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Mandate Time

The partisan dispute du jour seems to concern the question of a mandate. In one sense, clearly, Bush has secured his mandate -- elected under questionable circumstances he won a majority. In another sense, there's not much of a mandate here -- he campaigned mainly by attacking John Kerry and promising not to allow gays to get married, there was no popular ratification of, say, Health Savings Accounts. In the sense that matters, Bush has all the mandate in the world. He has his congressional majorities. They have expanded. Nobody was punished at the polls for being too deferential to Bush. Something as minor as a loss by, say, Chris Shays might have frightened other Blue Republicans. Instead, the moral of the story for moderates is going to be that Arlen Specter came closer to losing his primary than the general election. And ever Red Republican will be loyal-as-can-be since, evidently, loyalty brings benefits.

There will be no congressional oversight. Some liberals have drawn an analogy to the 1972 election, but during the second Nixon administration Democrats controlled the congress and the political benefits of being a Nixon loyalist (as opposed to merely not-George-McGovern) were unclear. Talk of the Senate Democrats blocking this or that is, likewise, futile. The Republicans only need to get a handful of Democrats to block a filibuster. Will Sens. Dorgan, Nelson, Other Nelson, Landrieux, Lincoln, Conrad, and Johnson be more or less confident in their ability to survive as opponents of Bushism? Beyond those seven, are the swing Senators like Bingaman, Reid, Harkin, Dayton, Kohl, Levin, and Stabenow (Feingold, clearly, would rather lose than compromise, so I leave him off the list). This crowd probably won't defect lightly, but will be open to pressure to sign on to large, bad bills that have small, good-for-the-local-economy elements in order to minimize their exposure on purely ideological lines.

November 4, 2004 | Permalink

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» Is it ironic that Bush has a mandate to outlaw man dates? from Nutbar
The partisan dispute du jour seems to concern the question of a mandate. In one sense, clearly, Bush has secured his mandate -- elected under questionable circumstances he won a majority. In another sense, there's not much of a [Read More]

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Comments

It's a ticket for meltdown. I've been moving my money into Euros; suggest you do the same.

Posted by: knut wicksell | Nov 4, 2004 12:45:55 PM

Given the Specter troubles in the primaries, I wonder how many red senators in Blue states will find it easier to go independent or simply switch. Conversely, they can look their leadership in the eye and say: better a moderate red than a liberal blue. With the blue margin of victory in PA, knocking over Specter in the primaries would have clearly cost the Reps that seat.

Posted by: philw | Nov 4, 2004 12:52:52 PM

I think it will be something like 1992 (you should hope so, given what heppened in 1994). Perhaps even 1964, I suppose, although the GOP mandate this year is certainly less extensive than the Dem mandate in '64.

Posted by: Al | Nov 4, 2004 1:03:00 PM

With the blue margin of victory in PA, knocking over Specter in the primaries would have clearly cost the Reps that seat.


Huh??? Kerry won PA by only 2.2%. Toomey would only have had to run ahead of Bush by 1.1% to have won the seat.

Posted by: Al | Nov 4, 2004 1:08:15 PM

Yes. Democrats are mosly out-of-the-loop until 2006 at the earliest.

This is approaching a good opportunity for a new party. Politicians who're democrats can't hand out much pork -- why would republicans need to trade votes with them at all? So they'll be competing on more of an even playing ground with third parties. And as democrats get weaker and third parties get stronger, the republicans won't need as many votes to get their plurality so they'll be jettisoning the least important parts of their base, and those will be available to join some other party too.

Democrats at the moment don't have ideals that motivate a lot of people. They used to be the party for people who wanted justice and a degree of fairness. The people who wanted a large middle class. Ending the depression. Community.

We aren't a community at the moment and a lot of people don't want that. If we're going to generate community we'll need some sort of new ideals, things that democrats haven't yet accepted as a group. Democrats can put together goals that most of us will agree are worth going after, or somebody else can. I don't much care which at the moment.

Here's another issue -- Suppose that in 4 years the richest 1% of the country owns 95% of the wealth. Or 99%. How will that affect things? It's very hard to take significant wealth from the rich without violence and without them emigrating. Would there be any plausible way to get our middle class back?

Posted by: J Thomas | Nov 4, 2004 1:12:07 PM

Here come the warm jets

Posted by: praktike | Nov 4, 2004 1:13:54 PM

Isn't the whole idea of a 'mandate' incredibly stupid, from both ends of the spectrum? Where does this idea--that a candidate shouldn't pursue their desired agenda because he did or didn't get a huge share of the vote, did or didn't get the popular vote, or was or wasn't elected under iffy circumstances--even come from?

Bush can blather on about a mandate, but the reason he'll support Christian conservatives is because the republican party needs their turnout, not because of some mandate or sense that he owes them for his election. For democrats, it is silly and unproductive to bitch and moan that Bush is acting despite a clear mandate. Would we have Kerry choosing to restrain himself if the shoe were on the other foot (apart from the necessary restraint in dealing with a republican-controlled house and senate)? If Kerry were president with congressional majorities in both houses, would you want him basing his policy in part on the fact that a core of the country was not in favor of abortion? Certainly not. You’d want him aggressively pursuing a democratic agenda.

You win the election, you do what you want, constrained by the margins you have to work with the House and Senate. There are certainly functional and practical reasons to seek out bipartisanship and endorse moderate positions, but to say that Bush shouldn't pursue his agenda because the country is split or complain that he's taking advantage of a false mandate doesn't make a lot of sense when the whole idea of a mandate is a bunch of nonsense.

Posted by: jackie t | Nov 4, 2004 1:15:41 PM

"Kerry won PA by only 2.2%. Toomey would only have had to run ahead of Bush by 1.1% to have won the seat."

But if you look at the Senate GOP victories, I believe they were much tighter than the Presidential margins in the same states. Even the fable Dashle loss was only 4500 votes, when the pres took the state by 60 percent.

I am not disagreeing with the basic thesis that Congress may be quiescent, if not supine, just that there are more limits on the leadership than Specter's primary problems would have suggested.

Posted by: philW | Nov 4, 2004 1:34:45 PM

I'd take Bush's '04 mandate more seriously if he had taken his lack of a mandate from 2000 seriously. Or at all.

Posted by: Grumpy | Nov 4, 2004 2:00:25 PM

Matt writes: The Republicans only need to get a handful of Democrats to block a filibuster. Will Sens. Dorgan, Nelson, Other Nelson, Landrieux, Lincoln, Conrad, and Johnson be more or less confident in their ability to survive as opponents of Bushism?

This is music to my ears, but I think Matt is overly pessimistic. The Republican caucus in the Senate is anything but rock-solid. Chaffee is rumored to be on the verge of jumping ship. Specter is making loud noises about Roe v. Wade. Blue state antipathy to the right's agenda makes Republican senators there the mirror image of Democratic senators in red states -- they've got to watch their backs.

Anyway, my arithmetic tells me the GOP needs a good dozen or so Democratic senators to side with them because of squishy liberal Republicans. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Nov 4, 2004 2:30:53 PM

bush's contribution to the presidency will be "don't negotiate against yourself." As such, he has always acted as though he has a mandate for anything and everything, he won't stop now, and there is very little in the way of checks and balances to stop him for the reasons matt outlines.

Posted by: howard | Nov 4, 2004 2:33:19 PM

"Nobody was punished at the polls for being too deferential to Bush."

What about Tom Daschle?

Posted by: Modern Crusader | Nov 4, 2004 2:44:44 PM

The idea of 'mandate' is not stupid.

Assuming that there is no cult of personality, the presidential candidates lay out their visions for the country and the country elects one of them - thus approving his/her plan, giving him/her mandate to implement it.

The Bushies certainly do have a mandate this time: the fact that they received not 5 - which is what they deserve - but 51% of the popular vote speaks volume.

The American people have spoken. They have chosen madness, death and destruction. That's the mandate, no question about that. Good luck.

Posted by: abb1 | Nov 4, 2004 2:48:09 PM

You analysis clearly indicates that in the next 2yrs at least, the Bushies are going to have a free hand to implement their agenda with nary an organized opposition from any quarter...
This is going to be an interesting period in American political history. And I don't mean that pleasantly.

Posted by: UrbanNomad | Nov 4, 2004 3:17:10 PM

GOP moderates in the House of Representatives are the wuss caucus. They only vote against the leadership when they're votes aren't going to be decisive. DeLay knows that there are certain things Republicans from moderate districts can't vote for, "catch and release" is his solution.

A bigger problem than the electoral college is the Senate. It needs to be discussed more how it is gerrymandered for Republican control. Even though the nation is split nearly 50-50, three-fifths of the states are Republican leaning. From 1980-1986, the Republicans only controlled the Senate b/c of their edge in small states, from 2000-2004 Democratic Senators likewise represented more people.

Posted by: JSB | Nov 4, 2004 3:21:52 PM

I'd doubt Levin and Stabenow would defect. They are both part of the southeastern Michigan Dem machine.

Posted by: anon | Nov 4, 2004 3:35:42 PM

This mandate bullshit is crucial test proof that all that sophomoric bullshit about paradigms and deconstruction and hegemony and dominant culture and memems and blah blah blah is operationally worthless bullshit since those who like that type of talk swallow mandate bullshit like it was mother's milk.

Mandate is an attempt to bypass the limitations of limited government, to expand the power of the Federal State, to centralize that power in the High Office of Executive in the Federal State, and to personalize that High Office power in the office holder - see, eg., that I don't have to answer questions, GWB horseshit.

Why not just say Bush won the election? What does mandate add to that? Why not just say Bush is the president of the united states?

For new deal democrats, for Bob Shrum, and Karl Rove, they want a mandate to claim more Federal STate power than is constitutionally provided. In their scheme the Federal STate is theirs to use to pursue power, and they agree the game is,get control of the Federal STate, and then the spoils belong to you.

Anyone who talkes limited government seriously, and rejects the cult of personality, will absolutely refuse to use the word mandate.

Of course, those who want to be Insiders, with the latest gossip, and the lingo of those in the know, mandate away. It is no different than blathering about paradigms and memes and the system of control. Only power matters. Sheeple to the slaughter.

Posted by: razor | Nov 4, 2004 3:48:25 PM

yup, you're right. There will be no Senate filbusters of judicial nominees. I think there is one thing we can do, though. The Red State Democrats will not be able to filibuster judges based on ideology (or character), but they can, and must, insist that all judges must answer, on threat of filibuster, some simple, no-bullshit questions on their judicial philosophy. Do you agree with Roe v. Wade? Why or why not? Do you agree with Bush v. Gore? Why or why not? How, in detail, would you interpret labor, environmental and civil rights law?

We *have* to do this. We have to nail their trousers to the mast. At this time, we cannot stop them from getting their agenda through, but we can *not* allow them to do it without public scrutiny and public exposure.

Posted by: roublen vesseau | Nov 4, 2004 4:17:54 PM

Conrad and Dorgan get as many votes in North Dakota as Bush does. Conrad, unlike John Kerry, voted against authorizing the Iraq war.

These guys will not be rolled.

Posted by: Geek, Esq. | Nov 4, 2004 6:31:00 PM

We should actively go after moderate Republican congressmen from blue states. Don't let them hunker down and acquiesce as the plague of far right legislation descends. Make them stand and be accountable to their constituents. This is what the Reps have doing effectively for years. Turn about is fair game. Start with wedge issue legislation -- it's been suggested (Atrios) that Dems sponsored politically divisive legislation that we neither know nor care will pass -- all it has to do is make Specters of the world know that they have to choose sides.

Posted by: rj | Nov 4, 2004 6:45:43 PM

"There will be no Senate filbusters of judicial nominees."

No, there must be a fight over any appointment of successors to members of the Casey and Lawrence majorities on the Supreme Court. Privacy rights, gay rights, the rights to birth control and abortion--we can't give those up without at least making Bush pay the price of a couple of major political confrontations.

What Sandra Day O'Connor thinks about Bush appointing her succssor is a rather crucial question . . .

Posted by: rea | Nov 4, 2004 7:08:48 PM

It will definitely be interesting.

Will we get sweet spending cuts and deregulation like we could have gotten from the first Republican Congress if Clinton hadn't kept vetoing budgets until the government shut down, or will "compassionate conservatism" win the day and keep the red ink flowing? Or will the Republicans try fiscal restraint again and get confronted with filibusters, and then get blamed (along with Bush) for the resulting continuation of deficits?

I'm cautiously optimistic.

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