Claiming a mandate

CLAIMING A MANDATE…. In the immediate aftermath of the elections, there were a handful of Republicans who wanted to debate the meaning of the word “mandate.” Apparently, Barack Obama’s impressive victory — the highest popular vote margin for a non-incumbent in a half-century — shouldn’t compel lawmakers to help him pass the policy agenda he presented the voters during the campaign.

I couldn’t hear the wording of the question, but during today’s press event in Chicago, Obama said without hesitation that he’d earned “a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we are in.” He added, however, that he’s anxious to work with Republicans and listen to their ideas. “[W]e enter into the administration with a sense of humility and a recognition that wisdom is not the monopoly of any political party.”

Greg Sargent raised a good point.

This is probably too obvious to point out, but the game here is that Obama is working to frame GOP obstructionism in advance. By simultaneously claiming a mandate while approaching Republicans with “humility” and a request for their help, Obama is boxing out Republican opponents in advance, laying the groundwork to cast them as partisan and hostile to the people’s will.

That’s why it’s still lost on yours truly why people are seeing Obama as “centrist” based on his bipartisan gestures and tone or his “pragmatic” staff picks. This stuff is just about positioning in advance, and the real tell will lie in his actual policies.

Sounds right to me. There’s already some question about whether Republican moderates are prepared to break party ranks and cooperate with Dems on the votes that really matter, and Obama’s reminder was less than subtle: he’s reaching out, and he’s prepared to work in good faith, but he’s also coming into the presidency in the wake of a veritable landslide (365 electoral votes).

Obama has a progressive policy agenda that’s been endorsed by the electorate, the pitch goes, and Republican obstructionism — “the same old practices” — should not be viewed kindly.