Excellent article on Rachel Maddow’s site today, which effectively skewers any idea that the Republican Party somehow now have a mandate to govern. The arguments should be read widely in America today: very good commonsense thinking.

It’s going to be a hot topic in the coming days and weeks. Having taken control of the Senate, is there a new GOP mandate for it to pursue with its new-found control of both houses of Congress?

That’s a question Republicans and Democrats will be debating in coming days, as the GOP makes the case that its election victories add up not only to an electoral “wave”, but to a mandate – a genuine endorsement of conservative policies – while Democrats cast them as something less.

Part of the problem is that we’re dealing with terms that have no specific, generally accepted meaning. For example, was this a “wave” election? Maybe, but there is no actual definition of the word, and because it’s somewhat subjective, opinions vary.

A “mandate,” meanwhile, also seems to mean different things to different people. Traditionally, it’s supposed to be part of a democratic model: a candidate or a party presents an agenda to the public, the public then endorses the candidate or party, and the winners claim a popular mandate. That is, by prevailing in an election, the victors believe they’ve earned the popular support needed to pursue the policy measures they presented during the campaign.

As of this morning, Republicans are predictably claiming just such a mandate, and at the surface, it may seem as if they have a point. The GOP took control of the Senate, expanded their House majority, flipped some state legislative bodies, and fared surprisingly well in gubernatorial races. The result, they say, is an endorsement from the American people that affords them the right to pursue their top priorities.

It’s a nice argument, which just happens to be wrong.

The Republican right can't have it both ways. But they will try.

The Republican right can’t have it both ways. But they will try.

Right off the bat, perhaps the most glaring flaw with the Republican pitch is that the GOP seems to believe only Republicans are capable of claiming a mandate.

Two years ago, President Obama won big, Senate Democrats kept their majority for a fourth-consecutive cycle; and House Democratic candidates earned far more votes than their House Republican counterparts.

Did this mean Dems had a popular mandate for their agenda? GOP leaders replied, “Absolutely not.”

Indeed, the Republicans said the opposite, concluding that Obama and his agenda may have been endorsed by the nation, but it was the GOP’s job to kill the every Democratic priority anyway. They proceeded to be the most obstructionist Congress in history, rendering the nation effectively ungovernable.

Elections have consequences? Republicans have spent the last two years insisting otherwise. It’s laughable for GOP officials to now change their mind and declare, in effect, “Mandates only exist when we win.”

What’s more, the obvious question for those arguing that Republicans have a mandate this morning is simple: “A mandate to do what, exactly?”

Think about the policy platform Republicans emphasised over the course of the last several months. Let’s see there was … well, we can’t forget about … but they certainly pushed … there was a real debate about issues such as … Ebola-stricken terrorists crossing the border from Mexico?

Look, it’s not exactly a secret that the GOP’s priorities, such as they are, do not enjoy broad national support. The party did its best to obscure its unpopular ideas for fear of losing. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) even went so far as to tell reporters the other day, “This is not the time to lay out an agenda.”

Not to put too fine a point on this, but that, in a nutshell, effectively ends the “mandate” debate. A party, no matter how well it does in an election, cannot claim a mandate for a policy agenda that does not exist and was not presented to the people. Vaguely blathering on about smaller government, or using explicitly abusive negativity, (as we said yesterday), doth not a mandate make. What exactly do the Republican Party stand for as opposed to against?

Republicans ran an “agenda-free campaign.” Did it produce big wins? Yes. Unarguably. Did it create a mandate? Very obviously not.

  1. Pat A says:

    I completely agree – I also look daily on Politics Plus ( which gives a very good insight as to politics in America and can also explain many of the apparent lunacies going on over there – though I have yet to understand or have it explained to me WHY people vote against their own interests and vote Republican.

    I do remember that an acquaintance in America during the Romney/Obama election was one of those who voted for Obama and had her computer choice altered by the computer to Romney – she noticed and altered it back – and the computer altered it again, and so on (it all depends if you are alone in a polling station/with family and friends or in a polling station full of aggressive Right Wingers whether you complain about this or not – she was alone so didn’t dare).


    • There have been examples of machines malfunctioning in that way again this time, Pat – very worrysome. And that’s before anyone even whispers “hanging chads”.


      • Pat A says:

        I have just seen this in the Daily Kos – it shows how the Democrats got many more votes than the Republicans in Minnesota and still lost – “You don’t need much voter suppression when you’ve figured out a system where your opponents’ votes don’t really matter anyway.”

        There was an article a few years ago that showed how the Republicans parlayed their positions on School Boards upwards to local councils and then to Congress and Senate in just a few short years (reminded me a little of tales of the end of the Weimar Republic as people did anything to gain power – and we know how that ended) and since they got power in 2010 they have been aggressively redrawing voting districts in their own favour and closing voting stations and/or moving them to nearly impossible places for ordinary people to get to – if voter apathy stays as high in America as it seems to be, I fear for the whole country..


  2. Pat A says:

    Sorry – typo – the state was Michigan, not Minnesota – argh!

    The end of the article shows even more clearly how the Republicans have fixed the system so that it is almost impossible to alter – here is the last paragraph but one –

    “The only citizen alternative is to amend the state Constitution. Just getting a proposal on the ballot requires more than 320,000 valid signatures which would then be scrutinized and challenged by high-priced GOP attorneys. (Not long ago they successfully challenged a petition because part of it arguably used a 11-point font instead of 12-point.) ” – to reject a petition signed by so many citizens on such paltry grounds should warn all and sundry that shenanigans are taking place, but still most people seem politically asleep, which worries me greatly.


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