Given the 7.9% unemployment and slow growth of the U.S economy President Barack Obama scored an impressive reelection victory last week. The President of the United States won 332 electoral votes to 206 for his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
The President won 51% of the total votes cast, thus making him only the fourth American President in the past century to win 50% of the popular vote more than once; with the others being Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan.
This President won in the face of a Fairness Doctrine-free right wing radio and television propaganda apparatus, and the Citizens United decision which enabled billionaires and corporations to spend absolutely as much they deemed necessary; most of it invested in defeating him. The President won despite a spate of recently-passed voter identification laws designed to particularly defeat him in certain swing states.
Mr. Obama also won despite being the only President in modern American history to campaign on an intention to raise income tax rates on specific voters—and win.
Of course, President George W. Bush claimed a mandate following the 2004 election in which he won reelection by winning Ohio. Had he lost Ohio that year he would no longer have been the President. So then, logically, Ohio created his mandate.
One thing is certain, whoever wins any election can legitimately claim a mandate to do that which they assured the voters they would do subsequent to their election. Most assuredly, President Obama made no secret of his intention to allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire on annual individual incomes in excess of $250,000 when reelected. The past presidential election served as a referendum on this position if nothing else.
Now, with the so-called fiscal cliff supposedly looming wherein the Bush-era tax cuts will expire for all tax payers on January 1, 2013 and large cuts in defense spending will automatically kick in as a result of sequestration; we are faced with another tax rate/entitlements showdown between the President and the Republican controlled House of Representatives.
The Democrats seem to have slightly edged Republicans in the raw popular vote for House seats in the 2012 election cycle. The redistricting following the 2010 elections enabled the Republicans to maintain a reduced majority. But not winning a majority of popular votes, and even losing some seats, certainly does not constitute a congressional mandate. Representatives may claim a mandate—not the institution.
The recently vanquished would-be Republican Vice President, Paul Ryan, has now suggested that since the Republicans have maintained a majority in the House, and because the “election was close,” that the GOP has obtained a congressional mandate to resist higher tax rates. If the public opinion/preference polls have any credibility—and we now know that they do—we know that the institution of congress is not now, nor has it recently been, popular with the American people.
For his part, Congressman Ryan—in his campaign role as Republican vice presidential nominee—failed to even carry his own home town of Janesville, Wisconsin; so his denial of an Obama mandate rings particularly hollow.