'Undecided' voter: Bruce Lee beats both Obama and Romney

October 2, 2012

(WBEZ/Alex Keefe)

Undecided voters are becoming pretty hard to find as the presidential election draws near.

In Illinois, pollsters estimate they make up just about four to eight percent of the electorate. But presidential campaigns put a lot of effort into winning them over.

WBEZ is following three undecided voters from the Chicago area – and documenting their decision-making process ahead of Election Day.

When I asked our last undecided voter the big question last week – who does he plan to vote for? – I realized this one’s a bit more complicated.

“If the election was held today…and you’re only talking about the two people we have right now that we can vote for?” asked Jay Abedelal, sounding a bit disappointed.

Abedelal, 34, was born and raised in Chicago, where he works admissions at a for-profit school. He lives with his wife on the northwest side. And he doesn’t seem too happy with either Mitt Romney or President Obama, but if he had to choose right now?

“I would vote for Obama, because he’s the…lesser of two evils,” Abedelal said. “But that being said, at this point I am undecided because I really, desperately want a third option.”

Abedelal says he’s been a sporadic voter over the years: He “really, deeply” wanted to be a Republican growing up in the 1980s, and says he liked President Ronald Reagan, even though he wasn’t old enough to vote for him.

But he’s also supported Democrats, such as President Bill Clinton.

After the Sept. 11, terrorist attacks, Abedelal, who is Muslim, says he turned against the GOP. He says in the years following, he feels Republicans vilified his faith, and that feeling is carrying over into the 2012 elections.

“The only way I would ever vote for Mitt Romney or a Republican is if they would apologize for all the defamation and disrespect that they’ve said about Muslims and Islam, and I don’t see that happening any time soon,” he said.

Abedelal offers some qualified praise of President Obama. For instance, he likes that Mr. Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the ban on gays serving openly in the military.

But overall, he says the president has been too cautious.

“I feel like he is a little bit more concerned over his perception, than actually getting things done,” he said.

Unlike the other undecided voters in WBEZ’s series, Abedelal is entertaining a third option: not voting at all.

Now, pollsters will point out that a lot of undecided voters are undecided because they don’t care, or they don’t have time to pay attention to politics – but Abedelal says that isn’t the case with him.

He says his priority in a candidate is strong character, and if he doesn’t find someone he believes in, he doesn’t want to cast a ballot just for the sake of it.

So I ask him to forget about parties and politicians for a moment, and to describe the type of person he’d actually like to vote for.

“The best person I can think of, the most ideal person – he’s not alive any more – would be like Bruce Lee.”

As in, martial arts movie superstar Bruce Lee.

Well, not literally, but Abedelal says he likes the values Lee stood for.

“[He] had courage, and he did what he needed to do, and he empowered millions and millions of people – to even the new generation today,” Abedelal said.

He says Bruce Lee was principled, yet flexible – and he fought for something bigger than himself. Still, Abedelal says he doesn’t have faith that today’s electoral system could produce a candidate he’d get excited about.

“[Anyone] that has Bruce Lee-type attributes will never get a chance,” he said. “And I think Ron Paul has some of those attributes, and he wasn’t given much of a chance.”

He might write in Paul, the Texas Republican Congressman with Libertarian values, but he says he needs to do more research. And, for now, Abedelal doesn’t seem to be in a rush.

“I’m pretty relaxed, and I’m like, okay, I’ll make the right decision, you know, in November and I’m just gonna take it, you know, one day at a time,” he said.

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