Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Lowering the Bar: A Mandate for GWB?

Even as I am writing this there is a talking head (Joe Walkins, Republican Strategist) on CNN demanding that the Bush Administration has a mandate because “they won by three and a half million votes!”

I don’t have the time this morning to do the research but I am pretty sure it would take only a few minutes on-line to track down some quotes from 1996 and even 1992 talking about how Bill Clinton’s victories in those years did not constitute a mandate, though both margins in the popular vote far outweigh the margin of victory this year.

In fact, not counting the ugly stepchild of the 2000 election, the popular vote this year was the closest race since Jimmy Carter defeated Ford 28 years ago in the 1976 election by 1,682,790 votes.

So, I believe, according to Republican spin, just winning the popular vote is now a mandate for your platform.

Of course, the case could be made that the mandate comes from not only the Presidential election, but also from the Republican gains made in the House and Senate and in many state and local races too. It was the loss of Democrat seats in Congress that pretty much nixed the idea of Clinton having a mandate in 1996 when he won the popular vote by 8,203,602 votes.

But they are not. They are holding on to their mandate because 3,510,358 more people apparently voted for Bush.

Here are the margins of victory in the Popular Vote going back to 1976:

2004 – 3,510,358 – Bush over Kerry
2000 – 539,947 – Gore over Bush
1996 – 8,203,602 – Clinton over Dole
1992 – 5,805,344 – Clinton over Bush
1988 – 7,077,023 – Bush over Dukakis
1984 – 16,877,890 – Reagan over Mondale
1980 – 7,417,813 – Reagan over Carter
1976 – 1,682,790 – Carter over Ford

How come, every time a pundit starts going off about the Bush Administration’s 3.5 million vote mandate they are not immediately challenged with these numbers? Or have they been and I just haven’t noticed? This morning, the Democrat talking head, responding to Walkins’ near chant of a 3.5 million vote mandate for his team was pretty much left sitting there going, “there is no mandate. No there isn’t... There is not.”

I believe that most Democrats, when challenged with the fuzzy logic of these Republican spin artists, believe that the American public is intelligent enough to see the absurdity of the argument. And they are. But the Republicans base their strategy on Advertising and Marketing principals, which play on people’s psychology and make the facts mostly irrelevant.

Stay on message, repeat the message, and eventually, it will become the truth. And the media follows. A week after the election, a week of having every Republican spin artist in the country drilling the mandate message to the people and to the media, the conversation it turning into what the Bush Administration will do with their mandate, not if there is even one in the first place.

Imagine if the Democrats could get this focused, and if they, on top of this, were basing their arguments on fact and logic. Could the Republicans counter this?

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