Political Animal


November 12, 2012 10:59 AM Closest Thing To a “Mandate”

By Ed Kilgore

I’ve already made my negative views known about the relevance of some purported electoral “mandate”—or its absence—on what happens over the next two-to-four years in Washington.

But since much of the MSM and all of the GOP is insisting that even the teeniest-tiniest tax income rate increase on the wealthy—much less the return in January to the Clinton-era rates that is current law—is off the table because Obama lacks a “mandate,” it’s worth remembering that thanks to Obama and to his opponents the president is indeed clearly associated with a more progressive set of tax rates. Jonathan Chait supplies the reminder:

If there is a single plank in the Democratic platform on which Obama can claim to have won, it is taxing the rich. Obama ignored vast swaths of his agenda, barely mentioning climate change or education reform, but by God did he hammer home the fact that his winning would bring higher taxes on the rich. He raised it so relentlessly that at times it seemed out of proportion even to me, and I wrote a book on the topic. But polls consistently showed the public was on his side.

Without much question, there is more than sufficient public support to break Grover Norquist’s death grip on this country’s fiscal policies. It can be accomplished with or without Republican cooperation; “without” remains far and away the most likely scenario.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • shivas on November 12, 2012 11:20 AM:

    I think we should starve Grover Norquist until he is weak enough that we can drown him in a bathtub.

  • stormskies on November 12, 2012 11:22 AM:

    What the fuck do we think is going to happen with all the corporate props, called pundits, who have been made millionaires by the corporations who have hired them to do their bidding relative to 'taxing the rich' ?

    So of course their snivel that Obama does not have a mandate on this, or any kind of mandate.

    It's also why they are collectively lying to the American people about the great 'fiscal cliff' ahead of us that then create the manufactured rationalization for the 'grand bargain'

    It the same old same old from the corporate media: the invention of 'narratives' and 'story line's' that serve as the vehicle of the propaganda they issue.

  • T2 on November 12, 2012 11:23 AM:

    how sweet it would be to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire. Watching the GOP squirm would be great. Let them expire. Then cut a tax deal recognizing Obama's pledge to tax the rich and cut the middle class rate. It seems to me that most GOPers are just now realizing that could happen. No Mandate required...just let what George W. Bush created run it's course. Elections have consequences, right Grover?

  • John Wilheim on November 12, 2012 11:26 AM:

    Republican logic:
    When George W. Bush was re-elected with 286 electoral votes, his supporters said he had a mandate.
    When Barack Obama is re-elected with 332 electoral votes -- 46 MORE than Bush -- they say he does not have a mandate.

  • T2 on November 12, 2012 11:32 AM:

    @johnWilhelm.....that style of "logic" is precisely why the Republicans were drubbed.
    Americans aren't buying that B.S. any longer. It will take a few more years before the GOP realizes it.

  • Davis X. Machina on November 12, 2012 11:50 AM:

    What the polls say is irrelevant.

    What the people whom you need to raise a billion-dollar campaign war chest say is what matters.

    Money is bi-partisan, and has its own agenda.

  • c u n d gulag on November 12, 2012 12:04 PM:

    Are the Conservatives in this country so homophobic, that they won't even look up the word "mandate" in the dictionary?

    Of course, President Obama has a mandate to raise taxes on the rich.
    He's 'got political capital after this last election, and he intends to spend it.'

  • Laura on November 12, 2012 12:23 PM:

    John, I agree that there has been a double standard for Bush versus Obama. But I also think mandates are based on the popular vote, not how many electoral votes someone got. In terms of determining whether an election victory was large enough to reflect a mandate for a president's policies, doesn't it make sense to consider how many votes he got from all Americans, not just those in swing states?

    Obama 2012 holiday cards

  • punaise on November 12, 2012 12:26 PM:

    or to paraphrase the Dead Kennedys:

    Tax, tax, tax, tax
    Tax the rich
    Tax, tax, tax, tax
    Tax the rich

  • T2 on November 12, 2012 12:43 PM:

    @Laura......Obama won states in the South, East, North and West and middle. This presidential election with offered the voters the most stark choices in many years/decades. Obama was clear as possible regarding raising taxes for the rich, and the both popular and Electoral College vote elected him and his policies. Further, exit polls showed a very large majority of voters across the board favored having the rich pay higher taxes (or in most cases, taxes at all....hello, Mitt). So, Obama runs on raising taxes on the rich and wins popular vote and EC. I believe he'll take that as a mandate to raise taxes on the rich.

  • adepsis on November 12, 2012 12:52 PM:


    In 2004 the popular vote was Bush-62,039,073 Kerry-59,027,478. This year the President won the popular vote 62,088,847 vs Romney's 58,785,137. You do the math.

  • Altoid on November 12, 2012 1:05 PM:

    Just how much money does Grover Norquist control, that he can make every single republican kiss his ring on bended knee? Or does he have a secret knee-capping goon squad? How the devil does he possess this awesome authority? I've never seen a decent explanation and would love to have one.

  • bdop4 on November 12, 2012 1:30 PM:

    You don't need a mandate to JUST LET THE TAX CUTS EXPIRE.

    Offer up our own set of cuts to the middle/lower class and LET THE GOP RUN AGAINST IT.

    As for sequestration, let the public decide whether they need social programs or billions given to defense contractors for weapons we no longer need. A month in, I think that decision will be a no brainer.

  • jjm on November 12, 2012 1:34 PM:

    Well, we the people of California just kicked Norquist out, and it's time for the whole country to do so.

  • exlibra on November 12, 2012 1:45 PM:

    What the people whom you need to raise a billion-dollar campaign war chest say is what matters. -- Davis X. Machina, @11:50 AM

    And Obama is free from that constraint now. Neat, eh? It has also occurred to me that, with what the press is calling "status quo election" (Dem President and Senate, Repub House), we're not going to have a typical "lame duck session" -- where the newly triumphant opposition is stalling everything for what it's worth -- either. Obama could introduce "Obama tax cuts" (for middle class only) now, if he wanted to, showing total disinterest in the Bush tax cuts. Let the Bush tax cuts expire as scheduled, and let the Congress wrangle about Obama's. It's *Congress* now, not Obama, who has to think about the next election...

  • TCinLA on November 12, 2012 1:54 PM:

    “without” remains far and away the most likely scenario.

    And the best. Let them whine and cry and then in January they're stuck with having to vote for any tax cut by the rule of their Grover.

  • Anonymous on November 12, 2012 2:34 PM:

    Of course Obama has a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy - a majority of the American people have said so - not only the election but in poll after poll.

  • Marko on November 12, 2012 8:26 PM:

    Great comments in this thread tonight. The GOP is finally caught up in the great trap: Jan 1 is the anvil, and Obama is the hammer.

  • square1 on November 13, 2012 1:34 AM:

    We will see. It is all and well that Obama has the political leverage to win the fight. Now we will see if he wants to win it. In 2010, when Obama blinked after the midterms, he said he was "itching" for this fight. We will see.