The Mandate Spin Begins

The Mandate Spin Begins


Did Obama get a mandate?

Well, let’s look at the facts…

  • He flipped 9 states from red to blue, including a few that hadn’t gone for the Dem in over 3 decades.
  • He beat McCain 2 to 1 in the electoral count.
  • The current popular vote difference is 53% to 46% or 7.6 million votes.

And let’s not kid ourselves…Obama talked consistently about taking this country in a “fundamentally new direction” throughout the campaign. So I think it’s safe to say that since America voted so overwhelmingly for the guy, they’re definitely looking for new ideas that have more of a progressive flavor.

In other words, we’re in for some policy changes and if you’re not ready for that, then you’re going to be disappointed.

Yes, the election was definitely a repudiation of the Bush presidency, but it was also a vote for the principles of basic fairness. Obama ran on a center left platform of health care for all, targeted tax cuts, targeted budget cuts and a much less run-and-gun foreign policy. And Iowa, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Nevada New Mexico and Colorado all voted for that change.

Still, Mother Jones points out a hilarious example of the “it’s not a mandate” meme from Robert Novak.

First, this is Novak in 2004, explaining how Bush’s margin was, you guessed it…

“Of course it is. It’s a 3.5 million vote margin.”

And then today…

“…he neither received a broad mandate from the public nor the needed large congressional majorities.”

As I’ve mentioned before, if Obama goes in a radically different direction he didn’t talk about during his campaign, I’ll call him out on it. Because he certainly doesn’t have a mandate to push things like a single payer health care system and far left ideas of the ilk.

But the idea that this election doesn’t represent a mandate for new policies, when Obama ran a 2 year campaign on the theme of “change” and then won by the margins he did, is laughable at best.

  • mw

    “First, this is Novak in 2004, explaining how Bush’s margin was, you guessed it…” – JG

    I only wish this blog went back to 2004, so I could compare what you were saying then about Bush’s “mandate” to the claims you are making for Obama’s “mandate” now. I suspect you dodged a bullet.

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Every election is a mandate. Obama should do what he believes is right, what he believes he was chosen for, and allow the proper checks and balances inherent to the system to hedge his agenda where necessary.

  • George Mauer

    I don’t see why we have to use words like this at all. How is it useful for anyone but bloggers and spin doctors?

  • rawdawgbuffalo

    i just hope the red states
    dont desire to return to the history pre 1960

  • CaptainUltimate

    goddamn Jim, we actually agree.

  • Alan Stewart Carl

    Obama can do precisely what the legislature and courts allow him to do. And if he does more than the people want, we’ll take away his favorable legislature in ’10 and remove him in ’12. That’s how the system works.

    He seems like a guy smart enough to know not to overstep what the people want. I don’t think we’ll see a replay of Clinton’s early-term inanity. Clinton survived but he killed his party.

  • Justin Gardner

    Every election is a mandate. Obama should do what he believes is right, what he believes he was chosen for, and allow the proper checks and balances inherent to the system to hedge his agenda where necessary.

    I would agree with the thought in general, but there are varying levels of “mandate.”

    Basically, I think when Bush was elected in 2000 and 2004, it was MUCH different than when Reagan was elected in 1980 and 1984.

    This year, Obama definitely has much more of a mandate than Bush ever did, but can he sell the sweeping ideological changes Reagan did? My guess is no.

  • kranky kritter

    It is what it is. A little shift. I said Bush’s elections were not mandates, and now I’m saying Obama’s is not a mandate. Not for big widespread change.

    I agree with George that it’s not an especially useful word. Especially when we’re talking about a context where only say 3% of the people changed their minds and 97% did NOT change their minds. The swing in opinion from 2004 to 2008 is roughly equivalent to having a room of 100 people where 51 like coke and 49 like pepsi, and then 3 people change their minds. This is not a mandate or a groundswell or a resounding cry or anything like that.

    It’s a little shift. Obviously the people who benefitted from the little shift should act upon it. But their actions should be based on the knowledge that it’s a little shift.

    If you must call it a mandate then it can only be called a mandate for a few little shifts. And that’s what I think we’re going to get. Social security and healthcare, if reformed, will be reformed on terms favorable to democrats. We’ll see the cap raised on SS taxes, but we won’t see 70% marginal rates come back. We’ll see something closer to single-payer with more federal involvement, but we won’;t become Canada or Great Britain.

    This really isn’t that hard to understand, folks. Like others here have pointed out, if Obama and the democrats modify current policies and programs in ways that go far beyond what moderate voters want and expect, he’ll be 4 and out. It’s that simple.

  • ExiledIndependent

    I think it is much more of a repudiation of 8 years of Emperor George than it is a desire to implement more progressive (jeez, I hate that term–but I guess at this point it’s no less accurate that “liberal”) policies. I don’t think the average American wants more government meddling in their lives. Americans at their core still want life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (not a government defined and imposed guarantee of social or financial equity).

    So I think things that rein in the rampant abuses of big business will be greeted with open arms, but moves that redistribute wealth from one private taxpayer to a private non-taxpayer still feel inherently un-American. I think that Americans welcome a strategic withdrawal from Iraq, and the current plan already maps that out. But I also believe that Americans would be concerned about a “let’s talk it out” response to another attack on American soil. So Obama and the large Dem Congressional majority do need to tread carefully if they want to remain in a majority past 2010.

  • Avinash_Tyagi

    His Mandate depends on the next 70 odd days, if the economy continues to tank, then he’ll be able to do whatever he wants, especially if big companies like GM declare bankruptcy.

    Otherwise he will run a more progressive agenda, but only center-left, not true left, only after big wins in 2010 and 2012, will he can trot out the real liberal agendas

  • Craig

    Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina going blue is no little shift, it’s a sea change. Obama has altered the long-established electoral map, and we are a better country because of it.

  • Stephen

    I think its remarkable that you call a single payer health-care system “far left”… when it is something that (for instance) the Conservatives in the UK are pretty much committed to… I think the US idea of “far left” is for many western democracies actually pretty much center-flavoured… how did things get so skewed over there in the US?