What it takes for ‘a broad mandate’

On the floor of the Republican National Convention
On the floor of the Republican National Convention
New York Magazine

Politico’s Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen speculated yesterday about possible “lessons” to be learned from the 2012 race, and they raised a curious observation.

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites. That’s what the polling has consistently shown in the final days of the campaign. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

Just once, I’d like to see the political media establishment make the reverse argument – the Republican failed to earn “a broad mandate” because he relied so heavily on whites in the South and Plains states.

I mean, really, look at the Vandehei/Allen thesis again: Obama may win thanks to the support of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women, and highly educated urban whites, but the possible victory is apparently less impressive – and less worthy of Congress’ respect – if the president doesn’t also fare well among less-educated rural and suburban whites. There’s no comparable analogy in the piece about Mitt Romney also lacking a broad mandate by failing to generate support from Hispanics, African-Americans, single women, and highly educated urban whites.

And why is that? Because Politico says so. (The same publication ran a 1,400-word piece last week on why “white voters still matter.”)

Jamelle Bouie’s response rings true: “[A] vote is a vote is a vote, and the votes of minorities, young people, and women are worth just as much as the votes of white men, married white women, and other Republican-leaning groups. If Obama wins on Tuesday, it will be because a non-traditional but just as American group of voters decided he was the best choice for the next four years.”

But even putting all of that aside, the underlying question is itself odd – since when do Republicans care whether or not a Democratic president gets a mandate? In 2008, Barack Obama’s popular vote margin was the best of any candidate of either party in 20 years, and the highest for a non-incumbent in 56 years. GOP lawmakers proceeded to ignore the results, oppose every idea proposed by the White House, refuse to compromise, and obstruct federal policymaking a level unseen in American history.

Maybe Republicans, like Politico, questioned the legitimacy of Obama’s success based solely on the results of the white vote?


What it takes for 'a broad mandate'