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Dumbing Israel's Elections Down for the Floating Voters

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An election campaign billboard featuring four prominent Israeli journalists with the title, "they will not decide," January 2019.
An election campaign billboard featuring four prominent Israeli journalists with the title, "they will not decide," January 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

I’m not sure exactly what to call them. They’re not stupid in the usual sense of the word. They only become stupid when it comes to politics. Call them “politically challenged.” This stupidity can affect anyone. It happens when you have trouble with your phone or your computer gets stuck. The mouth hangs open, the eyes glaze over and your brain turns to mush.

The politically-challenged are also known, more politely, as “floating voters” or “the undecided.” They’re estimated to be worth 10 Knesset seats, and right now they’re more stymied and bewildered than ever. It’s understandable. How could one help but be confused when Netanyahu incites against the attorney general and then denounces whoever desecrated his father’s grave? How can one not be perplexed by Lapid’s various declarations?

It’s making them stupid. But there’s stupid and then there’s stupid. There’s the stupid of “I don’t want to hear about politics” and of “they’re all the same crap” and of “there’s no one to vote for” and “you got anyone better?” But there’s also the stupid that is more despair than stupidity. Despair over the corruption in the coalition and the impotence of the opposition.

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They want somebody from the outside who will set things right. Somebody strong! This desire can go to really incredible depths. They never vote in favor. They’re always against. They’re not choosing, they’re avenging. They want revenge on Gabbay because of Tzipi, and on Meretz because of Klughaft. They’d even settle for a fascist messianic dictatorship, as long as Zandberg gets what’s coming to her. They are really stupid, but not as stupid as the ones who don’t give a crap. They are the stupidest of all. To them, an election is just one big joke. They’ll go for whoever will give them the biggest laugh from the other people at work. They’ll vote for the Pensioners or the Green Leaf party or Gal Hirsch. Think about how much our future and our children’s future depends on this brand of stupid folks.

Their stupidity is well-known. Battalions of pollsters and consultants and experts make a nice living from it. They make their money from the Knesset seats that are up in the air and from the politicians who chase after them. They are the tailors of the emperor’s new clothes. They praise their handsome profile. They admire their overflowing charisma, they convince them to have their bald pate and double chin plastered on a huge billboard on the Ayalon Freeway. They convince them that their handsome face on the side of a bus is worth 10 Knesset seats. Ten seats is a target worth going after. The election experts know how. They know the 10 seats better than the 10 know themselves. Ordinary people see the dumb slogans and idiotic videos and ask: What is this garbage? Relax, say the experts, it’s not for you, it’s for those 10 undecided voters.

They know how to exploit the 10’s weakness. They get them to do things that they wouldn’t do if they were able to think clearly. They expose the hidden sensitive spots that normal people wouldn’t admit to having even under torture. They know, for example, that the words “strong” and “change” evoke the most profound and powerful responses. “Strong” and “change” bewitch them; “peace” and “left” scare them. They can’t explain why. Maybe there’s something messed up in the right hemisphere of their brain. They’ll never admit it, but Gantz’s body count gives them a nice feeling and Avi Dichter’s video sends a shiver of pleasure down their spines.

They see Gantz’s ad citing all the people killed in Gaza and they don’t say: Is this guy an idiot? Does he want to be arrested and sent straight to The Hague? Does he think that’ll just be forgotten? He thinks all he has to say is- don’t make a big deal, it was just for the election? And this guy was the IDF chief of staff? And this guy still wants to be defense minister? His and Dichter’s videos won’t just disappear. Dichter might say to his wife at night, “don’t worry, Ilana, it was just for those baboons in the center,” but everyone else is feeling sickened and wondering how this numbskull in the video was ever the head of the Shin Bet.

But don’t go thinking that we’re all smarter than all of those stupid folks. We didn’t need videos and slogans to convince us that this election is about us and our lives and not about Bibi and his life. We forgot that they’re just another battle in the long war between the people and those who feel ashamed to be a part of it all these days.

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