electoral vote and lost the popular vote, and Republicans said: "Get over it." If the GOP is the victim of that same scenario this year, both major parties will have been burned in a dozen years. Maybe then we'll get some movement to amend the Constitution and scrap the Electoral College.
So, all of that frees up my vote. But what to do?
My first instinct is to do what I've done before: Vote for Sister Joan Chittister, perhaps the best known and loved Benedictine nun in America. She's smart, funny and steadfast in her criticism of militarism, patriarchy and other evils besetting the nation and the church. In 1992, I wrote her in, instead of Bill Clinton, because of his ghastly death penalty stance, or George H.W. Bush, who gave us the first Gulf War.
Then there's Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate. She's a doctor and an environmentalist, and she wants to stop the drone killings and cut Pentagon spending in half. Her platform is terrific. But I still resent the 2000 Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader, who was one factor in helping to get George W. Bush elected. I could vote for the Libertarian, Gary Johnson. But I'd prefer a woman this time.
So it's Joan or Jill for me.
Maybe in a future election, I'll have a choice between two major-party candidates who equally reject our national embrace of endless war.
Bob Keeler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.