One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

According to the Right Wing Howler Monkey Media Chorus:

Ronald Reagan (1980) wins 489 electoral votes and 50.7% of the popular vote = MANDATE!!!!!!

George H.W. Bush (1988) wins 426 electoral votes and 53.4% of the popular vote = MANDATE!!!!

George W. Bush (2000) wins 271 electoral votes and 47.9% of the popular vote = MANDATE!!!

George W. Bush (2004) wins 286 electoral votes and 50.7% of the popular vote = MANDATE!!!!!

Barack Obama (2008) wins 365 (at least) electoral votes and 52.3% of the popular vote = confirmation that America is a “center right” country.

UPDATE:  Apparently I somehow screwed up the link.  Try this one.

UPDATE 2:  Evidently, 59% of Americans have not gotten the memo on the whole “center right” thing.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The link you provided wouldn’t work, so I’m not sure what article you’re referencing. I believe by many standards the critical mass of U.S. voters is (or are?) center-right, and that this election was less a rush to the Left on issues as it was a resounding vote of no-confidence in the GOP based largely on the state of the economy. I believe it IS a popular mandate for Obama to work aggressively on a number of economic and diplomatic fronts to repair the damage done by the Bush administration. But if you want to test that theory about whether the U.S. really is center-right, by all means, have President Obama call for gay marriage, higher taxes and socialized health care in his inaugural address and see what happens. There’s a reason that’s NOT going to happen. There’s a reason Obama has consistently promised a tax cut for the middle class. He understands the American electorate better than most. Whether you want to call it “center-right” or something else, the fact remains that in our two-party political system, a resounding popular and/or electoral defeat rarely means the electorate has made some fundamental shift in their beliefs; more often than not it just means they’re pissed off at the party in power. Bottom line from my humble perspective: yes, Obama’s resounding victory does give him a mandate to act aggressively on many fronts, but no, it doesn’t necessarily signify a fundamental shift in the beliefs of many Americans. Bill Clinton (or perhaps James Carville) said it best: “It’s the economy, stupid.” My own humble opinion is that this election was first and foremost a verdict on the economy, with some secondary issues relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our damaged reputation abroad, and the symbolic issue of Obama’s race.

  2. I would add that some prominent Democrats, including John Kerry (on “Meet the Press” with Tom Brokaw), have candidly admitted that the greatest challenge to Obama’s presidency will not come from an angry or embittered GOP, but from his own party. More specifically, if he allows Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to interpret the election as a blanket endorsement of every Democratic policy proposal out there right now, without any sense of restraint or priority, it could very well ruin his presidency. Obama’s biggest challenge will be to assert real leadership and discipline on his party and to correctly gauge which new policies the country really wants and, more importantly, needs. And, getting back to your main point, I will confidently predict that no matter how much change Obama brings to our nation, by 2012 or even 2016 we will still be well to the “right” of our European counterparts on most issues. Whether that is ultimately center-right, center-left or something else is really more a subjective judgment based on where your own individual beliefs fall in the political spectrum.

  3. Okay, now the link is working. Well, I think there’s a degree of truth in what everyone quoted there said, including the blogger. I believe Cantor is correct that the election was not a “shift toward some style of European social, big government type of philosophy,” but that’s just a staw-man exaggeration of what progressives are really saying. I believe Pence is also correct, to a degree, that this was more a personal victory for Obama, in the sense that a large part of his appeal to independents (I think) was the symbolism of what his victory would mean around the world, i.e. we are not the bigoted jerks that everyone seems to think we are. Finally, I think the blogger is obviously correct that “Americans decisively elected a progressive president and gave progressives a majority in both houses of congress”–a factually true statement–though I think the slim 51% majority he cites for wanting government to do more is, well, a little slim in terms of proving that the electorate has made any kind of meaningful or lasting move to the left in their beliefs. I think partly because of the economy and partly because of Hurricane Katrina, this election was a cyclical backlash against the kind of government indifference and inaction that Bush’s inept presidency epitomized. When the economy does turn around in Obama’s first term–and it will, with or without a great deal of government stimulation–and people start to feel content again, they’ll start bitching about taxes and government intrusion again. Mark my words. So I would agree with the blogger’s statement that “while America remains a centrist nation, last week’s election demonstrates that the center is moving to the left,” but with the caveat that I believe the shift is neither enormous, fundamental or even lasting. The American electorate is as fickle as any history has ever known, and I’m fairly certain we’ll see at least several electoral swings back to the right in our lifetime.

  4. Regarding Update #2, note that the blogger himself says, “If you try to take the whole “center-right country” question seriously, you’ll see that the whole question is ambiguous to the point of uselessness.” Not that it’s WRONG, mind you, but that it’s ambiguous. And he has a point. I believe our country is clearly center-right on most social and economic issues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will slavishly vote Republican every election, particularly when the economy turns sour under a Republican watch. Did Bill Clinton’s success as president come from a left or center-left agenda? No. It came from triangulation and coopting parts of the GOP agenda like free trade and welfare reform. The first two years of his presidency, when the Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, were an unmitigated political disaster for the party. I see no convincing evidence in this cyclical turn of fortunes for our decrepit two-party system that the electorate has changed much since the early 1990s. But I DO agree that Obama has a clear mandate to move aggressively on the economic and diplomatic fronts, making many decisions and changes that aren’t necessarily “liberal” or “progressive,” but simply pragmatic and sensible.


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