Thursday, November 04, 2004

Political: It's Not a Mandate, Mr. President.

I was looking at the electoral map in the Wall Street Journal this morning and feeling a concomitant loss of appetite. All of the accompanying commentary used words like "mandate" and "decisive" and "emboldened." My coffee started to taste bitter. My vitamins became unswallowable. No amount of Lucky Charms or BooBerry was going to salvage this day.

Then I realized. If this president looks at the Electoral Map and thinks he has a mandate, he is sorely mistaken. He needs to throw out that map and look at a Popular Vote Map. Because 53 million people wanted to turn him out of office. That sea of red across the country is nothing more than a "winner take all" view of each state's vote. In many states (with the exception of the usual suspects in the South and Mountain West), the split between the two candidates was as close as 51% to 49%. That is not a mandate from the people of Ohio to have your Republican way with them. It is a plurality to be sure, but it is not a mandate.

I'd be interested to see how many votes for George Bush were a result of a Republican having no other option. Much like for any Democrat who didn't love Kerry, what else were you going to do? You had to "hold your nose and vote." How many Republicans (like some friends that I have chatted with) did not actually support GWB but found the idea of a) staying home or b) voting for Kerry to be laughable...and so felt like their only option was to vote for the GOP candidate on the ballot? I know that many Dems did the same.

Short Story Long: As with so many words these days whose meanings are fungible and whose emphasis is misused for nefarious purposes,
[See "hero"--as in {Rudy Giuliani was a hero on 9/11. Little boy is a hero for saving his drowning cat}
See "God"--as in {I want to thank God for this award/bowl game/NASCAR championship}," See "star"--as in {the stars of Survivor: Vanuatu, TV star Paris Hilton, movie star Freddie Prinze, Jr.}],
"mandate" has become the description du jour for something that is most decidedly not.

Getting 51% of the vote entitles you to take office with a majority. It does not offer you a mandate. Unlike Ronald Reagan's victory back in 1980, the crossover vote between parties was minor. And as little as I want to wave the flag for Ronald Reagan, on some level, HE could have declared a mandate on the argument that a large percentage of the other party voted for him. His appeal cut across partisan lines to the extent that he could have credibly said that he had a broad base of support to justify his policies. Re-elected or not, this President remains the most polarizing head of state in modern American history. More so than even Bill Clinton, which ought to put it his "mandate" in perspective.

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