Friday, November 05, 2004

No Mandate, No Enclave?

E.J. Dionne huffs, “A 51-48 percent victory is not a mandate.” And Joshua Micah Marshall—responding to the President’s claim that his reelection was a “broad, nationwide victory”—writes: “He must be kidding. Our system is majority rule. And 51% is a win. But he's claiming a mandate. ‘A broad, nationwide victory’? It would almost be comical if it weren't for the seriousness of what it portends. This election cut the nation in two. A single percentage point over 50% is not broad.”

In the last 60 years, only one Democrat—Lyndon Johnson—received a percentage of the popular vote as high as President Bush’s (see below). And as we know, no one has ever received so many votes. Are these guys saying that only Clinton and Kennedy and Truman didn’t have broad victories and couldn’t claim a “mandate”?

  • Clinton in 1996—49.2
  • Clinton in 1992—43.0
  • Carter in 1976—50.1
  • Kennedy in 1960—49.7
  • Johnson in 1964—61.1
  • Truman in 1948—49.6

Dionne also complains: “Even Democrats have talked about their party's being confined to an ‘enclave.’ Enclave? Blue America includes the entire Northeast, all of the West Coast but for Alaska and much of the upper Midwest.”

Well, let’s go to the map. Yep, it’s an enclave.

Update: Sorry for the inadvertant link to the 2000 map--it's now been fixed. BTW, here's the 2000 map if anyone cares. Also, for those who disagree with the above: Are you willing to say , then, that only one Democrat has had a presidential "mandate" in the last 60 years?

Update 2: A friend writes:

I would agree with those who say that 51% of the vote doesn't give the president a mandate. But is that the whole story? I think Bush does have a mandate because he 1) won the election by more than 50% of the popular vote 2) increased his party's majority in the House 3) increased his party's lead in the Senate 4) having been reelected the voters saw him for four years and thus approved of his policy, not just what he said he will do and 5) helped gain more governorships for his party (I think this is true).
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Republican party has been given a mandate.

I think this is true and a helpful way of putting things.

Note that my original post wasn't making the case for a "mandate"--an obviously ambiguous term. I'm just wondering if all those "there's no mandate!" folks were saying the same thing about Clinton.

Update 3: A reader alerts Instapundit that the popular-vote gap has widened, 52-47, for a difference of over 4.5 million votes.