Apathetic And Still Undecided

Republican Candidates: Huckabee, Giuliani, Romney, McCain, Thompson CBS/AP

This column was written by Matt Labash.

Every four years, I use the period of quiet contemplation that precedes the mad swirl of caucuses and primaries to make myself a better citizen/journalist. I do so by abandoning my usual political position of completely disengaged nihilism, upgrading to a more civically conscious indifferent cynicism.

The problem isn't that I dislike politicians, who tend to be self-involved, humorless automatons who'd rather eat their kids' pets than answer questions directly, and who spend their entire adult lives saying just about anything necessary to gain the affection of total strangers. Actually, that is the problem.

Some might ask how I've managed to work 12 years at a political magazine, having such a distaste for the racket. It's a fair question, one my boss asks often. That bothers me. But it's not as though I don't stay engaged enough to talk shop with the fellas. Just this morning, I was telling them that as long as he finishes at least a respectable third in Iowa, then mounts an air-assault on his opponents in New Hampshire, this Lamar Alexander could be trouble. So I do keep up.

Also, it's not as though I don't find at least something redeeming in most of the candidates to which I can relate. For instance, like my fellow evangelical Huckabee, I too tend to think that Mormons should only be trusted if their names are Donny and Marie. Like McCain, I regard myself as a war hero. Like Giuliani, I regard myself as a war hero even though I've never actually served. While the rest of the press pillories Fred Thompson for being a lazy candidate and for giving flip answers such as saying that his most prized possession is his "trophy wife," I like him. Best I can tell, he's the only candidate who has more contempt for the process than I do.

Then there are all those confusing issues. I have opinions on them, but my opinions seem to work against each other. For instance, I'm virulently against illegal immigration. In fact, I'm against legal immigration. I actually like foreigners, with their funny accents and pungent foods, but I'm tired of meeting new people. Yet I don't want illegals deported, or brought in from the shadows, at least not until they finish my siding (my man Lupe is an artist with a nail gun). They give me quality work at affordable prices. I give them tax-free income. It's win-win, when you think about it.

Sometimes, however, it pays to get past the cosmetic concerns by which we tend to judge candidates (who has the best teeth, who has the cutest love child) and hunker down and figure out which candidate best represents our worldview. With this in mind, I hit a slew of Internet presidential candidate selectors, which vary widely in specificity of issues, but which let your conscience, or their own Boolean logic, be your guide.

I took a bunch of online issues quizzes, and won't get into the specifics of my conscience, such as it is. But the results were dispiriting. Politically, I'm not terribly complicated. I regard myself as a fiscal and social conservative with strong libertarian overtones. Turn-ons include low taxes, balanced budgets, and a robust military. Turn-offs include waging unwinnable wars, government intervention, and mean people. Also, I'm a Gemini.

But the candidate selectors seemed rather confused by this basic belief system. I suppose I must've changed some positions a few times along the way, but if Mitt Romney hasn't been penalized, why should I? According to my results, the candidate for me is everyone from Mike Huckabee to Rudy Giuliani to Ron Paul, pretty much the entire spectrum of Republican candidates. On ABC News's Match-o-Matic selector, Chris Dodd, Duncan Hunter, and Hillary Clinton were my 1-2-3 photo finish, which is odd, as I'd rather lose my right to vote than vote for any of them. By the end, I was more confused than when I'd started.

I was going to take several more tests, just to see if a consensus could be built. But as a professional apathist, I'm easily distracted. On SelectSmart.com, I grew bored with politics and got much more interested in their other selector programs, such as the Swear Word Selector, which determines what word I'd be if I were a foul one (codswallop), or the Serial Killer Selector, which approximates which serial killer I most resemble (Henry Lee Lucas). Now, I believe I'll give the Religion Selector a spin. Why not? Maybe those Mormons aren't so bad after all.
By Matt Labash
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