Disregarding mandates

DISREGARDING MANDATES…. During the campaign, I grew increasingly fascinated by Michigan’s Tim Walberg (R) as one of the more ridiculous characters running for Congress in 2010. He was, for example, one of a small cadre of extremists who wore his unhinged “Birtherism” on his sleeve, in truly head-shaking ways.

Walberg was narrowly elected in ’06, narrowly defeated in ’08, and then narrowly elected again this week. Soon after, he talked about what he intended to do when he returned to Capitol Hill.

He said Republicans can work together to get things done with the Obama administration, but that will be up to the president. If Obama, like then-President Bill Clinton did after the 1994 midterms, responds to the mandate from voters and understands he can’t disregard it, then he thinks Obama will do well. “If he doesn’t, he will shut government down,” Walberg said.

Now, the obvious problem here, aside from the fact that Walberg is a nut, is that we really don’t need yet another congressman looking forward to shutting down the government. Threatening a shutdown unless the president does what the GOP demands is not exactly conducive to bipartisan cooperation.

But the part of this that got me thinking was the notion that it’s incumbent on President Obama to honor, rather than ignore, the Republicans’ mandate. Obviously, the notion of an actual GOP mandate is itself dubious — voters seem to have backed Republicans because they were the challengers, not because they’re popular.

Putting that aside, though, I’d love to know how GOP officials reconcile their cognitive dissonance. How is it that only Republican candidates are able to receive electoral mandates? Americans have elected a Democratic majority in the Senate for three consecutive elections. Do they have a mandate? President Obama won in an electoral landslide, with the highest popular vote percentage of any candidate in either party in 20 years, and the highest for a non-incumbent in 56 years. Did he get a mandate that Walberg expected Republicans to honor?

Everyone has heard the “elections have consequences” phrase, but this week is a reminder that for many on the right, it’s entirely selective — elections have consequences so long as Republicans approve of the election results.

Every GOP official popping off this week about how the Senate Democratic majority and the Democratic White House have no choice but to “listen to the voters” and give Republicans what they want, should answer two straightforward questions: (1) what were you saying the first week in November, 2008? and (2) how did you honor the Dems’ mandate over the last 21 months?