Mandate for Me But Not for Thee:
People for the American Way Press Release in 2008, after Democratic President Elect Barack Obama defeats Republican John McCain by a 53-46 margin:
Looking at yesterday's results, it's incontrovertible that the election delivered a sweeping mandate for President-elect Obama . . .
People for the American Way Press Release in 2005, after Republican President George W. Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry by a 51-48 margin:
Clearly, President Bush, who won a narrow victory and leads a divided nation, has no mandate . . .
A 53-46 margin isn't exactly the same as a 51-48 margin. But still, I think I see a pattern.

  UDPATE: Some commenters seem to believe this post is unfair, because everybody is prone to this sort of hyperbole — especially advocacy groups. To be clear, the point of the post is just that: This was just an early example of the shift in arguments that we're all supposed to make now that the Presidency is set to change.

  Also, a few readers argue that there really is a dramatic difference between the two election outcomes. First, some readers argue that the test for whether there is a "mandate from the people" is electoral college outcome, not the popular vote; I respond to that here. Second, some argue that a doubling of the size of the gap is really dramatic; the difficulty is that if you look historically at the differences, the two sets of outcomes are not so far from each other; the doubling of a small number is still relatively small given the range of outcomes in elections. Of course, Obama won soundly, especially at the electoral college; it wasn't a close election. But I don't think the difference justifies the rhetoric of the press releases, which was the point of the post.
Daniel Chapman (mail):
An accusation of bias in an admittedly partisan advocacy group? What's the point?
11.5.2008 6:45pm
Loophole1998 (mail):
Are mandates measured in electoral votes or popular votes?
11.5.2008 6:47pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

A 53-46 margin isn't exactly the same as a 51-48 margin. But still, I think I see a pattern.

that you are a leading apologist for many (though not all) of the lawless and radical Bush policies of the last eight years?
11.5.2008 6:50pm

It's not an "accusation of bias." Rather, it's a follow-up to my post yesterday about how advocates have to switch sides now; this was an early example of the trend, and I thought it was pretty funny.


I think mandates come from the voters, not the electoral representatives, so I would think the popular vote.
11.5.2008 6:51pm
The whole idea of a mandate is silly.

But it isn't exactly hypocritical to say that a victory that is double the magnitude of another significant victory represents a much greater mandate.
11.5.2008 6:52pm
Moreover, I think the manner of victory is important. Bush won in 2004 by turning out his base. Obama won in states were the Dems haven't been competitive by grabbing whole new demographics.

IMO, a mandate ought to come from broad-based support of the populace . . .
11.5.2008 6:54pm
Well, based upon the accusations made against Obama throughout this campaign, I think it's a pretty clear mandate for socialism, anti-Americanism, and radical Islam. Unless, of course, those accusations were somehow exaggerated. But that couldn't possibly be the case...
11.5.2008 6:55pm
Joe11111 (mail):
It may not be a 'sweeping mandate', but a 6 percentage point margin is twice as wide as a 3 percentage point margin, so while it may make sense to characterize Bush's victory as 'narrow', it makes less sense to characterize Obama's victory the same way.
11.5.2008 6:56pm
Uh, Bush won by one state. Don't go all Zywicki on us.
11.5.2008 6:57pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):
This isn't a fair comparison for two reasons. 1) Seven percent is actually quite different from three percent, in recent elections and 2) hardly anybody disagrees (even among some of the most right-wing of partisans) that this election represents a stunning repudiation of the Republican party, whereas in 2004 it could hardly be said by anyone that the 2004 was a similarly catastrophic event for the Democratic Party.
11.5.2008 6:58pm
Opher Banarie (mail) (www):
...sweeping "mandate" for President-elect Obama? So why is he against SSM? Oh....never mind...
11.5.2008 7:01pm
DensityDuck (mail):
I agree with others; seven percentage points, in a modern "fifty-fifty all the way" kind of campaign climate, is a significant win.

However, I also don't think that this is a "mandate". This is a bunch of Republicans who are rage-voting; they're mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore! They're gonna vote Democrat, just ta show 'em! Pretty soon they'll wake up and realize that Obama won, and that they helped, and that now we're in for a wild ride.
11.5.2008 7:01pm

Note that I am not saying that the two are the same. As best I can tell, 6-7 percent is greater than 3 percent, which is greater than 2 %, which is greater than 1%, which is greater than .5%, For that matter, 20% is greater than 15%, which is greater than 12%, which is greater than 10%, which is greater than 7%. I hope that you all will agree with me so far on that. But in a historical sense, the gap between 3 and 6-7 percent isn't all that big: It seems sort of odd to say that the line between the two is the line between clearly having zero mandate and incontrovertibly having a sweeping mandate.
11.5.2008 7:03pm
SFBurke (mail):
If he has a mandate then what is it a mandate for? The Obama supporters on this board assured us (in response to DuPont's WSJ piece) that Obama would not raise taxes on 95% of us, would not be a protectionist, would not over-regulate, would not vastly increase spending, would not be soft on terrorism, would not support card check legislation or the fairness doctrine etc. Obama probably does have a mandate to govern that way. However, he doesn't have a mandate to govern the way the Pelosi, Murtha, Frank etc. want him to govern. It will be interesting to see which direction he takes.
11.5.2008 7:04pm
Paper Nuncio:
Well, certainly a lot of Conservative pundits/bloggers called Bush's win a mandate. Novak indeed called it a "mandate" but now rejects the notion that doubling that is a mandate for Obama...hmmm...

We're nothing if not inconsistent.
11.5.2008 7:06pm
the gap between 3 and 6-7 percent isn't all that big

The gap between winning by one state and winning by nearly 200 electoral votes is pretty massive. This accusation of hypocrisy is a total stretch.
11.5.2008 7:08pm
Also, here are some reminders of recent spreads in Presidential Elections:

1980 -- 10%, Reagan over Carter
1984 -- 18%, Reagan over Mondale
1988 -- 8%, Bush over Dukakis
1992 -- 5%, Clinton over Bush
1996 -- 9%, Clinton over Dole

If 6-7% yesterday was clearly a sweeping mandate, were all of these elections also clearly sweeping mandates? (I suppose 1984 was such a mandate that PFAW would just give up and not oppose Reagan's selections. . . ;-) )
11.5.2008 7:10pm
"In a historical sense, the gap between 3 and 6-7 percent isn't all that big."

I disagree with that, given recent election results. Obama is the first Democrat to win a majority of the popular vote since LBJ, and it's a major shift from the 50-50 landscape we've seen for the past eight years.

Yes, this is not 1932. No 61% majority. But it's not 1932 in a lot of other ways either. Given changes in technology, campaign fundraising and spending, and the electorate, it's unlikely that we'll see another 1932 in the near future.

The bottom line is that it's a big win. Four years ago, President Bush claimed a "mandate" with a narrow win decided by roughly 40,000 votes in Ohio. It's more than reasonable for Obama's supporters to say he didn't have a mandate then and that they have a mandate now.
11.5.2008 7:12pm
Shocking hypocrisy from People [Against] the American Way.
11.5.2008 7:15pm
Another thing -- the entire country moved towards the Democrats, in the Senate and House as well, giving them substantial majorities in both.

The last two times that happened -- 1980 and 1992 -- the winning parties claimed a mandate and governed accordingly.

(I know the Republicans didn't control the House in 1980, but with Reagan's popularity and the conservatism of many Dems in Congress, they effectively had some level of control there for a time.)
11.5.2008 7:16pm

On the one hand, yes, PAW is surely being a little disingenuous, though you can hardly expect better from a political advocacy group. And it doesn't hurt to make fun of them for it. But, at the same time, you open yourself up to some easy responses:

1. A 6-7% margin is almost double a 3% margin. And whether it is big or not depends on context.

2. Moreover, the popular vote percentage is not the only measure in play. It is a prefectly respectable argument that the key thing in a presidential contest is the electoral vote margin. (I happen to disagree with it, but if you want to rely on the popular vote as an assessment of presidential legitimacy, please sign the petition for an amendment to abolish the electoral college first.) And by electoral vote margin, a 364-173 victory is pretty lopsided.
11.5.2008 7:16pm
Light Hearted (mail):
Several posters here are confusing things. OK is quoting People for the American Way about the 2004 election. It was the 2000 election that was won by one state.

Bush beat Kerry in 2004 by 34 electoral votes and several states. It was a 3% win in the popular vote, as Kerr noted. It was the 2000 election where Gore won the popular vote and lost in the electoral college because of Florida.

I'm sure everyone from Professor Kerr to People for the American Way agree that 2000 did NOT demonstrate a mandate for Bush.
11.5.2008 7:19pm
How jejune are we that a bit of common political hyperbole is worth comment?
11.5.2008 7:19pm
Ben P:
Post on the Volokh Conspiracy Nov 3rd 2004

The electoral vote is certainly close, .... But the 51-48 popular vote margin, while far from a blowout, is larger than the 1976 Carter-Ford margin, or the 1968 Nixon-Humphrey margin, plus of course the famously close 1960 and 2000 margins.

Volokh Conspiracy on Nov 5th, 2008

It's only because the last two elections were so close that this one seems remarkable. I don't know that I'd call it "fairly close," but it certain isn't a blowout, landslide, tsunami, etc., by historical standards, but just a mundane victory.

.... ok, maybe not as dramatic as People for the American way, but the two are quite different.

Also notable, if you skim the archives the lack of partisan hackery in 2004 is notably less.
11.5.2008 7:22pm
Ben P:
Also, fun bit of editorializing from 2004 on the Conspiracy

Learners vs. complainers:

Michael Totten (guest-blogging at InstaPundit) posts a rundown of "left-wing blogosphere reactions" (oddly enough including the not generally left-wing Andrew Sullivan, so I suspect this is really "Kerry-supporter blogosphere reactions").

Oh, how times have changed.
11.5.2008 7:25pm

I have addressed the first point in the comment thread already, I think. I'd be very curious to hear if you find my response persuasive.

As for he second point, it seems notably weak to me. It seems to me that it changes the topic from (a) whether there is a "mandate" to govern to (b) what is "key" to the election. I absolutely agree that the key to getting elected is the electoral college: The electoral college can generate very lopsided victories even if the popular vote cuts the other way (even if the losing side had more votes). But I tend to think of a "mandate" as referring to a "popular mandate", that is, an endorsement or preauthorization from "the people" to take a set of steps. It seems to me that this is pretty naturally rooted in the popular vote, as the popular vote actually reflects the votes of "the people" who could supply a popular mandate. For example, it seems odd to me to say that a candidate who overwhelming won the electoral college vote but lost the popular vote actually had a "mandate" from the people.
11.5.2008 7:25pm
Winners seemingly always declare a 'mandate' after a presidential election. And that I've never understood because......

* Traditionally what do we get......55, maybe 60% of the eligible voters participating in a presidential election.(?)

* And of that 55-60%, the winner generally garners somewhere between 51-55% of the popular vote.

So in reality, 55% of the 60% of voters who participate(being generous w/ both %'s) have declared approval/preference for a candidate........which amounts to what....~30% (give or take) of all citizens of voting age.

How *any* candidate can declare a 'mandate' for governing when FAR less than even a simple majority have voiced, by way of their vote, approval of said candidate......well, it's just totally beyond me.
11.5.2008 7:27pm
a knight (mail) (www):
Post-election mandate talk always creeps me out, but you've sure got an odd way of presenting it. The PFAW did not speak of percentage totals, and last I looked it was the Electoral College where the OFFICIAL score in American Presidential Races were obtained.

2004: Bush-286 Kerry-252
2008: Obama-349 McCain-163

"The known bias of the human mind from motives of interest should lessen the confidence of each party in the justice of their reasoning."

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Ross, May 8, 1786
11.5.2008 7:29pm
commontheme (mail):

But in a historical sense, the gap between 3 and 6-7 percent isn't all that big:

It's about twice a much, not that you are an apologist for anybody or anything.
11.5.2008 7:30pm
Max (mail):
The left is consistent. They are sore losers and sore winners. They are always sore about something.
11.5.2008 7:32pm
news reader:
... after Republican President George W. Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry by a 51-48 margin

Flashback, Nov 3, 2004 video transcript:

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Bush ran forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation's future, and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.

You should ask Mr. Cheney his opinion on this year's election. In 2008, did the nation respond by giving President-elect Obama a mandate?

I think I see a pattern here myself.
11.5.2008 7:38pm
news reader,

Yes, exactly -- that's the point of the post.
11.5.2008 7:40pm
Stuart Buck (mail):
Clearly, an extra two percent of the voting-age population (53% rather than 51%) is where the true "mandate" lies. If only we could identify the right 2 percent of the population, we could just have them vote every four years, and the rest of us would be spared all of this trouble.
11.5.2008 7:47pm
"I think I see a pattern"

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth'd his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew'd up,
About a prophecy, which says that 'G'
Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Clarence come
11.5.2008 7:49pm
Mr. Kerr,

So what percentage popular vote win is a mandate? And why shouldn't that number vary by context?

It seems to me that every election is different. Some have third parties. Some have incumbents. To do a real comparison, you need to look only at elections in which neither candidate is an incumbent. Even holding those facts constant, the question of mandate just seems entirely circumstance-dependent.

The fact that a liberal black man won by 6-7 points, winning states that Dems haven't won in decades, is a very strong victory. It just isn't the same as winning by a few points in an electoral college squeaker.

I think reasonable people can disagree about whether it rises to the level of mandate. I don't think reasonable people can argue that the degree of victory is the same as 2004.
11.5.2008 7:50pm
EvilDave (mail):
Anyone who doesn't think this is a mandate for Obama is clearly a racist
11.5.2008 7:50pm
"not that you are an apologist for anybody or anything"

For the love of Pete. You clearly do not read this blog very often. Orin is not an apologist for anyone. He presents his analysis and comments on a lot of issues, and as far as I can tell, pisses off both teams as well as those who haven't picked a side.

He can defend himself, but that is just a blatant ad hominem that has no basis in fact and I'm touchy today.
11.5.2008 7:50pm
LN (mail):
My two cents: no one should care about "mandates" except for political propagandists. I'm pretty sure this is consistent with my position in 2004.
11.5.2008 7:56pm
It's about twice a much, not that you are an apologist for anybody or anything.
Outside of any context, maybe doubling is a big difference. But, "in a historical sense," the difference between 3 and 6% is not very significant, at least not enough to make one a clear mandate and the other not. Analogously, the significance of doubling 2 degrees centigrade depends on context. For certain experiments, it matters quite a bit. For weather purposes, it does not.
11.5.2008 8:13pm
Allan (mail):
It's a mandate. You could look it up, and all save yourselves loads of bytes.
11.5.2008 8:22pm
jvarisco (mail) (www):
Glenn Greenwald: Leading Bush apologist Orin Kerr today tried to minimize Obama's historic victory, suggesting that it could be compared to George Bush's narrow and illegal seizure of power four years ago.
11.5.2008 8:23pm
A mandate is in the eye of the beholder. The fact that the PFAW is partisan is beside the point. They have contradicted themselves. Haggling over whether 3% or 6% constitutes a mandate is also pointless. I don't think either margin of victory constitutes a mandate, but that is just my opinion. What is not an opinion is that over 56,000,000 Americans voted for McCain (I was not one of them). Mandate or not, the Democrats control the entire federal government and they will do what they want. Claiming a mandate is merely an attempt to justify their policy choices when no such justification is necessary. Luckily, even some Democrats know that many of the policy positions advocated by Obama in the primary were bad ideas (e.g. Goolsbee to the Canadians, internal memo advising 60,000 - 80,000 troops in Iraq through at least 2010, etc.) That being said, I will always remember Cokie Roberts on ABC News after the election in 1992 claiming that Clinton had a mandate for change after winning 43% of the popular vote. Democrats always say they have a mandate. Pointing out intellectual inconsistency by Democrats is like shooting fish in a barrel.
11.5.2008 8:29pm
Reinhold (mail):
Great post. I expect the debate will shift. Knee-jerk reactions to wiretapping and the like will probably become suddenly nuanced. Of course, your post cites an actual example. And it's probably best to wait until there are actual examples of a shift in rhetoric. So, again, great post. I hope you continue to cover this type of thing.
11.5.2008 8:31pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
Obama's margin of victory in the popular vote here is 200% of Bush's in 2004.

Obama received 349 electoral votes, compared to Bush's 286.

The Dem's gained 18 seats in the House in 2008, compared to the GOP's 3 in 2004.

It's hard to quantify a mandate (and it's not like Bush needed a mandate to engage in vigorous executivizing), but the differences in degree here at least colorably add up to a difference in kind.
11.5.2008 8:37pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Even before yesterday the Democrats had more Representatives than the GOP at any time during the Gingrich Revolution. We didn't hear much about that. Now the Dems add about 20 to their total, and we hear that's a clear signal for some bipartisanship.

The USS Jesusland is sinking, and the rats are looking for the life jackets.
11.5.2008 8:40pm
news reader,

11.5.2008 8:40pm
Jestak (mail):
I've made the point in another thread that all elections aren't alike, and that you need to compare like with like. David Bernstein sort of agreed with me that the appropriate comparison for this year is elections where the "out" party wins the presidency; by that standard, Obama's win looks pretty good. Post WW2, only Eisenhower in 1952 and Reagan in 1980 won more impressively. Clinton in 1992 is about on the same level, although one might give Obama some credit for the expansion in Democratic congressional majorities.

Bush in 2004 doesn't look all that good when you compare him with other incumbents who won reelection. Indeed, of every incumbent who ran for reelection in the post WW2 era, the only ones who did worse than him, as far as i can tell, are the ones who lost.
11.5.2008 8:46pm
Jestak (mail):

Bush beat Kerry in 2004 by 34 electoral votes and several states.

However, if the popular vote in one state, Ohio, had gone the other way, Kerry would have won the electoral college. I'm sure that's what people mean when they say 2004 was decided by one state.
11.5.2008 8:48pm
EvilDave "Anyone who doesn't think this is a mandate for Obama is clearly a racist." Please, don't be a flame-thrower. One can see this as a mandate, or not a mandate, for plenty of reasons having nothing to do with race. Just for instance, I don't think Orin Kerr is a racist, and if he doesn't think it's a "mandate," whatever the heck that means, he's entitled to his opinion.
11.5.2008 8:50pm
eyesay, I'm pretty sure EvilDave was joking.
11.5.2008 8:55pm
jt007: "Mandate or not, the Democrats control the entire federal government and they will do what they want."

The Republicans control the Executive Branch until January 20, 2009, noon Eastern Standard Time. I hope that between now and then, they will govern with the best interests of Americans in mind.

Democrats do control both houses of Congress, but even with the election pick-ups, will fall short of 60 votes in the Senate required to close debate. Bipartisan support will continue to be necessary to get legislation passed.

Meanwhile, over at One First St. NE, the Supreme Court has a majority that are ideologically in the Republican camp, regardless of who appointed them. This majority is likely to remain for awhile, as the members seeming to be closest to retirement are not the ones in the Republican camp.

In any event, Democrats in Congress and in the incoming Obama-Biden administration are going to be aware that they do not have the advantage that George W. Bush had, which was Karl Rove. Karl Rove had a magical ability to fool enough of the people, enough of the time, from mid-2000 to mid-2006, to eke out victories. Lacking Karl Rove, the Democrats know they will be judged (at best) on the merits, so they had damn well better deliver for all, not just for their base. And they will!
11.5.2008 9:08pm
Only 22% of the nation's counties voted more Republican than they did in 2004. These counties are clustered in Appalachia and Arkansas. Excuse me for a moment if I don't believe that these voters were swayed by the message of lower taxes. Of course, I think Obama's style makes it less pertinent whether he has a mandate or not (as opposed to someone whose governing style is a little more guttural, as Bush was or Hillary might have been. Nevertheless, whatever the political zeitgeist of the country is today, we can be sure that the trendline certainly doesn't suggest that there is a hardening nationwide consensus for Republicanism.

Sort of off-topic, but there are some interesting demographic notes in that map. Note, for example, the deep red on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Might this be due to the population shift in the New Orleans area post-Katrina? Also, I'm assuming that the one dark red spot in Colorado is Colorado Springs, although I'm not sure. This would jive with observer's reports that basically the only competent McCain ground office was in Colorado Springs. Finally, look at the Southwest and Miami-Dade. Gone are the days of Rove and Bush from 2000 where the Republican Party was making genuine inroads into the Latino community. This is especially ironic given McCain's stance on immigration--and many of these states (NM, FL, CO) could have been crucial tipping points. Perhaps, with hindsight being 20-20, McCain might have been better abandoning the base (especially given the "locked-in" nature of support in Appalachia) and heavily targeted groups like Hispanics that may have been able to deliver those states?
11.5.2008 9:47pm
Mike S.:
This is all hooey. You win the election, whether by 1 vote or 30%, you have a mandate.

What the winners do with that mandate will determine whether this election ushers in a new era of Democratic dominance or triggers a backlash that puts the Republicans back in power quickly. And that will be determined by the voters after the fact, not by a bunch of commenters on a blog before anyone takes office.
11.5.2008 10:01pm
Allan (mail):
1. What Mike S. said.
2. Guttural?????
11.5.2008 10:25pm
I can't wait until there's talk of a filibuster. Then you'll really see people (on both sides) switching arguments.
11.5.2008 10:54pm
Agree with Kerr, which is why I liked Obama's acceptance speech so much. Unlike Bush a la 2004, Obama was humble and conciliatory and made no mention of any alleged mandate.

This country is still unfortunately, frustratingly and illogically split down the middle. The fact that 5 million Californians would vote to make gay marriage UNCONSTITUIONAL when it has nothing to do with their personal lives, while 4.8M other Californians would vote against such a ban strikes me as insane.

Whatever. The country is split. No one has a mandate. The Dems and Obama should try to enact whatever measures they want. If they work (which I think they will), the country will be less split. If they don't, see you in 4 years
11.5.2008 10:58pm
Something Wicked:
A 6-7 point victory may not be a mandate. However, that and picking up 5+ Senate seats and 19 House seats only 2 years after picking up 5 Senate seats and 30 House seats and unpopular incumbent President that won't be missed; in context it starts to look like a mandate.
11.5.2008 11:53pm

As I mentioned in the post, I don't think the electoral college is a particularly good way to select a president. But note that the logical implication of your position is either (1) we should elect presidents by a method that confers no legitimacy upon them, in which case "wither democracy"; or (2) we should abolish the electoral college. I do not understand you to be endorsing either position, but it seems unavoidable that the choice must be made. And I do not remember many conservatives decrying the unfairness of the electoral college in 2000 or President Bush's lack of legitimacy from losing the popular vote; though I do not remember if you took any position at all at the time.
11.6.2008 12:02am
David Warner:

"The USS Jesusland is sinking, and the rats are looking for the life jackets."

You'd better. I'm thinking that Obama won't have much need for haters on his boat.
11.6.2008 12:07am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Regardless of whether or not Obama has a so-called "mandate," if he starts implemented the preferred policies of the People for the American Way, that mandate and his high popularity will vanish real quickly. So is the nature of the job of President. In any event, I suspect he'll start to understand what Bush went through soon enough.

I didn't vote for him, but I'll give him a chance. Let's see how he does before we start on the guy.
11.6.2008 1:04am
Syd Henderson (mail):
When Bush won his victory of 2004, he spoke about it as "political capital" which I thought was an okay way to put it. Obama has considerably more political capital which he can exploit during the first few months of his administration, at which point if he has used it well, he'll still be popular and be able to get things done.

Really, the best political capital you can have is the ability to inspire the public. Kennedy won a close election and was a minority president, yet created the Peace Corps and set us on the path to the moon.
11.6.2008 1:26am
man·date (mndt)
1. An authoritative command or instruction.
2. A command or an authorization given by a political electorate to its representative.
a. A commission from the League of Nations authorizing a member nation to administer a territory.
b. A region under such administration.
4. Law
a. An order issued by a superior court or an official to a lower court.
b. A contract by which one party agrees to perform services for another without payment.
tr.v. man·dat·ed, man·dat·ing, man·dates
1. To assign (a colony or territory) to a specified nation under a mandate.
2. To make mandatory, as by law; decree or require: mandated desegregation of public schools.

One of the things at really annoys me about political discourse in general is the constant arguments over words without a common understanding of the definitions thereof. Mandate, socialism, etc. It especially bothers me here on VC since you guys are lawyers, for the most part, and should be careful about such things.

So by definition 2, victory = mandate.
11.6.2008 7:29am
Your point about partisans switching sides in an argument would be much better served by examples of those who claimed in mandate in '04 but reject the idea in '08. Im sure they're out there. Why not pick those?
11.6.2008 8:08am
dcuser (mail):
It's at most just the mirror-image of the Bush "mandate" hyperbole. (My favorite of the 2004 Republican stupidities was their comment that the 2004 number of voters for Bush was the highest for any Presidential candidate in history. That simply reflected, of course, the larger electorate. It so happened that the vote against Bush that year was also the highest in history.)
11.6.2008 8:29am
rarango (mail):
I have no idea what a mandate is other than the hyperbole of political speech. As one commenter noted above, this is really a silly discussion (I do love the word jejune) President Obama and the Democrats will certainly claim a mandate and govern as if they had one. The American voters will decide in 2012 if he indeed had the mandate he claims to have and whether he governed appropriately.
11.6.2008 9:37am

As best I could tell, PFAW was the first to issue a statement on the issue: Have you found examples on other side already? Or is your view that I should have waited until I found an example on the other side before investing the substantial time and energy of a blog post on it?
11.6.2008 10:25am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
Bush in 2004 doesn't look all that good when you compare him with other incumbents who won reelection. Indeed, of every incumbent who ran for reelection in the post WW2 era, the only ones who did worse than him, as far as i can tell, are the ones who lost.


In 2004, Republicans added more seats to their congressional majorities with Bush leading the GOP ticket. The Republican Senate total swelled to 55 seats and the GOP House total to 232, the highest post-election total for the party on the House side in nearly 60 years and equaling the GOP’s highest post-election total on the Senate side since the eve of the Great Depression in the late 1920s.

That's not quite what you said.


Prior to the Republican successes in 2002, Mr. Barone reports, "[n]o incumbent president's party had increased its number of seats in both houses [of Congress] in an off-year election since Roosevelt's Democratic Party in 1934."

But hey, 3%, 3%!!!
11.6.2008 10:52am
Joe The Plumber (mail):
Bush in 2004 doesn't look all that good when you compare him with other incumbents who won reelection. Indeed, of every incumbent who ran for reelection in the post WW2 era, the only ones who did worse than him, as far as i can tell, are the ones who lost.

You mean except for President Clinton who did not reach 50% of the popular in 1996 (49.2%), right?
11.6.2008 10:55am
According to my copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion/New World Order Manifesto (Appendix A, Definitions) a "Mandate" is an election victory marked by a lower margin of success than a "Landslide".

I'd post the definition of "Landslide" but I hear the black helicopters approac[^z]
11.6.2008 12:24pm
Jestak (mail):

You mean except for President Clinton who did not reach 50% of the popular in 1996 (49.2%), right?

No, I don't. 1996 was a 3-way race, so you can't compare Clinton's share of the popular vote with Bush's in a 2-way race. Clinton got a much larger share of the 2-party vote and a much larger electoral majority in 1996 than Bush did in 2004.
11.6.2008 12:38pm
FWB (mail):
And the Electoral college process of winner takes all is sooooo democratic!!

If one takes a democratic standpoint and allocates the electoral votes according to popular %, Obama gets 282 and McCain 246, hardly a mandate. But then I haven't seen a REAL mandate for a very long time.

Regardless, we still have a large portion of the folks not voting in every election.

Politics is designed to obfuscate the truth.

A little Mencken:

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. - HL Mencken
11.6.2008 12:44pm
JosephSlater (mail):
AP just called North Carolina for Obama, adding to his EV total. It also looks increasingly likely that the Dems will win the Senate race in Oregon. Just some more evidence for the "pro-this-was-a-mandate" side, which is needed, because if there is one thing that Presidents look to in governing, it's whether people on blogs agree that they had a mandate or not.
11.6.2008 12:58pm
Joe The Plumber (mail):
1996 was a 3-way race

Um, Ralph Nader ran in 2004.

Clinton got a much larger share of the 2-party vote and a much larger electoral majority in 1996

He did no such thing.
By the way, how did Clinton do with Congress in 1996?
11.6.2008 1:20pm
LN (mail):

He did no such thing.

Are you some kind of spoof? Clinton got about 54% of the 2-party vote in 1996, while Bush got about 51% of the 2-party vote in 2004. Ross Perot got 8.7% of the vote in 1996, while Ralph Nader got 0.38% of the vote in 2004 (third party candidates combined for about 1% of the vote).
11.6.2008 1:52pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Looks like Obama is poised to pick another EV -- one of Nebraska's split two. Which would bring him to 365 (assuming he doesn't get MO). I say this not to gloat, but only to provide a bit of information that damn sure is going to be in future trivia contests.
11.6.2008 4:25pm
LM (mail):
Brian G:

I didn't vote for him, but I'll give him a chance. Let's see how he does before we start on the guy.

Not only didn't you vote for him, but IIRC, you opposed him pretty aggressively. In fact, my quick and dirty impression is that you're the most extreme Obama opponent I've seen make this kind of statement here. For that I sincerely compliment and congratulate you.
11.6.2008 4:49pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I may have spoken too soon re the NE split vote. Back to not being a mandate?
11.6.2008 5:35pm
JosephSlater (mail):
No wait, Obama DID win one of the NE electoral votes, bringing him to 365. It IS a mandate after all!
11.7.2008 7:23pm