Thursday, November 08, 2012

Wingnuttery: "Obama Has No Mandate"

I've never really understood this "mandate" business. But, putting more fundamental questions aside, let me focus on two version of the same argument I've been running across in the wingnutosphere:

Obama's '12 victory was narrow; therefore he has no mandate.

Obama's '12 victory was narrow than his '08 victory; therefore he has no mandate.

Now, obviously the second argument is just stupid. The '08 win was really big, so even mere regression to the mean gives us reason to predict a smaller win in '12. And, of course, he inherited a disaster unfixable in 4 years, so that cost him votes. The only even vaguely sensible idea here is one predicted on the following proposition:

(M) Presidents only get mandates when their wins are fairly big.

Now, that's vague, but vague is o.k. Vague is not nothing. The first argument can easily be interpreted as presupposing (M), and the second argument can easily be interpreted as a garbled form of an argument that presupposes (M)--if a president's first win is over the threshold, but his second win is under it, then...etc. etc.

Thing is, as you might recall, Bush claimed a mandate after his second election, to nary a peep from the right. Bush's '04 victory was with something like 286 EVs. His heart-breaking '00 "victory" was with 271. Now, since the right was happy to embrace the proposition that Bush had a mandate with 286 EVs, they have no grounds for claiming that Obama has none with what will turn out to be 332. And it's laughable indeed to try to argue otherwise on the grounds that his '08 win was even bigger (365).

The problem, of course, is the double-standard. Republicans claiming that 332 EVs is inconsistent with a mandate were happy to claim a mandate when their own candidate had only 286. If they ever get 332 again, Katie bar the door...

Now, maybe the idea of a mandate is confused, or maybe Republicans were wrong to claim a Bush mandate in '04...but I'm not interested in giving the noise machine every possible benefit of the doubt. So I'm happy for Obama to claim a mandate--whatever the heck that is.


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