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November 13, 2006


Ryan Sager makes the point that most of the Democratic popular vote margins came in safe areas, so there's really no mandate there -- just a disgruntled conservative base. Further, he writes that "Outside of changing course in Iraq, I think it’s fairly obvious that there really isn’t [any mandate] — especially when it comes to domestic policy."

I think that's precisely incorrect. Generally speaking, Republicans have been winning a lot of elections through national security and cultural appeals. They have been winning very few because people like their health care ideas. Indeed, if you look at Bush's tenure, you see a lot of radical judicial appointments and foreign policy adventures, but a clear and constant attempt to deceive the electorate into mistaking him for an economic progressive. Say what you will about the internal structure and implementation of Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind, but they were constructed and sold to blunt progressive advantages on those issues.

Democrats have long had a more popular domestic agenda; they've just lost out on other issue areas. What happened in 2006 was that their traditional advantages on domestic policy (see the Rust Belt candidates) added to a newfound credibility -- or at least the right's loss of credibility -- on foreign policy. The mandate on national security is what they've needed. They've long had the more popular domestic agenda, which is why the right has been trying, in its corporatist and clumsy way, to co-opt it.

November 13, 2006 | Permalink


The fact that most of the vote margin came from safe D seats is becaseu of pro-republican gerrymandering too.

Posted by: dan | Nov 13, 2006 12:25:36 PM

Not totally. Take the Senate seats. New York and California were both up for vote. Texas was not. Just the way it went.

Posted by: Ezra | Nov 13, 2006 1:14:14 PM

When Republicans took 52% of the vote in 1994, they sure thought they had a mandate. And Bush declared mandates after both of his "victories." I don't care what districts the votes were in, when you get 56% of the total vote that is a mandate.

Posted by: Paul | Nov 13, 2006 2:08:05 PM

The Republican claims of mandates were more on the level of "Mandates? We don't need no stinking mandates!" And they didn't. Mandates only matter in circumstances where you're trying to justify a policy or persuade the reluctant to go along, and as moral suasion they have to be pretty impressive mandates to work. I don't think that's going to go too far in current circumstances.

Posted by: Sanpete | Nov 13, 2006 2:55:35 PM


The race got little publicity because there was no suspense over the outcome, but Kay Bailey Hutchison was reelected last Tuesday.

Posted by: Vadranor | Nov 13, 2006 3:12:04 PM

Anybody else remember Limbaugh crowing about the passage of Medicare Part D before the 2004 elections? He clearly thought it gave an advantage to the GOP (at the time, at least).

Posted by: mwg | Nov 14, 2006 12:55:06 AM

In Sager's original argument he was essentially making the case that votes in Blue States don't count as much as votes in Red States. By his logic, if every single person in the Northeast and on the West Coast had voted Democratic, there'd still have been no mandate. Hillary isn't given any more latitude by having won by a million votes than if she'd won by one.

I don't know if Sager updated his post after you posted, Ezra, but he seems to have eaten some crow since. Somebody he trusts at Reason crunched some numbers and found out that Democrats came out 4.5 million votes ahead in just the competitive races across the country. Which is good to know.

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