Tuesday, November 13, 2012
What Is A "Mandate?"
Eight years ago, when left-leaning centrists like myself were still smarting over John Kerry having been swift-boated, I said repeatedly to anyone who would listen that I didn't think that 51% constituted a "mandate." In fact, I was quite adamant about that, and anytime Dick Cheney uttered the word, I wanted to knock that smug, stoic block of his right off its mortar. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I must submit myself to the same standard which I set back then. 51%, by itself, does not comprise a "mandate." Not for Bush, and not for Obama.
Yet Our Trophy President (X2!) is claiming that he has a mandate on raising taxes on the wealthiest upper 2%, and I'm quite certain that conservatives must feel about that much the same as I felt back in 2008. In a word, furious! Am I about to say that Obama does not have a mandate on the tax issue?
Nice try, but no. You see, in 2008, 60% of Americans disapproved of the war in Iraq. Hence, a 51% election victory did not constitute a mandate on said war, something which I felt was beyond obvious back in 2008. But Bush said he did anyway. That was wrong.
Now, polls show that 60% of Americans approve of raising taxes on the wealthiest upper 2%. Obama's 51% came largely from those same people. There you go. Now that's a mandate!
Wealthy interests, combined with superpacs, out-raised and out-spent an incumbent president by nearly double, unprecedented in history, shattering all previous records by nearly triple any previous dollar amount, all to convince citizens that holding their ground on the tax rate for the very wealthiest was a necessary thing. It still failed. Now that's a mandate!
An entire media empire brought its full force to bear on the message of "taxing the rich bad... taxing the rich bad... taxing the rich bad..." and it still lost. Now that's a mandate!
And finally, the president stumped, and stumped, and stumped on the issue of asking the rich to pay a little bit more so that we can balance our budget. His opponent was not forthcoming, at all, about how he would balance the budget by "closing loopholes," or which loopholes would be cut. In other words, the blunt truth won bluntly. Now that's a mandate!
There's all kinds of other stuff that one can say that Barack Obama's 51% does not give him a mandate on: Social Security, Medicare, foreign policy, "family values," etc. But taxes? That's the one area where public opinion is simply too crystal clear to claim anything other than a mandate.