Well if this is a mandate for anything it's definitely a mandate for higher taxes on the rich.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 7, 2012
President Barack Obama won re-election tonight without winning as many electoral votes as he did the last time around after facing a serious threat because of his first term agenda. Now beware of people in the mainstream media proclaiming that there's some kind of "mandate" for Barack Obama to run with.
As Ron Fournier points out at the National Journal, President Obama completely sold out the hopes, dreams and aspirations that his 2008 campaign was run on. He ran on small, petty, divisive issues and must now attempt to mend fences with a Republican Party that does control some of the levers of power in Washington.
Mandates are rarely won on election night. They are earned after Inauguration Day by leaders who spend their political capital wisely, taking advantage of events without overreaching. Obama is capable—as evidenced by his first-term success with health care reform. But mandate-building requires humility, a trait not easily associated with him.
“The mandate is a myth,” said John Altman, associate professor of political science at York College of Pennsylvania. “But even if there was such a thing as a mandate, this clearly isn’t an election that would produce one.”
He pointed to Obama’s small margin of victory and the fact that U.S. voters are divided deeply by race, gender, spirituality, and party affiliation. You can’t claim to be carrying out the will of the people when the populous has little shared will.
There are enormous issues that must be dealt with in Washington. We can only hope that President Obama learned some lessons in his first term the hard way, refines his theory of congressional negotiation, and is serious about tackling some of the entitlement problems faced by America.