Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A mandate, it is

The country that Barack Obama will take over is vastly different from the one that George W. Bush inherited eight years ago (I don't need to enumerate the differences, because we all know what they are.)

Nevertheless, the operative word here is hope. Our new President-elect is an enormously talented man, and the way he was able to balance calmness with measured action during the economic crisis a few weeks ago should give us confidence-- I know it gives me confidence.

Nationally, the election was historic, not only for the election of the first black President (those who would never vote for a black man are becoming older and less influential as time goes on, and they are now clearly themselves in a minority.) It was also historic because it is a mandate for the changes that Obama has laid out-- increased regulation, a return to the Clinton tax rates and a government that is prepared to take an activist role in everything from health care to energy independence. More than sixty-three million Americans cast votes for Barack Obama, more than have ever voted for any Presidential candidate in history. States like Virginia and Indiana, Republican strongholds for decades, voted for Obama last night. Even North Carolina, the home state of Jesse Helms, remains too close to call today.

Beyond that, it was historic for the gains that Democrats made in Congress. There are those on the right (like Bob Novak, today) who are trying to spin it as a failure because Democrats won't have sixty seats in the Senate. But the truth is, that was always a tall order and if you'd suggested at the start of the election cycle that Democrats could gain five seats in the Senate, that would have sounded pretty good. And five is a floor; right now there are still two Senate races being counted, one headed for a recount and a fourth headed to a December runoff. Likewise, some on the right are trying to spin the pickup of about 20 seats in the house as some kind of a diminishment, pointing out that it is near the low end of the latest pre-election estimates of some pundits. However, that kind of analysis conveniently omits the fact that only a few weeks ago those same pundits were predicting a Democratic gain in the single digits in the House. Ultimately it isn't the pundits who elect members of Congress, it is the voters. And the voters made a historic choice in Congress as well. Adding this year's gains to those of 2006, you see a swing of fifty seats in the house and at least eleven in the Senate. The timing of two consecutive wave elections is extraordinarily rare, most recently occurring in 1930-1932, when Democrats were the beneficiaries, and 1950-1952 when it benefitted Republicans. What it really is is one wave which hit over a period of time when it was divided into two parts. So yes, the mandate is clearly here.

6 comments:

wunelle said...

A thrilling night.

I can't grade the quality of a repudiation; Repubs out and Dems in in a huge way. It's all good.

shrimplate said...

There's now a Dem in District 1, too, isn't there? AZ's House representation is now Dem 5 to 3, I believe.

I think we may lose Napolitano to a choice spot in the new Administration.

Daniel said...

I don't think it's a mandate. If it were, the Dems would have won on the high end. Voter turnout was disappointingly low, especially in Arizona (only 45%). Obama barely outperformed Kerry in votes, so it's hard to say he was given a mandate Tuesday night.

I think that the Obama win and the Dem gains in the House and Senate can be attributed solely to the poor state of the economy and President Bush's dismal approval ratings. For now I think voters have shifted their support cautiously to the Dems, but they're not 100% behind the party yet.

Obama obviously has the go-ahead to implement some reforms. I think he could safely end the Iraq war, push through a new energy plan, and expand health coverage, but I don't believe he has the confidence to implement sweeping changes, at least not yet. If there is a Democrat mandate, we won't know about it until the 2010 midterms.

Zach said...

I agree with the last couple posters. This is not a mandate. This is a vote of no confidence in an outgoing president. I think the 2010 midterms and 2012 will be the big decision years.

First of all, the Dems may have won seats, but they managed to lose in 3 states on a specific issue.

Second, people hate Bush. We all know that. We just elected an untested, inexperienced, indecisive young man to the presidency. One of his biggest attributes, and certainly something our country needs right now, is hope. Unfortunately, when he doesn't present the miracles he has promised, don't be surprised if a Republican wins the White House in 2012.

And don't be surprised if the Dems lose seats in 2010. When all Americans don't suddenly have health insurance, when the "magic number" for Obama's tax plan drops back down to $150,000, when the war in Iraq doesn't end in February, people are going to look at what's going on and see broken promises. With no excuses. Obama can't blame it on a Republican legislature, that's for sure.

And when that happens, things will balance back out.

By the way, I moved my blog from blogspot over to Today.com, so check it out and feel free to update the link, if you'd like. http://thezspot.today.com

Eli Blake said...

shrimplate,

Yeah, things didn't go so well here in AZ but then this was McCain's home state. I was encouraged though by the initial numbers on the corporation commission, this is the first time in at least a decade that Democrats elected any members at all and it looks like they may not have just elected some members, but actually taken over the commission.

Daniel,

Obama got 4 million more votes than Kerry. If turnout was overall low it was because fewer Republicans voted. One reason was that they don't like McCain, and another reason is that there are fewer Republicans now than there were in 2004 (for a variety of reasons.)

zach,

what issue is that?

Voters in three states either rejected a tax cut or voted themselves a statewide tax increase. So it's not taxes.

Gay marriage bans passed in three states, but Obama has stated he doesn't support gay marriage, so it isn't that issue.

Two states voted against restrictions on abortions, so it isn't abortion.

So what issue are you referring to?

Daniel said...

I will give you that there has been a shift in party ID to the Dems. Looking at ideology, though, you see that it is about the same as 2004: 20% liberal, 45% moderate, and 35% conservative. So it would seem to me that moderates thought that the Republicans were too extreme and switched to Obama. It's probably also true that some Republicans stayed home (or defected), because of how poor McCain performed to Bush. Even with massive voter registration efforts this year, the GOP's raw vote total fell significantly.

On the other hand, you would expect to see a small increase in the raw number of votes each year, since our population is growing. The fact that Obama received more votes than any candidate in US history really comes as no surprise since the US population has never been so large.

According to the Census Bureau, the over-18 population is about 230 million, and total votes cast is about 124 million. That comes to a turnout of only 54%. With so few voting, there's no indication of a seismic shift to the Dems, especially when you consider the small margins with which they won so many House and Senate seats.

Again, the wind is at their backs, but the Dems had better tread carefully with a mind to 2010.