As a missionary, I survived for the first few weeks of working in a foreign country speaking a foreign language by memorizing and using a single phrase: depende….
That phrase translates roughly into “it depends,” which was an answer I gave to just about every question someone asked me. As most missionaries probably say at one point, the beautiful people of Brazil just didn’t speak the language I had been studying in the MTC, and when faced with someone speaking so fast that you can’t quite catch what they’re saying, “it depends” was surprisingly useful.
And so I’ll turn back to that answer for this question: Should political gaffes change your vote?
It truly depends.
Let’s first dispel the idea that one person or party is more gaffe prone than another. For every “47%,” I can point out a “You didn’t build that.” For every “$10,000 bet,” I can point out “It’s four departments of government I’d get rid of.” For every “put an ‘e’ on the end of that,” I can point out a “I can be more flexible after the election.”
The point is that to claim someone as gaffe prone is just not true.
Now, having said that, I will say that some people tend to say problematic things much more frequently than others. To be honest, I think I would be that type of person, and this is why:
- When I’m passionate about something, I speak to those passions. That kind of passionate statement often leads to something that is said generally about a specific. The statement is easily refuted when looking outside of the context and intent of the statement.
A perfect example of this is Obama’s “You didn’t build that” statement. When taken in full context, he is clearly referring to the infrastructure that supports business, not the business itself. Yes, there are other things in there that I still have pretty big issues with, but the statement itself shows my point.
- I often speak quickly. I simply respond to the moment.
Can we all just agree that these men are on the spot? They are always in the spotlight? They are always “on?” They are expected to answer and answer immediately, so when Romney makes a “$10,000 bet,” does that mean he is out of touch or simply saying “prove it?”
- Kind of the same as #2, but that pressure…. If I were in that pressure, I’d lose my place as well. I’d forget the fourth department as well. I’d also rely heavily on the supports that people put in place around me. If my score card said that potato was spelled with an “e,” gosh darnit, it’s spelled with an “e!” And I’M AN EDITOR!!!!
- Lastly, I know my intent and realize that my intent isn’t always accurately reflected in my words. I rely on the understanding of those hearing my message to carry the intent home.
Does anyone really believe that Romney hates the poor? Hates blacks? Hates immigration? Hates the 47%?
And if you just answered yes, you just proved my point. If you answered no, why do you have a problem (I’m assuming you do, of course… see? I just did it!) with it?
So let’s answer the question. Should the gaffes change your vote.
No, I don’t think so. At least not generally. Most gaffes aren’t really gaffes when you understand why the person said that, how they meant it, and how the “gaffe” was originally stated. We typically treat these gaffes as though they were a macrocosm of the opinion and character of the person speaking when the truth is that they are anything but. Yes, the gaffe may be reflective of the person speaking, but they are not descriptive.
No mirror, no matter how polished, no matter how perfect reflects a perfect image back. They just cannot. Each of these gaffes are interpreted, spun, stretched, compacted, wrung out, and finally starched as perfect sound bites for the opposing side. As such, the only affect such gaffes should have on your vote would hopefully only come about after you have personally reviewed and researched the matter.
In other words, be responsible. Stop being spoon-fed by the media (left or right). Take the opportunity to learn and be educated for yourself.