from August 15, 2004
In many ways political science remains in its infancy.
Take, for example, the familiar concept of the political spectrum. Though we all have a general sense of what it means, and pollsters use it with ease and confidence, it has not achieved the precision we have every right to expect a scientific notion to achieve.
Political organizations go to great lengths to give congresspersons precise scores on their voting performance or lack thereof. Senator Kerry, for example, is four points more liberal, we are warned, than the senior senator from his own state—the politician who is, in the public eye, the very quintessence of liberalism.
Now, we at MJTT do not doubt the existence of the political spectrum. Nor do we doubt that Senator K is more liberal than Senator K. But by four points? How do we know the number is not 3.783? Would not such an exact number help the befuddled voter as he or she prepares to punch, twist, or otherwise indicate his or her preference within the sanctity of the booth for which millions of American servicepersons have risked their very lives to defend? Would it not take the guesswork out of voting?
Under the charter granted to it a mere13.5 months ago by the U. S. Government, the Myles Junior Think Tank has thought about this problem extensively over the last fortnight. We are pleased to announce that we have found an exact, scientific solution.
We began by agreeing with the obvious, that the concepts “liberal” and “conservative,” or “left” and “right,” are precise and unambiguous. We proceeded to identify the issues on which a voter would naturally wish to take a stand: abortion, taxes, religion, the Iraq war, the Afghan war, the Balkan War, the Cold War, the Second World War, the First World War, the Spanish-American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the Revolutionary War, the Hamilton-Burr duel, the Hundred Years War, the Crusades, the Scopes Monkey Trial, etc. Then we proceeded, with the exactitude for which we as a nonpartisan think tank have become known, to assign the positions a person of voting age might take on each of these issues to one or the other of these clear, self-evident labels.
We then discovered that a Presbyterian right-to-lifer who attends church two and a half (2.5) times a month and wishes to raise taxes on the rich (defined as a family of four or less with a gross income over $250,000) by two (2.0) percent, who has within the last year come to believe that the Iraq War was a mistake but that the rest of our wars were just and proper, who is of the opinion that the wrong man was killed in the aforementioned duel and that the Hundred Years War lasted thirty-five (35) years too long, who thinks all the Crusades except for the ones designed for children were warranted, and who believes that evolution is God’s way of doing things, is 63.9 percent conservative.
What are the implications of this painstaking research?
Though we have not thought through all the findings, we have concluded that they have the capacity to take the guesswork out of voting.
This is how it will work. One week before any given election, a guide will be made available to all registered voters. This guide will consist of a single 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper on which will be printed a list of the twenty most urgent political issues of the day; under each of these issues the voter will find a simple choice: “liberal” or “conservative.” At the bottom of this straightforward test will be a simple formula that, when properly worked out, will produce an exact score, ranging from 0 to 100 percent liberal, or the converse.
On Election Day, the voter will enter the booth, punch in his or her score, and have that number recorded and matched with the name of the candidate with whom he or she agrees most. (The candidates will, of course, have taken exactly the same test three months before the fateful day, and the results will have been revealed.) When the polls close, computers will spit out the winners in an instant.
The advantages of this system are obvious. Besides providing the electorate the comfort of knowing that their collective decision is scientifically accurate, it will save said electorate the time and trouble of reading long position papers, clever slogans, bumper stickers, and ghost-written autobiographies of the heroic candidates. Nor, for that matter, will they have to listen and watch the spouses, children, and campaign managers of the various candidates say and do foolish things.