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Does Bush Have a Mandate for His Conservative Agenda?

Perhaps the silliest of the claims put forward about Bush's narrow victory on November 2 was that he had some sort of mandate to pursue his conservative policy ends. Nothing could be farther from the truth as demonstrated convincingly in this memo "What Mandate: A Report on the Joint National Post-Election Survey" by Stan Greenberg and Bob Borosage. As they point out in the memo:

A majority of voters backed the president, but they still thought the country was off track and preferred a different direction in Americaís relations with the world and on domestic social policy...[T]he publicís priorities are wholly different than those the president put forth in the days after the election. That is particularly clear if one looks at fiscal and tax policies, health care, and Social Security privatization.

They conclude:

Progressives should feel confident in mobilizing opposition to these initiatives. If the president goes forward and the lines are drawn, voters will finally hear the differences on economic issues and strategy that they were looking for at the beginning of this paign. If the argument is drawn clearly, the president and his allies will find themselves facing significant voter skepticism, and generating potential electoral vulnerability. The presidentís claim to an electoral mandate for his agenda misreads where the voters are.

Just so. But there are a lot of interesting findings in the memo, so check out the whole thing. My personal favorite: the finding that, while voters' first choice of a Bush campaign initiative for him to pursue in his second term is continuing the war on terrorism, their second choice is.....nothing.

That about says it all.

Comments

I think these "Bush doesn't have a mandate" arguments are missing the point.

The point is, Bush plans to govern as if he has a mandate for these conservative policies, as he did 4 years ago when his victory was even smaller than it was this time.

Do congressional Democrats have the backbone to block this hard-right agenda, or will we see more Democratic acquiescence to the next round of tax cuts for the rich, idiotic military adventures, and hard-right cabinet appointments?

I don't see much positive evidence so far. I see too many people arguing that Democrats "must not be the party of obstruction."

Why doesn't somebody explains how Republicans can be infinitely more obstructionist (e.g. Clinton health care plan 1993-94; Clinton judicial appointments, 1995-2000; etc.) and get rewarded for it?

Who cares about Bush and any mandate...we need to satisfy ourselves that voter fraud has not taken place! I am surprised that you of all sites are not on top of this!

I have to believe that the Bush campaign organically grew the Republican base. How else do you explain the fact that while the Dems backed Kerry with some low level of exception and that Kerry won the "independent" vote, Bush never the less won 3.5 million more votes?

I also have to come back to those Gallup polls that were supposed to be "over sampling" (?) Republicans. Were Republicans being included beyond their actual presence in the electorate or was Gallup finding something we didn't want to admit to with all of its scary implications?

This election was different. Undecideds didn't break for the challenger, despite voter unhappiness with the incumbent. It may also be that increase in self identification as Republican, thus changing the Democratic edge on that question, is another result of the Bush campaign's concentration on growing the base.

I seem to recall that relatively early in Howard Dean's campaign that he was heard to say that 2004 would be decided by whose base turned out and that independents, a smaller group than before, would simply follow that party's lead.

My gut always told me that behind the ridicule of Dean on the part of Republicans, there also lurked a certain fear on their part for a man whose ferocity and focus reminded them too much of themselves.

Dean was not a good campaigner on his own behalf but I believe he had a sense that growing the base and getting it out on election day would be the key to victory vs. the shift to the middle, no matter the party.

Ruy,

Would you please comment on the L.A. Times article today, on how the new suburbs are going overwelming Republican. They quoted you. but whats your take on the thesis that seems to cortradict your ideas in your book.
Thanks

Exactly. Bush won because he was able to convince the majority that he was serious about protecting the country, which is something Kerry never seemed to get around to until it was just too late. That Bush is seen as a profligate spender and not particularly taken to coalition building probably bodes well for the Dems in 2008, IF they can find and field a candidate that is seen as pro-defense. As Brian Doherty states in Reason, there actually really is much for progressives to be happy about. Most of our cherished freedoms are results of liberal initiatives.

So I say to my Democratic friends, don't lose heart. And to my Republican friends I say, "Don't get cocky."

All this talk about whether Bush has a mandate or not is just so much blather. He doesn't care! Republicans can ram-rod through just about anything they want to given their majorities in Congress.

So, he claims a mandate. Bush claimed a mandate after the 2000 election when he didn't even win or garner the most votes. The word "mandate" corresponds in their minds to "power" and nothing more.

Translation: "We know we have the power and we intend to use it."

As Mark Twain put it, the knowledge that one is to be hanged in the morning has a wonderful effect of clarifying the mind. Democrats have nothing to lose and can and should spend the next 4 years fighting and pointing out every failure and disaster that Bush promotes. And there will be a lot of them.

But to waste time arguing about whether Bush has a "mandate" while he demolishes social security is pointless and futile. (Notice Tom Delay's comments in today's LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-gop23nov23,0,7560766.story?coll=la-home-headlines

"Much of the talk about Social Security and tax reform in Washington these days is about which will be tackled in the next two years, and which will be put off until after the 2006 elections," DeLay said, according to his prepared remarks for the closed-door speech. "The answer, if you're interested is ó do I have your attention? The answer is that we're going to do both before the 2006 elections."

If that isn't a declaration of total war, I don't know what is.

My only fear is that Democrats in Congress will try to conciliate and grab a piece of the glory by voting for some of this idiocy instead of fighting it to the last, thus blunting the unified message that we oppose this disaster and are not responsible for it.

I live in a Red State and people here more or less want the status quo when it comes to social issues. Even if they do not like Bush policy, they fear that a Democratic policy will force changes in their social agenda. The fear is that courts will demand that their churches accept gay marriage just as the courts over-ruled their objections to abortion.

A key for Democrats to get back in the game is to neutralize these social issues and push them off into the churches. Kerry really had no gay marriage policy, the one place where the waffle charge really was appropriate. A good strategy would be for Dems. to campaign to get the government out of the marriage business. The government could sell legal contracts (prenuptials, boiler plate partnership rights, etc to individuals or groups) and marriage would be the business of the church. (If your church does not support gay marriage, fine. If your church wants to marry gays, fine.) Democrats can support legal agreements. Marriage is a religious issue. Let the churches fight it.

The same is true for abortion. This is a church issue. The Democratic position needs to be that the government is not going to arrest doctors or have a government official oversee visits of women to their doctors. Democrats can be anti-abortion and work to reduce the need for abortion. An abortin reduction agenda with a big push from Dems would be a good way for Dems to reclaim the middle on this issue.

Democrats need to side with the first amendment. People in red states feel that their religious beliefs are being challenged. Democrats need to be supportive. There is no religion in the US that does not have beliefs that others do not like. Our democracy has thrived because we have agreed to let everyone practice their religion as they choose. Message: "Your right to practice your religion as you choose is better protected if we all support the rights of everyone to practice their religion in their own way.

The idea of a mandate is largely illusory anyway. The vote is a blunt instrument and tells us almost nothing about the wishes of the people who case them; post-election polls are at best an imperfect proxy.

The more pertinent question is what a president -- any president -- can convince a majority in Congress is in their electoral self-interest to follow. That's always easier when the margin is large, but with a high degree of GOP unity in the House Bush wouldn't need even that (obviously, the Senate is a somewhat different story).

As I argue here, however, the president seems not to have done that so far with respect to tax reform, at least:
http://boffo.typepad.com/boffoblog/2004/11/its_raining_man.html

All this talk is a waste of time...the democrats cannot win until VOTER FRAUD is sorted out.

I hate to say it, but maybe Bush does have a mandate. The notion that you need to be above a, say, 55% popular vote margin in order to go from being merely elected to being mandated seems a little artificial to me.

And it's not like Bush hid his radical right agenda. It's not even like the people who voted for him in any fashion supported some of the more extremist ideas to be found on Bush's list of things to screw up over the next few years.

But that said, people did vote for him and they voted for him knowing full well (or at least "having the capacity to know" full well) what he's done and what he's been like for the last four years. I don't think that, in a democracy, you get the excuse that people made an uninformed choice. Mr Bush has a mandate the same as any elected or unelected president has a mandate to do what he thinks is right.

But keep in mind that every Democratic member in Congress also has a mandate to oppose just about every thing the president tries for as long as he's in office. And every voter has a mandate to call up their members of Congress and demand that they try to stop the stupid things the president will do over the next four years.

Ohio Presidential Election will be challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court. This election IS NOT OVER YET !

what has been ignored is that the whole "mandate" issue implies that the vote totals given were accurate (which every indication is that they were not) and then ignores the other issues I have addressed here for months.

Look, if the Democrats rolled over in this election, 'doing the job' like they did in 88 and 00 in ignoring the flipflop spin and the distortions of Matt Bai (painting Kerry essentially as soft on terror as the Bush campaign would have it) then all the discussion of the polls and mandate simply boils down to the fact that those spins, unanswered, took what would have been a Democratic landslide and handed the election over to the Republicans. The fact that only by depriving overwhelmingly Democratic precincts in Ohio systematically of enough voting machines while Republican districts had plenty was Bush able to win at all AFTER all the manipulation during the campaign, tells us the degree to which Republican rule is being foist on the country by means of SHAM ELECTIONS. But there is so much cravenness on the part of the media (with their lockdown of Votergate 2004) and the pundits that they merely do their jobs of justifying the lying and obscuring the fact truth of the matter.

Incidentally, some aspects of this model can be tested, by seeing whether late deciders ever read or heard any of the columns that were the progeny of Matt Bai, voters who say that they voted against Kerry because they thought he was 'wishywashy' etc.

> Kerry really had no gay marriage policy, the one place where the waffle charge really was appropriate.

Huh? Kerry had a clearly articulated policy: he was against gay marriage.

Please forgive me if this posting is a repeat of one I just tried to send. I think it got lost in the preview stage. I am just beginning to learn how to do these postings and chats, etc.


Also, it this posting is in an inappropriate place, please forgive. I am trying to get this message out as quickly as possible. Please use my input in any way you see fit, and also spread by word of mouth.

I am making this posting in reference to the threat of EVANGELIST Christian beliefs and politics that are threatening to destroy our democracy and end the world.

I am offering these ideas to be used in the best possible way for strategy and growth of the Democratic party. I to not intend to alienate anyone with these ideas. I offer them simply because I believe that this issue needs to be addressed IMMEDIATELY on a world-wide scale.

I think it has become clear to a lot of people that the EVANGELIST Christian movement has been used by the Republican party to infiltrate the politics, government and now the world. All people everywhere need to see the urgent need to stand up to this movement. Evangelism, like Christianity in the days of the Crusades seeks to take over the world. Except that at this time in history it threatens the existence of life on this planet.

I am making an urgent call to all people of all religions and non-religions to unite to oppose religious fanaticism.

Although I consider myself a Christian, my understanding of the teachings of Jesus is completely opposed to that of the Evangelists. I also want to make clear that my understanding of God encompasses all religions, metaphysics and science. I speak from A Christian standpoint because it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT for the world to become aware that there are large numbers of Christians who do not embrace Evangelism.

There is a growing movement in Christian churches to oppose Evangelism and to maintain separation of church and state. CNN had an excellent program on which showed the contrast in beliefs between the Evangelists and other Christians. They interviewed Reverend Barry Lynn (I think this is his name), who is heading the organization for separation of church and state.

It is extremely important to clearly bring out this distinction in Christian belief so that as many people as possible realize that Evangelists are only a segment of Christian believers. They need to be isolated and contained so that their influence can be controlled and ended. Evangelism, like other fanatic religious beliefs teaches conquest and domination of the world--even if it takes mass suicide.

It needs to be made clear that Evangelism is based on hatred and distain of others who do not join them. People who understand that Jesus' real teaching was only love, know that hatred, prejudice and violence could not be further from his teachings.

Evangelists and the Republican party have used religion as a weapon to divide and conquer the American people by fanning prejudice and hatred. Through hatred they have been able to win the support of people who may be for only one or some of the so-called issues professed by Bush. Probably the most far-reaching issue on which they have been able to deceive people is the idea that Bush's war and violence is the only way to GUARANTEE our protection against terrorism. What they fail to realize because many of them are not even Christians, is that by aligning himself with Evangelists, he is aligning himself with people who believe that ARMAGGEDON is inevitable because of literal belief of the Bible and the the book of Revelations.

I only speak of these things from a Christian standpoint because it is imperative that the CONTRAST in belief between Evangelists and other Christians needs to be made broadly known as quickly as possible.

As many people realize, people of all faiths and even people who do not believe in a god or godhead have had miracles, healings and prayers answered. Many people have been able to heal themselves through vizualization and affirmations, utilizing the unlimited power of their own subconscious minds. This unlimited power is part of the consciousness of everything that lives and the human race is just beginning to understand its power. Whether one chooses to call this power by the name of a diety is a personal choice.

There are many names for God other than Jesus in the Bible. "Yewah," and "I am That I am" are just two. "I am That I am," is the name He referred to for himself.

It also says at the beginning of the book of John that "God created everything that exists. Nothing exists that he did not create." This would mean that his creation is all-encompassing. It means that he created the other religions and everything that exists and that we experience. It also means he created FREE WILL! In fact, FREE WILL is perhaps his most important gift. It would mean that we have the ability to choose and be in control of our destiny.

The concept of FREE WILL is of profound importance because it means the difference between night and day, continued existence and progress for the human race or ARMAGGEDON! In fact, the concept of FREE WILL was at the center of the Reformation. The Reformation was the period in history at which other Christian denominations began to break away from the rigid teachings of the Catholic church. Martin Luther broke away from the Catholic church because he believed that God gave us FREE WILL. It is the difference in the rigid, dogmatic belief that the future of humanity and our lives are predestined by God, or that God has given us FREE WILL. Along with Martin Luther's movement come the realization that people could experience God in their own subjective way and that religious knowledge is a living, ongoing relationship with God.

People who understand that Jesus' only teaching was love know that hatred, prejudice and violence could not be further from what he taught. If there is any salvation to be gained from his crucifixtion, it already took place 2,000 years ago, when he died trying to teach people that the Kingdom of Heaven is "within." You create your own heaven or hell by the exercise of your own beliefs and consciousness. The famous passage in Corinthians about love describes the nature of love, which is God himself-- that love is without judgment (unconditional).

The human race is on the verge of discovering some of the most exhilarating and profound knowledge we could ever imagine. The reason it is important that we recognize that God created everything that exists, is because every bit of experience we are given about anything deepens our understanding and experience of the infinite nature of God, existence and ourselves. The scientific fields of Quantum Mechanics (physics) and cosmology (the universe and astronomy) have begun to reveal what some of the world's oldest religions have known for centuries--that everything in the universe is connected. If everything is connected, it means that, indeed, everything is one. People who meditate and are in deep prayer experience this connectedness of everything and experience the oneness of God. If everything is indeed one, and God is Love, it would mean that everything is actually Love!. Contradictions and paradoxes are dissolved in this oneness. Right--wrong, good-evil, heaven--hell, Christian--non-Christian, etc. loose meaning. This is the truth that Jesus told us would set us free. The whole process of evolution (first progressing through the physical world, and then evolution of consciousness is the
knowledge of how to choose to experience love and freedom from fear over the absence of love--death, hatred, violence and the other nightmares that currently dominate our existence here.

This is why I am calling on all people everywhere who understand and support what I am saying to unite in proclaiming a true, liberating morality that encompasses the common teachings of all religions
and spiritual and/or secular knowledge that will free us for true compassion and love for one another.