Get Your Blog Up

“This administration is populated by people who’ve spent their careers bashing government. They’re not just small-government conservatives—they’re Grover Norquist, strangle-it-in-the-bathtub conservatives. It’s a cognitive disconnect for them to be able to do something well in an arena that they have so derided and reviled all these years.”

Senator Hillary Clinton

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

On the Spot

I never expected a post of mine to be linked to on the Kerry Spot. Had I known it was coming, I would have been a little less dismissive in my inital post and a little more well thought. It's a blogging mistake that I will try not to make again. I guess I now have the opportunity to make some amends.

Here's the catch-up. Jim Geraghty at the Kerry Spot took issue with Dean's dismissal of Bush's "mandate victory" of 51% (actually 50.73% at last check, but whatever). I then took issue with Geraghty's take, and now he has taken issue with my response. Allow me to continue the chain.

First let me start with what I think are the less important points to get them out of the way. They can be argued to death with little or no agreement from either side. They were mostly a steam release for me, and I would rather discuss the larger point below.

Geraghty got me on point three by finding a Time magazine cover with the banner "Mandate for Change." I would say the nature of that "mandate" claim was Clinton's defeat of 12 years of Reagan/Bush run America. Another argument for another time, perhaps.

Point four: Bush and Kerry both won more votes than anyone in history due to a number of factors, including population growth, general agreement on both sides that this was an important election in our lifetime, and weak third party showings. To claim a mandate as a result of most votes ever seems to dismiss the role of these factors. What I mean to say is without them, Bush may not win the most votes of any President ever, which renders this point moot.

Point five: Even I can admit I make a weak point here, and I am disheartened by the Democrats poor showing in national races. However, I've read recently that Democrats made great gains when it comes to state and local offices (but I can't find the link now). One can only hope they will pan out in future national races. but who knows what the future holds.

Now to the main point.

Historical arguments like the one Geraghty makes to refute claims one and two have little impact on me. In my opinion, there are too many variables that affect the outcome of national elections to make me think that comparisons like the one Jim (can I call you Jim?) makes are valid.

That said, my main point in my first objection (and essentially overall) was that Bush's campaign was more of a "I will save you from John Kerry and terror" campaign then one of big ideas that he thought he could win on. If you look at the exit poll numbers, you will see more than a third of the country found terror and Iraq as the most important issue. Also big were that ubiquitous moral values category, and the economy.

The big things that Bush is pushing now with his "mandate," however, are privatization of Social Security and tax reform, and they clearly were not driving factors of Bush's re-election. So for Bush to claim he has a mandate to do what he now proposes is based on fallacy.

In fact, when you look at the poll results shortly after the election, you see that a majority of Americans support none of the proposals that Bush has been pushing. None. Bush's approval ratings have fallen since the election in most polls and now hovers under 50%. And a WSJ/NBC News poll shows that more than half of American's agree with me when it comes to the issue of Social Security privatization: Bush has no mandate.

All of that said, I guess the argument should not be if Bush has a mandate, but what exactly he has a mandate for. There are clear numbers that show that his "mandate" is for nothing that he is actually proposing to this point. And that is why I take issue with this whole "mandate" argument in the first place. I would ask only that Bush and his suppoters stop claiming a mandate for things that Bush didn't really win on.

I must give Mr. Geraghty props, at least so far, for his consistency when he says it will be tough for him to deny a mandate to any Democrat who wins with 51% of the vote. Hopefully, however, I've shown it's not the size of your mandate, but what you ran on to get it that matters.

*UPDATE* Jesse Taylor at Pandagon comes to my defense as well. I went to bed last night with a few things to add, but he manged to cover them and a whole lot more. To summarize:
Alas, if Geraghty argues what he appears to be arguing, then the term "mandate" is synonymous with "president", making not only the argument but the description itself meaningless. Mandates simply don't matter - there's no argument over whether or not a sitting president has one, and history shows us there's no point to having one in the first place.