Obama’s Mandate Redux

Much of the immediate post-election spin coming from Republicans involved denying the president’s win gave him any sort of “mandate” to do any of the things he campaigned on. He won because of superior tactics, or Romney’s errors, or turning out “base” votes via pandering and “gifts,” or because this or that happened or didn’t happen in the last few days. Besides, said Republicans, they had their own mandate from maintaining control of the House (which conveniently ignores the fact that they lost the national popular vote in House races), so any way you sliced it, Obama had to negotiate with Republicans as equals.

Nobody much bothered to ask Americans what they thought about the talk of mandates, until the release of a new national Bloomberg poll which precisely asked them just that. And lo and behold:

President Barack Obama won the public argument over taxes so decisively that almost half of Republicans now say he has an election mandate to raise rates on the rich.

Majorities of about 2-to-1 also read the election results as an endorsement of Obama’s pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 7-10.

46% of respondents (with 46% opposing the proposition) even said Obama had a mandate to “take action to address climate change,” that great unmentionable during most of the 2012 cycle.

Now nobody’s required to support a policy initiative just because Americans support it or even think the president should have the opportunity to implement it. But at a very minimum, the silly talk that in re-electing Barack Obama Americans weren’t making judgments about the two parties’ agendas, or were actually saying the winners should take half-a-loaf–or less than half-a-loaf–compromises from the losers, needs to go away for good.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.