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What is a mandate?  The popular understanding, in electoral terms, is an overwhelming victory with a clear message sent from the voters to act on certain issues as articulated during the campaign.

The GOP, and its media supporters, seem to think that Tuesday’s results were a mandate to roll back health care reform and stop any progressive agenda item that the president might be still thinking about pursuing.

Let me state up front that I’m not trying to whitewash what happened on Tuesday.  The president was right to call it a “shellacking.” Under the electoral rules we have in the United States, the numbers appeared to be a stark rejection of the Democrats.  But were they?

I haven’t seen anyone else add up the national numbers, so I spent a few hours totaling the nationwide votes for the House, Senate and governors.  What I found was surprising.

The clearest victory for the Republicans was in the House of Representatives, where they won at least 240 seats, with the possibility of another 10 in still undecided races.  But what was the percentage of votes won in the House races?  The GOP won 52.65% of the vote where there was more than one candidate on the ballot.

In the Senate, the Republicans won a staggering 50.3% of the vote.  Most of the Republican victories were in low population states which get the same number of senators as the larger states.  So, even though the GOP reaped 24 seats, to the Democrats’ 13, the vote tallies tell a very different story.

The gubernatorial votes present an even more underwhelming case for a GOP mandate.  The cumulative vote total in the races for governor gave the Republicans 49.2%, with 47.5% for the Democrats.  The balance was for third party and independent candidates.

So what can we learn from these numbers?  

First, we need to recognize that this is the system we are living in.  This is not a parliamentary or proportional representation system.  If it were, Democrats would have about 19 more House seats and about 3 more in the Senate.  But in our federal system, where your votes come from is sometimes just as important as how many votes you get.  

That means we need to revisit Gov. Dean’s 50 State Strategy if we are going to win nationally.  We need to organize in traditionally Red states and communities in order to counter the effects of gerrymandering and the disproportionate power of small states in the Senate.  If we had turned out more of our voters in our base communities, we might have made a difference in close statewide races but it wouldn’t have helped in winning more House seats.  
For example, in Pennsylvania where I live, turning out more people in Philadelphia would have helped Sestak beat Toomey in the US Senate race, but wouldn’t have given us any more House victories.  But if we had gotten 100,000 more votes in suburban and rural Pennsylvania we could have won the Sestak race and five swing House seats.

The most important message from these numbers is to recognize how slim the Republican victory really was.  This was not a landslide as the percentages show.  This was not a mandate, because the issues that the GOP ran on (healthcare, immigration, etc.) barely registered in the minds of the voters.  

Democrats came pretty damn close despite the worst economy since the Great Depression, despite billions of dollars being contributed anonymously by corporations and their owners thanks to Citizens United, and despite a Democratic leadership seemingly intent on discouraging the base.  That bodes well for progressives in coming election cycles.

In 1980, Ted Kennedy failed in his attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president, trying to push the party back to the left.  At the Democratic Convention, he gave one of his most eloquent speeches, which included this memorable line. ‎"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Let that be our motto for the next two years and we will have an opportunity to win back everything we lost on Tuesday and continue our quest to build a permanent progressive political majority.

Originally posted to Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks! (0+ / 0-)

    I needed this today...

    "In the battle of existence, Talent is the punch; Tact is the clever footwork. Wilson Mizner -7.25/-5.64

    by mikejay611 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:28:50 AM PDT

  •  This diary is fundamentally misguided (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fury, AJsMom, FiredUpInCA

    That means we need to revisit Gov. Dean’s 50 State Strategy if we are going to win nationally.

    A cornerstone of Dean's strategy was to run conservative dems. (the so-called "Blue Dogs") in red districts.  A lot of them lost on Tuesday, and in any event most of the posters here, if the front page is an indication, have no use for them in our party.

    The most important message from these numbers is to recognize how slim the Republican victory really was.

    Oh really?

    On Tuesday, the GOP won 680 State Legislature Seats. (472 in 1994)
    They Flipped 19 State Legislatures, brining TOTAL control of state legislatures (i.e. both the lower and upper house) to 26.
    They gained +61 in house and counting in the house (54 in 1994)
    They gained 6 seats in the Senate (8 in 1994). They would have picked up 3-4 more if they would not have nominated absolute nuts in a few states.
    The Picked up 7 governors (10 in 1994), including states that are crucial for the President if he's going to win reelection.

    I'd pay careful attention to the Governor's and state legislatures, because that is going to put the GOP at a huge advantage in redistricting.

    We tried to explain away the Brown victory as a poor campaign by Coakley, and now we are making a whole new set of excuses why we lost.

    Indeed, the numbers tell a story.  Just not the story you want.

    "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

    by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:36:12 AM PDT

    •  Not really. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, dotster, Inkin

      The cornerstone was organizing and finding candidates who could WIN, not necessarily conservative Democrats.  Progressive Democrats who stand up, fight for what they believe, and tell the truth can win.  Paul Wellstone used to get conservative voters because he stood up and was honest about where he stood and they knew they could trust that he would stand up for Wisconsin.  And the victory was slim from a vote total standpoint, which is the point Michael was making.  And a slim victory makes a big difference in seat totals, which is also the point Michael was making.

      There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? -Robert F. Kennedy

      by JSCram3254 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:39:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Still (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, Fury, Inkin

      If they are winning by barely getting more than 50%, I think that's worth noting.

      They tortured people to get false confessions to justify invading Iraq.

      by yet another liberal on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:40:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Did you even read the post? (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RichM, Shockwave, Fury, dotster, Inkin

      The numbers I am referring to are the raw numbers of votes.  The point is that the media and GOP are trying to portray this as a landslide, which it was in terms of seats picked up.  But it is not a landslide in terms of how many Americans voted for the GOP.

      For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

      by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:42:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, that doesn't matter (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Fury

        All that matters in the end result.

        It's like losing a football game and saying "But we beat them in every stat."

        It's only the final score that counts.

        "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

        by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:46:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  My kids play soccer. When they lose 10-0... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shockwave, dotster

          they get discouraged.  When they lose 5-4, they have something to build on and can hope for a better result in the next game.  We lost badly in the number of seats, but that shouldn't discourage us from staying in the fight.  It's not a lost cause to win back majorities in 2012, 2014, 2016...

          For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

          by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:50:10 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, it's not a lost cause (0+ / 0-)

            Of course.

            But first we have to learn why we lost this time...and be honest about it and not kind ourselves that is was just messaging.

            "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

            by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:58:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  What about 2012? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave

      Like I mentioned before 40 million voters sat out. Those voters aren't going anywhere and will probably be back in 2012 which can help flip seats we lost back in the dems hands.  Also a large swath of new voters will be coming into the fold and most of the younger voters favor democrats/obama.

      •  Most of the people who sat out are (0+ / 0-)

        what electoral demographers call the Rising American Electorate (RAE).  They are young people, African-Americans, Latinos and single women.  That group will be the majority of voters in the near future.  If they voted in the same numbers in off-year elections as they do in presidential years, we would have a clear and consistent majority.

        For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

        by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:48:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Don't be sure about all those Demos (0+ / 0-)

          Hispanics are not a given.  Sharon Angle won 24% of the hispanic vote.  That's right, despite all her anti-immigrant rhetoric she got a quarter of hispanics.  Rubio just got elected to a prominent position in Florida.  I would not be so uber confident that this will be a easy Dem constituency.

          As far as women goes, the gender gap pretty much vanished in this election.

          And there's no guarantee that young voters will turn out in 2012 the way they did in 2008.

          That's a lot of assumptions you're making.  

          "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

          by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:01:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You be putting a lot of negative shit in this (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mr SeeMore

            thread and quiet a few of your past comments.

          •  You're making my case (0+ / 0-)

            76% for Reid is a pretty strong constituency.
            SINGLE women didn't turn out.  That has always been the difference for the Dems.  Married white women vote about 50-50 Dem/Rep.
            Young voters ALWAYS vote in higher numbers in presidential years.  They were solidly Dem this year, but they just didn't turn out.

            For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

            by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:09:23 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Are you kidding? (0+ / 0-)

              Angle got 24% of the vote and she's an anti-immigrant nut.  What % do you think a serious candidate would get?  When you have lost whites and independents, it doesn't take many hispanics to throw the vote to the GOP.

              But hey, keep telling convincing yourself that it's not that bad w/o addressing the underlying problems.  See what happens in 2 years.

              "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

              by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:15:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  We never had a majority of whites (0+ / 0-)

                and NV is unique.  You really need to look at numbers and not the media spin you keep regurgitating

                For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

                by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:22:34 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  How are facts media spin? (0+ / 0-)

                  Tell me one thing I've said that is "media spin".

                  Is are those devastating numbers "media spin". ALL THAT MATTERS is the seats we lost.  I don't care how close it was in raw numbers.

                  "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

                  by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:25:11 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  You like facts? (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                buddabelly

                Here ya go.
                In 2006 Nevada had a Senate race. John Ensign beat Jack Carter (Pres. Jimmy Carter's son) rather handily, 55%-41%.

                Yet the cross-tabs say that in that mid-term, non-presidential senate race, the Republican Ensign got 45% of the Latino vote.

                And the Latino vote was 12% of the total electorate.
                http://www.cnn.com/...

                Now you are ranting on about how Sharron Angle, as vicious a proto-fascist to get a major party nomination the country has seen, got 24% in the same state, same sort of race, same mid-term circumstances.

                Any info on how big the Latino vote was this time? Bigger than 12% I'll wager. So Angle's grip on the Latino vote was DOWN 21 percentage points in 4 years, and of a bigger piece of the  electorate.

                You can argue it should be near zero but thats silly. Hell GOP candidates still pick up 3,5, 6% of the African American vote, the Native American vote, all sorts of wood shavings of people who aren't WASP-y.

                But clearly, the plunge is on if your party's candidate is doing 21 percentage points WORSE with the same demographic over 4 years. Maybe we should start a pool for which year the Nevada Latino % voting GOP goes into single digits.

                Shalom.

                "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

                by WineRev on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:47:17 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  OH??? (0+ / 0-)

            I seen it on MSNBC last nite that some Lationo candidates for the GOP didn't do so well on 11/2 with Lationo voters. Rubio??? You might just think that the fact he was in a three way race had something to do with his success??

      •  Everyone is taking it for a given.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AJsMom

        ...that the President will be able to engender as much enthusiasm among "young voters" in 2012 as he did in 2008.  I'm not sure that's a given.  

        Moreover, his support among whites and independents has evaporated, and the gender gap has been all but eliminated.

        Can he get those votes back? Yes.  But not without taking a serious look at what went wrong in this election...and that means not fooling ourselves with excuses like "bad messaging/FOX propaganda/shadowy interests groups" are the only thing that costs us all those seats.

        "Let us give this capital back to the people to whom it belongs."-William Jefferson Clinton

        by The High Command on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:50:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Speaking as an INDEPENDENT (0+ / 0-)

          One major thing that went wrong was that he didn't engage with his base until it was too late. He should have started keeping his main base informed right after his election in 2008. He didn't communicate with them enough on the road. I am talking about African Americans, Hispanics and Young People. The things he was doing the last 2 months, he should have done over the course of 2 years. He now needs to get them involved again starting RIGHT NOW. I heard he is going to solicit the help of celebrities and hip hop stars to start registering and promoting voting in 2012. There is a large swath of young voters who love this president so I don't think they will sit out if they know he is on the top of the ticket. It was very difficult to explain to a young voter to go vote for someone they hardly knew and that obama wasn't a factor this election.

          I am a left leaning pragmatic independent who vote for dems in this election.But I can tell you why you lost indepdendents.  You all lost independent voters because you all seem like a dysfunctional, fingerpointing, backstabbing, not in unison, bashing the president bunch. If am an independent and I see the left bashing this president over and over again while the GOP stays unified, clear messaging, not wavering, not backstabbing each other, I am going to vote GOP. I hate them with a passion but some moderate republicans are folks you can work with which is becoming invisible in washington.  That is attractive to wavering independents. What we saw during the healtcare debate was god awful. I saw the blue dogs turn on the progressives, the progressives turning on the blue dogs. The progressives 24-7 bashing this president over and over again and it just started this narrative that nothing the president did or said was satisfactory. Dems lost cause they don't stay unified and if you all don't start getting this and fast 2010 will be a dream compared to what will happen in 2012

    •  Numbers??? As i've posted elsewhere.. (0+ / 0-)

      In 2008 it seems 63% of RV's showed up to vote of which 18% were under 30 & 16% over 65. This year only 41% of RV showed up to vote of which only 11% were under 30 whilst 25% were over 65. Also 45% of this years electorate voted for Obama in 2008 while 45% voted for Mccain,Obama beat McCain by about 7 points in '08.
       Now let's crunch some numbers relative to the two parties base,under 30 for the DEMs ,over 65 for the GOP. Let's assume we have 100,000,000 RV's in this country for comparison's sake. This would translate into 63,000,000 voters in 2008 which according to demographics translates into abpout 11,340,000 under 30 voters showing up to 10,080,000 over 65's. In 2010 you have 41,000,000 RV's showing up and applying demographics you have 4,510,000 under 30's showing up to 10,250,000 over 65's. Notice that in assuming just only 100,000,000 RV's(which is way too low but I just used that number for simplicities sake) one of the key DEM consituentsies went down by almost 7,000,000.
       Now that being said it's true young people may not turn out in 2012 like they did in 2008 BUT we must remember mid-terms are far,far different then presidential cycles. WE,the DEMs, could very well be accused of extrapolating too much from the 2006 & 2008 cycles just like the GOP probably did from the 200,2002 and 2004 cycles and probably will from this cycle. It seems comical to me how history keeps repeating itself on parties reading mandates where there aren't any ,however I must admit I bought into that mandate silliness myself.

  •  40 million people sat out this election (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RichM, Fury, Michael Morrill, JL

    I just read 90 million voters voted in this election. Back in 2008 we had 130 million voters who voted in the presidential election. Will those voters come back in 2012? How many new voters will be added to the rolls? The midterms were whiters, older and more consevative who made up most of the 90 million voters. Most of those older voters will be dying off in the next 20 years and the electorate will be getting more younger and more democratic. There are at least 40 million plus younger voters who are currently in high school who will old enough to vote in 2012 which bodes well for Obama.

    Agree?

  •  Interesting diary... (0+ / 0-)

    But I stopped reading after this:

    That means we need to revisit Gov. Dean’s 50 State Strategy if we are going to win nationally.

    QE2 will be our Titanic.

    by RichM on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:44:04 AM PDT

  •  If we stay united. Focus should be shifted (0+ / 0-)

    to the republicans and educating voters about their policies and philosophies.  No more whining.

    Got Social Security? Thank a Democrat!

    by Fury on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:48:10 AM PDT

  •  You know what the very best law that we (0+ / 0-)

    could pass?  Forget about trying to get the money out of politics.  Make it mandatory to vote just like in Australia.  We get people to vote, we win.  We could give an incentive, you vote and you get a $500 tax credit.  That would get the poor out to vote.  

    "When fascism comes to America, it'll be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

    by lakehillsliberal on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 08:48:28 AM PDT

    •  you really think that's wise??? (0+ / 0-)

      I've ran into some poor people who don't know the issues,don't care and just don't give a shit. So why have people like that voting who might just skew the election the wrong way. Honestly on my job I run into alot of co-workers who on one hand will gripe about young people being on parents insurance till they're 26 now because of HCR "when they should just go out and get a better job with better insurance" as she says BUT who's own son has been on unemployment for the past two years.

  •  One other bright spot (0+ / 0-)

    It is quite obvious that this country doesn't like one party rule for too long. I am independent who leans left and voted dems in this election. The GOP may be salivating at the thought of holding all 3 branches of government but Independents determine elections and they will not put in the whitehouse a GOP if the senate or house risks being run by the GOP.  They like a divided government and functioning govenrment and if it seems as if things are coming to a screeching halt it may flip again.  So even though obama lost the house, he has a villian to blame if things stop functioning and the ones who are new to washington in this new class may face the same wrath of voters if it looks as if they are doing business as usual in washington dc.

  •  The point of this post is "Don't lose hope" (0+ / 0-)

    For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

    by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:28:51 AM PDT

  •  We can turn this around, it's not overwhelming (0+ / 0-)

    For a progressive future in PA and Berks County.

    by Michael Morrill on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:29:15 AM PDT

  •  To GOP, one extra vote would be a mandate. (0+ / 0-)

    I really cannot understand why the youth turnout was so disappointing. I don't understand kids. Will someone who has them please explain to me why 14 million of them sat home? It boggles my mind. I was raised to believe that voting was a responsibility and a privilege of being American. It was just not acceptable NOT to vote.

    "It does not require many words to speak the truth." -- Chief Joseph, native American leader (1840-1904)

    by highfive on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 09:32:46 AM PDT

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