On the last episode of the Ologies Podcast, Alie Ward interviewed psephologist Michael Lewis-Beck, a political scientist who specializes in the prediction of election results. Lewis-Beck and his colleagues create complicated mathematical models which do not rely upon polling data. Instead, they base their predictions upon core values, policy preferences, and long-term demographic trends. I spent the better part of this morning looking into their track record. These nerds have been right often. Very often.
Lewis-Black mentioned a couple of things in his Ologies interview which surprised me: (1) A significant majority of Americans lean Democratic. In other words, their values and preferences align best with the politics of the Democratic Party. (2) Americans who lean Republican have been in the minority for decades. (3) Despite this handicap, Republican candidates continue to do well in elections because the minority of Americans who lean Republican vote more than the majority of Americans who lean Democratic. I’ve heard all of this before (as have you, I imagine). Truth be told, I’ve always dismissed it as little more than wishful thinking: a Democratic daydream. But apparently it’s true.
What if all of those Americans who lean Democratic were forced to vote? In Australia, you can lose your driver’s licence if you don’t vote: “Voting at State general elections, by-elections and referenda is compulsory. . . . Electors who fail to vote at a State election and do not provide a valid and sufficient reason for such failure will be fined. The penalty for first time offenders is $20 and this increases to $50 . . . . Electors who . . . do not pay the prescribed penalty . . . could have their driver’s licence suspended.”
If voting was made compulsory in the United States, the Republican Party, as presently constituted, would cease to be a viable entity. The right-of-center party of Reagan no longer exists. The Republican Party has become remarkably radical in the last few decades. It’s a proper right-wing party now. Has the country drifted rightward during the same period? Nope. If Americans who lean Democratic started voting in greater numbers, the Republican Party would be forced to moderate their message and rediscover their right-of-center roots.
—John Faithful Hamer