Another Useless Political Concept: Mandates

I was flipping channels on Monday and the discussion on both MSNBC and Fox News was over the question of whether President Obama has a “mandate” to do something — raise taxes on the wealthy, pass his budget plan, etc — as a result of the 2004 election. Naturally, Democrats think he does and Republicans think he doesn’t. Both are full of shit.

This is a term and a concept that is always used in an incoherent and hypocritical way by partisans of both parties. When their candidate wins, no matter how narrowly, they have a “mandate” to pass every single policy they advocated during the election because the voters picked him specifically to get that policy passed, or at least with the full knowledge that they would pass such a policy. And when the other side wins, it’s simply laughable that they could possibly have such a mandate.

And both sides can manipulate the facts to fit whichever narrative they want to promote depending on the outcome of the election. Democrats are now saying that Obama has a “mandate” to raise taxes on the wealthy because he won 332 electoral votes, but Republicans are arguing that the same voters who reelected Obama also voted to keep the House in Republican hands, which gives them the mandate to prevent Obama from doing so. But if the parties were reversed, their positions would be too.

In 2004, George W. Bush won the election by carrying 31 states (Obama carried 26) and voters gave Republicans control of both the House and Senate. He immediately claimed to have a “mandate” and said that he had “earned political capital” that he intended to use. Liberals mocked that claim and those who repeated it. Now it’s the exact opposite — of course Obama has a mandate and only those ridiculous Republicans would say otherwise.

As I said, this is all bullshit, nothing but pundits and politicians playing their assigned roles in a “debate” that happens after every election. If a policy should be passed, it should be passed on the grounds that it is good for the country, not in response to some mythical and undefined “mandate” from voters.

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