Democracy and the Politics of Voting

Is Democracy more a form of government or simply a set of principles?

(Jessica and Butch talk about this on the latest episode of the Rules of the Game Podcast)

GET THE VOTE OUT

“Get the vote out!” will be the increasingly deafening yelp of the Democrat Party.

And, as a strategy, it should be. Of the approximately 40% of the population that typically does not show up to vote in a national election, the solid majority are self-proclaimed Democrats.

This simple imbalance in the number of Democrats vs. Republicans reinforces the politics of voting in a number of ways relating to polling, mail-in voting, voter ID laws, the Electoral College and over-arching views of what the concept of “Democracy” means to different people.

While millions more Americans identify as Democrat than Republican, fewer of those same Americans are official, registered Democrat voters, and even fewer are likely to show up and cast a vote. In other words, when all is said and done on voting day, older, wealthier, non-Hispanic voters are the most likely to show up at the voting polls, helping to even out the growing partisan imbalance that exists within the general population.

With the widening shift toward Democrat self-identification within the general US population, along with flaws in polling that have always existed and survey methodology flaws that are increasing due to technological influences, it is NO WONDER that polls are lacking in the ability to accurately predict winners in a general election. With a variety of polling techniques ranging from live phone interviews to on-line opt in polls, the data quality can vary greatly. For instance, Democrats are much more likely to participate in an on-line poll. This works to skew results.  Despite the attempt of respectable polling organizations to adjust their polls with a technique known as “weighting”, polls have become notoriously unreliable. “Weighting” is adjusting for demographic variables, such as education level or gender, attempting to best correlate the poll responders used for data with who will most likely show up and vote on election day. Some polling organizations use up to 12 variables to try to produce accurate results. Some organizations use none. As a result, polls can vary widely in their predictions. The Pew Research Center has recently recommended a minimum 6-point margin of error for polls, based on some of the complexities introduced (and, revealed) by technological advancements in polling techniques.

BIDEN’S GOT IT IN THE BAG

Although “Don’t get the vote out!” could be a rally message of American Republicans, that’s well… unseemly to say the least. So, the best Republican sound bite should be: “Yes-Biden has this in the bag, for sure. It’s a landslide.” Even though Republicans are apt to complain about the “liberal news media” reporting polls that favor Democrats, the psychological evidence reports that wide margins in polls, predicting clear front runners, produce a LOWER voter turnout, which indefinitely favors the Republican candidate. Why? Because, as mentioned above, Democrats make it to the polls less consistently than Republicans. Lower voter turnout nearly always works in favor of the Republican candidate. 

“Voter ID laws need to be strict, and mail in ballots are going to make the election completely fraudulent.”

In my view, these are tired and ineffective talking points for Republicans. States are constitutionally assigned the duty of handling their vote collection and tally and will be held accountable to do so in a way that is constitutional and accurate. Having variety from state to state in how the rules are applied both mail-in ballots and voter IDs help to inform other states about what is both effective and constitutional. Of course, Democrats appear to benefit more so by looser voter ID laws and more accessible mail in voting. However, we ALL benefit when we allow laws to be passed, carried out and interpreted in a systematic way, without over politicizing the process for power or gain.

DOWN WITH THE EC!

“Let’s get rid of the Electoral college- it’s undemocratic. The majority should rule.”

This SHOULDN’T be a soundbite for Democrats, because though it would help them to win Presidential elections, it’s unconstitutional and riddled with disastrous consequences. The balance of federal and state powers and representative government are not passe concepts that should succumb to the simple principle of majority rule and its doomed consequences. Democrats should continue to support and value federalism and Republican style government instead of promoting changes in the constitution that would help to promote their party’s agenda. The Electoral college plays a crucial role in National solidarity and stability in innumerable ways.

When it comes to voting, Democrats are incentivized to try to increase the number of people voting and move to a majority-rules style of electing the Executive Branch. Republicans are incentivized to present voting as a privilege that requires some accompanying responsibility and effort in overcoming any natural hurdles in showing up to vote. The two-party voting system in the US and the resulting politics lead Democrats and Republicans to view Democracy in two different ways. A Democrat will likely see it as a form of government, and a Republican will likely see it as a set of principles to be applied to government. Was Thomas Jefferson correct when he said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%”? 

How do YOU see it?