No Mandate from Here
The narrow victory by Republicans.
November 13, 2002
The trouble is, says Boston sage and former Kennedy staffer David Burke, that 14 months after 9/11, Americans are still scared stiff. —Mary McGrory, November 7
The Republicans are claiming they have made history by attaining a razor-thin majority in the Senate and making marginal gains in the House, but that remains to be seen. I find David Burke’s analysis more believable. While fear is not the only reason the Republicans prevailed, it may have been the decisive one.
They didn’t make history. People who assume they have are more likely to be the victims of history rather than its makers.
The language of history and mandate is journalistic puffery. For a mandate, you need a considered response, not an emotional reaction; a scared-stiff electorate is a fickle support base for any political purpose, much less for total war.
Second to fear in driving the election was local interest and prejudice. This election wasn’t a national decision but several hundred local ones, with several thousand motivations at work.. Most of them have nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, except for the party label worn by the President. This election wasn’t nearly as much about him as he likes to think and wants us to think.
Third, I live in a big chunk of the rural Midwest where flags fly all over the place, and Memorial Day is a major event; yet our regional Congressmen are Democrats, our Senators are Democrats, our brand-new Governor is a Democrat. There is definitely no mandate from this corner.
In my own memory, I think of how Lyndon Johnson had a majority in Congress during the early years of Viet Nam, and thought he had a mandate. I think of how Nixon swept the electoral college in 1972, and thought he had a mandate. Nearer in time to us was the self-destruction of the Clintons’ healthcare reform, followed immediately by Newt Gingrich’s self-destruction when he mistook a majority in the House for a national mandate.
From a fearful, self-interested public you do not get mandates. You get warnings that look like mandates.
About the Author:
Barnabas has never respected snow jobs, even his own.
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