Mandate or Not, the Voters Have Spoken

As you would expect, last week's election results have led to an enormous amount of opining from both sides on what it all means. There is debate on whether a margin of 2.5 percent in the popular vote constitutes a mandate or not, and in my view you can argue either way -- "mandate" is not a fact, the truth of which can be argued and proven, but an interpretation of the data and no interpretation is ever right or provable.

So let's let the facts speak for themselves:

  • As of Noon on Friday, with nearly all votes in, Obama led Romney in the popular vote by a count of 62,608,181 or 50.5 percent to 59,130,484 or 48.0 percent.
  • Obama won the electoral vote by a greater margin than Kennedy, Nixon, Carter, or Bush.
  • Obama is the fourth president since 1900 to win two terms by 50 percent or more, joining Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan.
  • The Democrats gained two seats in the (already Democrat-controlled) Senate, and while they did not gain a majority in the House, narrowed the margin of difference.
  • Far-right Republicans lost races they were expected to win (e.g., Mourdock, Akin, McMahon) and lost or won by much closer margins than expected (Bachmann, Heller).
  • Tax reforms, particularly increasing the tax share of the wealthy was an explicit platform difference between the two parties, and the voters elected the guy who favored that increase.
  • Marriage rights, a hot-button issue for the right-wing, were approved in three states by margins of three to six percent.

I'm not going to argue whether these results constitute a mandate for President Obama and the Democrats or not. I am suggesting that they, along with a great deal of post-election polling, reflect a trend among centrist and undecided voters away from the Tea Party/Evangelical Right's positions and a growing disgust with the obstructionism by the Republicans in Congress that was fueled by their pandering to the extreme Right. The results for Mourdock, Akin, and McMahon in particular, along with the defeat of Scott Brown by Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and George Allen by Tim Kaine in Virginia should cause Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to step back and reevaluate their tactics. McConnell proclaimed two years ago that the main task before the GOP was to make sure Obama was a one-term president -- not the economy, not the endless wars, not poverty or health care. And they failed decisively at that task. Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, so we could see the change of tactics (or not) as a test of the GOP's sanity.

A decisive majority of the voters have shown how they feel about all the issues the GOP bet their campaign on -- tax reform, and Obamacare in particular. Post-election polling indicates that a vast majority of the electorate were disgusted by the campaign -- its length, and particularly its mendacity. There was lying on both sides, but fact checkers across the spectrum seem to agree that the dishonesty on the Romney/Ryan side was greater than on the Obama/Biden side by a large multiple. Personally, as I've said in this space, I have no use for lying on either side, and that includes lies of omission and lies by telling half-truths, and the American people seem to be showing that they feel the same.

It's time now for both parties to get back to the business of governing. Liberal/Progressive as I am, I like the two-party system. It should serve to keep all parties honest and to ensure that the best aspects of both liberal and conservative views are incorporated into policy. I like the parliamentary system of multiple parties better for the same reason, but third parties have never gained much traction here and when it operates effectively the two-party system should accomplish the same thing. It can't, however, when either party decides that its survival and reelection is more important than what it was elected for and is willing to effectively stop the process of governing for four years in order to unseat a duly elected President.

Boehner has expressed some willingness to collaborate; McConnell still sounds intransigent. The future of the country may very well depend on their willingness to lead their party in cooperating to govern rather than maintaining their "my way or the highway" approach. Let's hope that underneath the bombast, the results of the election are speaking to them and their colleagues and that the next four years are more productive than the last.