Vox populi -- the voice of the people -- was uttered Nov. 4. But what did they say, and what will President-elect Obama and the Congress do based on that voice? All we know for certain about the first question is that about 66 million people cast their votes for Obama, and about 58 million cast their votes for McCain. Interpreting why they voted that way will be the first subject of contention. From all across the political, ideological and interest group spectra, there will be fierce claims that the election proved this or that. For Obama, this is an exercise in claiming he now has a mandate for (fill in the blank). For the losers, it will be claimed that in voting down McCain, the public did not oppose this or that.
Now, if you can make the case that the people's vote endorses your position, then you assert that vox populi, vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God).
If you are on the losing side, then you may find convincing the advice of Alcuin of York, the great English scholar and top adviser to Charlemagne: "Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit." ("And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, because the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.")
But beyond the cynicism and preposterous spin involved in this exercise of "mandate, mandate, who has the mandate?" is a very serious business. For both the winners and the losers, the greatest danger is that they come to believe their own spin. Shortly after the election, I was in a radio show debate, and my liberal interlocutor asserted that the vote for Obama proved that the public finally had rejected "Reaganism" -- from free, deregulated markets to all those traditional and religious cultural arguments that Republicans "have been using to confuse the people."
I can only hope that Obama and his team assume that his 53-46 percent win at a moment of calamitous economic news and a vastly unpopular president constituted a rejection of every non-leftist impulse in the public. It is revealing that the exit polling disclosed that the public self-identified itself as 44 percent moderate, 34 percent conservative and 22 percent liberal, which was statistically identical (45-34-21) to the numbers after Bush's 2004 victory. Moreover, the fact that 20 percent of self-identified conservatives voted for Obama -- or 6.8 percent of the electorate -- shows that if McCain had held all the self-identified conservatives, he would have won the popular vote.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.