What’s the Mandate?

Republicans are trumpeting this mid-term election result as being a historic repudiation of everything Obama and everything Democratic. They exaggerate its significance by focusing on a single statistic (number of seats switching in the House of Representatives) to try to claim that it is the strongest mandate in 50 years. But in fact, this year only one half of congress changed from one party to the other. A mere four years earlier we had an election where BOTH the House and the Senate switched parties. Both houses also switched parties in 1994.

The truth is that much of the swing to the Republican party reflects more general anger against politics than a preference for the Republicans as opposed to the Democrats. Polls reveal that both parties are pretty unpopular. The Republicans benefited during this election because so many Tea Party candidates ran under the Republican banner and because the Republicans represent the party that’s out of power. To be sure, a portion of the democratic wins in the previous two elections were similarly inflated by people who were simply voting for the party not in control.

The Republican leadership is astutely trying to leverage these results to achieve its agenda of reversing the progress made during the past two years. They are full of bluster talking about how Obama should bend to the will of the people and reverse course.

When the shoe was on the other foot, however, the Republicans sang a very different tune. Between 2006 and 2008, the Senate, House, and Presidency shifted away from the Republicans, and yet, the Republicans made no attempt to listen to the will of the people; they dug in their heals and became the party of “no.” They steadfastly tried to block every piece of legislation that Obama and the Democrats tried to pass on behalf of the American people. The Republicans sided with the bankers, insurance companies, and the super wealthy. They are still on the side of the most powerful and wealthy in our nation, they are just trying to dress their policies up as being on the side of the little guy.

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