Mandate Or Obstruction?
Yesterday America voted. President Obama won reelection winning both the popular and electoral votes. The election margin was narrow even though the electoral margin was convincing. Does this represent a mandate for President Obama or will he face a largely unchanged House as obstructionists?
In 2004 when President George W Bush won reelection in a squeaker, he said with great bravado, “my victory has given me a lot of political capital and I’m going to use it” (or words to that effect). Bush proceeded to try and privatize social security. There had been no mandate and Bush’s efforts went down in flames.
In 2012, the country is facing a serious deficit quandary. Tax revenues are insufficient to cover expenditures to the tune of $1 trillion. This can be called nothing other than irresponsible government.
The problem is how to balance the budget. How does the country reduce spending (like which programs) or increase tax revenues (who pays more)? And once there is some agreement on how to reduce the deficit, at what speed is it sensible to accomplish (6 months, 6 years, for example).
All of this is set in the context of unemployment (jobs), growing the economy, launching Affordable Care Act, and social issues such as immigration and homosexual rights. It is reasonable to conclude that voters, by a slight majority, preferred President Obama’s position on these issues. Is that a mandate?
Voters seemed not to accept Mitt Romney’s “chicken in every pot” approach. He offered jobs, tax reductions, and the end of ACA, and those promises did not sell. Were Republican Congressional leaders listening?
Both John Boehner and Mitch McConnell’s first statements following the election seemed combative and disconnected with the election results. Does that mean the GOP will continue as obstructionists?
The President holds far more power than just having won reelection. Timing is everything. If he does nothing, the Bush tax cuts will expire by law. If Congress can not offer acceptable budget cuts, the sequestration laws will put in place mandatory cuts. Congress will be blamed for having raised taxes on the middle class and having allowed defense spending to be cut. This should present a strong motivator to cut a deal behind closed doors. But will it happen?
This election demonstrated that an awful lot of Americans consider themselves Republicans. Regardless, the GOP needs to realize that this number represents a national second place party. The GOP is out of touch with the center.
The mandate really applies to GOP leadership and over their obstructionist ultra right faction, they must seize control and steer a new, more centrist course.
Will that happen? Stay tuned.