Saturday, October 22, 2016

There can be no mandate in this election

There can be no mandate in this election[1]

Throughout the general election for President I have opposed Donald J. Trump because he’s unfit for the office.  Like many Americans I have some doubts about Secretary Clinton, but for me the choice was easy (I’ve already voted).  When a candidate is unfit, he must be defeated.  Like many Americans I wish Secretary Clinton were less of a professional politician.  Instead of answering tough questions, she uses the classical political tact of pivoting to her talking points.  However, the debates demonstrated a toughness and poise that is going to serve America well if Secretary Clinton is elected.  At the end of the second debate, Donald Trump got it right: Hillary Clinton doesn’t give up and she is a fighter.  We need that kind of toughness in the Presidency over the next four years.

Now that Mr. Trump has stated that he might not accept the election result, I hope the voters will do what Republican leaders haven’t had the courage to do:  repudiate Mr. Trump.  If the margin isn’t compelling we will not be able to move beyond the election;  Donald Trump isn’t going to let us.  Secretary Clinton needs to beat Donald Trump by a wide margin so that the election result is decisive.

A big win for Secretary Clinton carries risks.  Politicians have a tendency to misread the vote.  They are too quick to find a clear mandate in the final tally.  Remember George W. Bush’s comment right after his re-election in 2004?  The former President said, “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.”  He promptly sent a Social Security privatization plan to Congress, where it died.  President Bush misread the voters. 

If Secretary Clinton defeats Mr. Trump by a decisive margin it will appear that she has a far clearer mandate than the one President Bush misread.  However, she will become the leader of a country that is still deeply and narrowly split on many crucial issues.  As much as progressives will expect her to move forward on a variety of issues, she will not have a mandate to enact their agenda.  Even if the Democrats take control of the Senate and narrow the margin in the House, she will not have the political leverage to enact her policies.  I hope she not succumb to political pressure and misinterpret the election results.   In fact, she’s going to need to spend time addressing many of the issues facing people who are falling out of the middle class and voted for her opponent.

Governing America in 2017 and beyond is going to be a lot harder than winning the Presidency.  If she wins, Secretary Clinton will even have to win over many people who voted for her, never mi nd people who voted for Donald Trump or stayed home.   If she claims a broad mandate, she will probably fail.