After the 2004 election, many said Bush had a 'mandate'. There were many metrics cited for this mandate. Including:
More total votes than any previous president (62.0 million)
A 3.6 million margin of victory
First to win by more than 50% (51.5) since 1988
Republicans added 4 in the Senate (to 55) and 3 in the House (to 232)
The Wall Street Journal opined at the time:
We trust that the President will not now let those same opponents interpret his mandate for him. The effort is already under way to diminish the victory by insisting that Mr. Bush "move to the center," which is code for giving up the agenda that voters just endorsed. The country remains "deeply divided," we are told, so Mr. Bush is obliged to make concessions to Nancy Pelosi and George Soros.
Yet it wasn't Mr. Bush but Senate Democrats whose obstructionism was repudiated on Tuesday. South Dakota voters rejected Tom Daschle expressly on the grounds that he had made the Senate a "dead zone," as we once put it, for the Bush agenda. Mr. Daschle responded by saying he could bring more pork back home, but by blocking so much legislation he undercut his own credibility as a politician who could deliver. The men who really defeated Tom Daschle were Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer and the Filibuster Democrats.
So how about the 2008 Election:
More total votes than any previous president (63.9 million)
A 7.5 million margin of victory
52.4% of the vote
Democrats added 5 (so far) in the Senate (to 54) and 18 in the House (to 254)
Of course if we use the Bush measure for a mandate, it certainly looks like Obama has a mandate.
And then there is this little gem from the David Frum via AEI:
From almost the very second that the state of Ohio was awarded to President Bush, he and his party have been solemnly warned that they must "reach out" to their Democratic opponents.
Much of this advice is beyond absurd. Elections are how democracies decide things. The 2004 vote was an unusually unambiguous one: as one contributor to the fiercely anti-Bush British newspaper, the Guardian, put it, "If this doesn't add up to a mandate, it's hard to know what the word means." In Latin, mandatum refers to an order or assignment given by a superior officer to a junior. The same really is true of our English "mandate." The mandate is not a grant of power to the president; it is a commission of trust from the people. President Bush has not merely the right to pursue conservative domestic economic and social policies; he has the duty to do so.
So it seems pretty clear Obama has a mandate. But a mandate for what?
Republican's claimed that Bush's re-election was a ringing endorsement for a conservative agenda. Of course, we argued that was simply not the case. Even Kos reminded everyone at the time that 56 million people voted AGAINST Bush. Yesterday, 56 million voted for McCain, which I guess means they voted against Obama?
And yet here we are, today, proclaiming that the vast majority of Americans have endorsed a progressive/liberal agenda?
I am not convinced. And look at what happened to the Bush/Republican mandate and the beginning of the permanent Republican majority.
If we really want a different outcome than what the Republicans experienced in 2006 and 2008, if we want at least a semi-enduring Democratic majority, there is much work to do. Talking about a mandate will not get us there.
It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.
It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.
I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead....
Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people....
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
The mandate as I see it, is simply for change. Sure, a change in direction. Not so much a turn to the right or the left, but a change in focus: putting the People first, not the Party; moving the country forward, not simply advancing a political agenda.