Mandate and myth

So according to Republicans their election clearly shows that the public favors their agenda and Obama is obligated to play ball.
Andrew Card, W’s former secretary, said after the election, for instance, that “It’s President Obama’s responsibility to take the wake-up call that came yesterday.” Senator McConnell likewise asserted that the best thing for Obama to do would be to “listen to the voters.”
And that’s pretty consistent for Republicans. Remember when the Democrats took both houses and the White House in 2008? McConnell, Card and other Republicans said that since voters clearly favored the Democratic agenda, the Republicans were obligated to support it—oh, wait, that never happened, did it?
But at least in 2000, when it was clear voters favored Al Gore over W., the Republicans promised to run a moderate campaign embracing Gore’s positions … wait, that didn’t happen either, did it?
Of course, the kind of political posturing McConnell and Card have indulged in, where politicians claim to represent the will of the people, has probably been around as long a politicians. But just in case anyone starts to think they have a point: They don’t.
First: I have never heard anyone who claims that elections give their side a mandate claim that the same is true if the other side wins. Clinton won two solid victories but Repubs where I used to live would routinely point out that “he was never elected with a majority of the American voters.” Of course, W. didn’t even have a majority of the American voters who actually voted when he won in 2000, but somehow that was different.
Second, even within each side, people invariably see the mandate as corresponding to exactly the issues they most care about. In 2004, I saw people assert with absolute certain that W’s re-election was about family values, fiscal policy, imposing Biblical law … likewise John Boehner assured the BBC that the mandate this time around is for Repubs to repeal healthcare and shrink government spending (of course, the W. and Reagan years showed Repubs will run up red ink as if it was the stairway to heaven, but again, this is political posturing, not reality). If the mandate was so absolutely crystal clear, wouldn’t we all agree?
And in the third place, whether they have a mandate or not, it’s completely irrelevant.
Just look at W. He could hardly claim a mandate in 2000, but you know what? Even winning with less than 50 percent of the vote, he still got 100 percent of the power. That’s the way it works. I admit I would have been happier if he hadn’t run so far to the right, but he was absolutely under no obligation to do so (a point on which I disagree with some of my brethren on the left).
Same now. If Obama wants to close Gitmo, try all terrorists in the court system) set up Medicare for all, withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq and launch another big stimulus (setting aside for the minute that he doesn’t, alas, want to do any of those)—and he can get it through Congress—well, the mandate doesn’t matter much, does it? It might matter at the next election, but that’s the only time it matters (setting aside, for the minute, that the Repub agenda has little to do with what Americans want—unless you believe that massive tax cuts and red-ink spending will work better than they did under W.).
Politicians will always posture. But don’t buy the bullcrap.

1 Comment

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One response to “Mandate and myth

  1. Pingback: Senator Richard Burr — anti-immigrant, anti-family bigot or craven coward? | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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