Mandate Up by The Bell offers some advice to his readers on the mood of the country:
Their Promised Approach to Governance Didn’t Work Out So Well for the Last Guys
During one of their debates, Nevada Tea Party Senatorial candidate Sharon Angle famously told Majority Leader Harry Reid to “Man up!” meaning he needed to toughen up in the face of adversity and take responsibility for his actions and their consequences. As it turned out, Reid apparently manned up sufficiently to become one of the relatively few Democrats avoiding rejection by voters last Tuesday.
Republicans, the big winners in this election, were quick to see their victory as a justification to mandate up. Their victory moved Representative John Boehner of Ohio, the likely next Speaker of the House, to tears of relief because he believed his Party now could save the American Dream. “I think that it’s a mandate for Washington to reduce the size of government and continue our fight for smaller, less costly and more accountable government,” he told reporters.
John Boehner and Mitch McConnell believe they have
been given a mandate to undo Obamacare and Obama
Boehner also believes Republicans have a mandate to repeal healthcare reform as passed by Democrats, calling it a “monstrosity” that “will kill jobs in America, ruin the best healthcare system in the world, and bankrupt our country.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will remain Minority Leader because candidates like Angle did not prevail, was even more belligerent. He argued Republican lawmakers should vote to repeal healthcare reform, over and over if necessary. Then McConnell took it a step further, maintaining that merely opposing Obama’s policies was insufficient.
Republicans top goal for the next two years should be doing anything and everything possible to deny the President a second term. McConnell reasons the only way for Republicans to undo everything is “to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things.”
For his part, Obama was chastened by the “shellacking” his Party suffered but unapologetic about his agenda, although he conceded he was so eager about what needed to be done he had forgotten how he promised to do it (i.e. outreach to Republicans and greater civility/bipartisanship). “I do believe there is [still] hope for civility,” he avowed.
Boehner and McConnell flatly stated they would accept Obama’s help only as far as it coincided with their mission.
They say the size of their victory demonstrates the American publicly has roundly rejected Democratic progressivism and this rejection cuts across all demographics and ideologies except for the extreme loony Left. Election results and exit polls tell a different story, however.
For starters, one might assume – given the extent to which Republicans used Obama as a proxy against Democratic contenders – that Democrats who voted with the President would suffer the worst loses while those who distanced themselves and voted against him would do better. In fact, of the thirty-three House Democrats running for re-election who voted against healthcare reform, two-thirds were defeated. About the same was true among the forty-two who voted against Cap and Trade. In comparison, only two Senate Demorats who voted for both the stimulus and healthcare reform lost.
CNN exit polls reject the oft-insisted conservative claim that this election was a referendum against Obamacare. Only seventeen percent of voters considered healthcare reform their top issue and more half voted for Democrats. Likewise, only thirty-seven percent said their vote meant “expressing opposition to Obama.” Even given continuing high unemployment and slow recovery, in the sixteen Democratic-represented Congressional districts hardest hit by the economy, only one flipped Republican.
There is no question that Republicans received a loud and clear mandate from a cadre of energized conservative voters. However, far from representing all Americans, this group was both whiter and, especially, more elderly than the population as a whole. Republicans continued to lose eighteen to twenty-nine year olds by seventeen points. As Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post observed, “There was absolutely a Republican wave on Tuesday, but it looks more like the wave of the past than the wave of the future.”
Republicans won with this cadre and Independent voters, who broke for the GOP in 2010 by about the same margin they went for Obama and Democrats in 2008. They were sending a mandate too but one less about ideological preference and more about results.
The Washington Post’s David Broder explains, “There will be a temptation to interpret the Democrats’ loss of their House majority and of at least six Senate seats as a rejection of Obama’s first-term agenda . . . American voters are not that flighty or unsettled . . . The biggest problem by far was the economy . . . The worst mistake would be for [Obama] to abandon or reject his own agenda for government.”
Broder’s conservative colleague Charles Krauthammer disagreed, arguing the rejection was so complete that neither Obama nor any future Democratic can or would wish to govern from a progressive philosophy ever again. However, he concurred on this key point – “Republicans [should not] over-interpret their Tuesday mandate. They received none.”
Some pundits argue Obama’s fatal mistake was in overreaching while others maintain he was not nearly aggressive enough. Actually, Obama’s mistake was overestimating how long Americans would be patient over a sluggish economy from which the middle class had failed to benefit long before the recession. Republicans benefited as the only available alternative. They are also next in line for the boot if they fail to deliver. Moreover, nothing suggests voters have grown more patient.
To this end, Republicans must focus on economic growth and creating jobs in the private sector. They must press for reforms but be willing to compromise on details. While attempting to repeal healthcare reform is a gesture owed to their most ardent constituents, they must present viable conservative alternatives to its most unpopular components. This is not my policy prescription but that of Karl Rove, writing in the Wall Street Journal.
Boehner and McConnell may choose not to heed these admonitions. They may insist they have a mandate that represents the broad will of the American People. They may insist this election represented a permanent seismic shift to the ideological right by this country. They may insist compromise is a dirty word and only total repeal is sufficient. They may insist voters have seen the error of their ways and will patiently wait two years or more for them to build the majorities and power bases necessary to do things the right way. They may insist they only way they will not be successful is if the defeated Party is obstructionist.
Of course, they insisted in the run-up to this election that these are exactly the same mistakes made by the Democratic leadership after 2008. As chief of the defeated, Obama noted in his press conference, “Ultimately, I’ll be judged as President as to the bottom line, results.” The same is true for Boehner, McConnell, and the rest of the Republicans swept into office last week.
It is time for them to quit mandating up and start manning up. They have the acting tough part down pat. Now it is time to work on the taking responsibility part. Otherwise, it will quickly become clear nobody was listening to the American People this election.