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At Whom Are You Undecided?

Now that we have recovered from vacation, it’s time to pay attention to mail from readers. Here’s a sampling of letters from people who want to talk politics.

Dear Mr. Cook:

Do you know any undecided voters? I need to talk to some in a hurry.

John K.

Dear Jim Cook:

I’m looking for undecided voters. I heard that your Wickenburg Institute for Factual Diversity might have a list of undecided people.

George W.
Washington, D.C.

Gentlemen, I have never met so many decided voters in my life. The headstones which used to vote in some Arizona counties were not so rigid in their positions.

George Bush voters would vote for Bush even if he decided to send troops into Nebraska. Kerry voters would remain loyal even if he flip-flopped and renounced catsup.

I did talk to one undecided man who bragged that he had voted for every president since Woodrow Wilson. When I tried to pin him down on his choice for 2004, he said he can’t decide between Walter Mondale and Bob Dole.

The WIFD sponsors a popular support group for people who can’t make up their minds. We haven’t decided what to call it yet, but word has gotten around, and our membership is growing.

However, we have received not a single request for guidance on the current election campaign (we have received several suggestions as to how we should vote).

Nor would we respond to such a request if we received one. People are too emotional about this election, and for good reason. Today I almost came to blows with myself.

Dear Mr. Cook:

If you don’t mind my asking, just where do you stand politically?


Ed, thank you for asking. Many people don’t ask–they simply forward inappropriate e-mails, like the ones suggesting there would be peace in the world if Jane Fonda had not banned prayer in public schools.

I’m proud to say that since I started voting 44 years ago, I have been a registered voter.

I always vote for one of the two major party candidates for president, although there have been years in which I was tempted to write in the name of Julia Child or Barry Bonds.

One telephone pollster called the other day. After he heard my views on Bush, Kerry, Cheney and Edwards, he seemed a little surprised to learn that I’m a 98-year-old registered Republican, unregistered Christian, who owns handguns–a mossback who believes in the separation of religion and government.

Dear Jim:

It seems to me that politicans are lying their butts off, rewriting history to win votes. Don’t you feel a little inadequate?

Queen Creek

Let us not be too harsh in our judgements. Creativity is a precious commodity, and we need to foster it.

Different standards apply to politicians and to recreational liars. For one thing, those of us who do this for fun know when we’re lying.

And we are not challenged to the degree that a candidate is. Voters get tired of hearing the same old words day after day, and so does one’s opponent, who keeps wanting to change the subject. A candidate has to constantly refresh his message.

Dear Jim:

Do dead people actually vote in Arizona, or is that another one of your inventions?


Nowadays, it’s a little tough to vote a headstone, even in Florida. However, Arizona voters will remember that in 2000, they were actually asked to vote on a referrendum exempting gravesites from taxation. It was a politcal payoff, and it passed.

In one election in 1954, hats were allowed to vote. You’ll find most of the story in my latest book, The Arizona Liar’s Almanac, but I recently uncovered new information about why it was one of the most decided elections in Arizona history.

That was the election in which Norman Shortwad, sheriff of Hualicopa County, was elected to the State Legislature two weeks after he choked to death on an avocado pit.

Shortwad’s death was kept secret until after the election. He subsequently served two terms in the House of Representatives.

Old Norm was hard on criminals, but soft on crime. He could be bought.

Since the book came out, I have learned that the most powerful rancher in Hualicopa County, Bull Fulcrum, had an unspoken agreement with Shortwad. He would support the sheriff if the sheriff overlooked a little Saturday night rowdiness by Fulcrum’s crew–anything up to a high misdemeanor, and certain non-violent felonies.

On election day, Fulcrum brought his entire crew of cowboys to the county seat and ran them through the polls, suggesting persuasively that they vote for Shortwad.

Then he took them over to the mercantile and bought every hand a new hat. He ran them through the polls a second time.

Although the poll workers were surprised by the turnout, they didn’t catch on. However, a rival rancher, Hip Hopkins, noticed what Bull Fulcrum was up to.

Hopkins had the same sort of understanding with the sheriff that Bull had, but he thought his deal was an exclusive. He feared Bull Fulcrum was stacking the deck in favor of Shortwad’s rival, Phil Fulcrum, who was Bull’s first cousin. Hopkins wanted a friend in the Legislature.

Hopkins took his crew to the mercantile and bought everyone a new hat. The merchant ran out of men’s hats, and Hip’s swamper had to wear a woman’s straw hat with the decorations cut off.

Then Hip ran his men back through the polls.

It was one of the most lopsided elections in Arizona history. Norman Shortwad got six more votes than the population recorded for Hualicopa County in the 1950 U.S. Census.

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