Today In Mandates

by evanmcmurry

Of all the ways Republicans had to explain away Obama’s victory, the thin popular vote margin was the easiest: by the next day, the conservobloggertwittersphere was crowing about how Obama won by the smallest popular vote margin in modern history. Honestly, Smithers, I don’t know why Harvard bothered to show up—they barely even won!


With late returns still trickling in, his popular-vote margin now exceeds four million, a million more than George W. Bush amassed when he ran for reëlection. (Obama’s electoral-college majority is also larger: 332 to Mitt Romney’s 206, as against Bush’s 286 to John Kerry’s 251.)

I completely disagreed with Bush’s 2004 assessment that he had been handed a mandate—he’d simply ridden the evaporating fumes of war just far enough to keep his post. But while Obama’s victory wasn’t significantly larger, the Democrats’ was: not only did they gain Senate seats when they were supposed to shed them, but the makeup of the Senate itself took a big step leftward, as a number of the Democratic newbies—Tammy Baldwin, Heidi Heitkamp, Elizabeth Warren, Tim Kaine—are more liberal than the Dems they were replacing, and in Warren’s case, left of nearly everybody in the chamber.

This was by no means a wave election, but it was in every possible way an endorsement for the Democrats’ agenda of stimulating the economy through stimulus rather than budget cuts and increasing revenue through the expiration of the Bush tax cuts rather than slashing entitlements. Obama’s climbing vote total just puts a stamp on that.