We might have thought we were participating in one of America's greatest democratic traditions by voting for an individual to be president on November 6. In reality, we further cemented our country's transition to a defacto British parliamentary system that would make the Founding Fathers turn over in their graves.
There was a time, not too long ago, when the person could triumph over party labels. A Republican like Chris Shays could win a House seat in solidly Democratic Connecticut. Likewise, a Democrat such as Bob Etheridge could retain his seat in Congress representing a rural part of North Carolina. Now, both are gone with no sign of returning.
Most individuals are highly set in their voting patterns. This is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but its increase over the last ten years has turned elections into much more predictable exercises.
More and more, outside of a major shift in political alignment and rhetoric from the two parties, elections will come down to the size of the African American and Hispanic voting bloc coupled with the type of white voter that makes up the plurality in each state's electorate.
To show how predictable presidential elections have become, we developed a model to project for 20 years out the 2012 - "2032 elections. In July of this year, before Obama vs. Romney was really heating up, we used the model to project the exact results in all 50 states, including the projected order in which they would likely fall for Obama
The model performed exceptionally well. In the nationwide popular vote, we estimated Obama would receive 50.5 percent; he ended up with 50.6 percent. In all 50 states the model was "off" an absolute value of 2.3 percent. In the 10 swing states, the model had an absolute difference of .8 percent.
As a comparison, the much-celebrated FiveThirtyEight's model using polling up to Election Day has an absolute difference of .7 percent. Additionally, our model was closer on five of the swing states, while FiveThirtyEight was closer on four and the models tied on one.
This predictive model has very real implications right now. It basically means the Republicans are locked out of the White House unless they gain significant support from at least one minority group, or a reasonable level from both African Americans and Hispanics.
It also means we have transitioned into a system where party label matters more than the individual running. In some ways, this removes the majestic narrative of politics. There was a time when a strong personality backed with a decent TV ad budget could break away from party labels - think Ronald Reagan and "Reagan Democrats."
Those days are over. Now it's just candidates climbing to the top of their primary races and going onto victory or defeat almost regardless of what they do.
We might as well just stick in a series of names from here to 2032 and take a nap - unless there is a major shift in alignment of support for the two parties.
Well, the only savior from political boredom seems to a complete leaning into this parliamentary model. Let the GOP shatter itself into a tea party and a separate pro-growth/business party. Then it's anyone's guess as to what kind of coalitions could be built and the predictive model goes out of the door.
Stefan Hankin leads Lincoln Park Strategies (www.lpstrategies.com), a Washington, D.C.-based full service public opinion research firm. Follow him on Twitter at @LPStrategies.
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