House Republicans argue that voters handed their members a mandate as well, granting the party control of the House for another two years and with it the right to stick to their own views, even when they clash strongly with the president’s.
And many Republicans remember well when the tables were turned. After Mr. Bush’s re-election in 2004, Democrats eagerly thwarted his push for privatization of Social Security, hobbling Mr. Bush’s domestic agenda in the first year of his second term.
Whoa. Funny, but I too remember the weeks following the 2004 presidential election. Which immediately followed the 2004 presidential campaign. Which I also remember; it wasn’t all that long ago.
And I remember that during that campaign, Bush never mentioned his plan to privatize Social Security.
Yes, that’s right. Bush waited until immediately after the election to announce his intention to privatize Social Security–outraging not just Democrats but millions of Independents, some of whom had voted for him, and even some Republicans.
The main focus of the 2004 presidential campaign was national security. Privatization of Social Security was not an issue at all in 2004. Not until after the campaign, that is, when Bush not only announced his plan but also then campaigned intensely for public support for it, to no avail. The proposal quickly proved deeply unpopular. And congressional Republicans began to run from it. The Republicans, who controlled both houses of Congress, did not even put it up for a vote, in either house, if I recall correctly.
So if Republicans think they remember that the tables were turned–a metaphor that refers to actual similarity, or at least some semblance of it–they might consider seeing a neurologist. Or maybe just reading news accounts from the period between Bush’s announcement of his proposal and the death of that proposal early in 2005. They also can search for reports of any mention–any suggestion at all–by Bush during the campaign that he was planning to propose the privatization of Social Security. I wish them luck.
As for their claim to a mandate because they retained control of the House, the speciousness of this assertion has already been documented and discussed in the mainstream media, largely because a Washington Post reporter (I wish I could recall his name, but I can’t) meticulously researched the campaign results, congressional district by congressional district, and then did something that modern Republicans don’t: math. Republicans lost, albeit narrowly, the aggregate popular vote in House elections nationwide. They retained control of the House only because of extreme gerrymandering last year in some states, most notably in Pennsylvania and Texas, but in other states as well.
The word “mandate” in this context leaves room for debate about what percentage of victory in the popular vote constitutes one. But a victory in the popular is a prerequisite to that debate. The Republicans don’t have the prerequisite, nor do they claim to have it; they simply misuse the word “mandate”. Like so many other words.
But at least it’s not false for them to note that they did retain control of the House. What is baldly false, though, is their characterization of late 2004 and early 2005 as tables turned. Unless, of course, there’s such a thing as a retroactive mandate for a policy that wasn’t disclosed during a campaign and is announced as a surprise only afterward. Immediately afterward.
Which, now that I think about it, probably is what happened in 2004. no, the public isn’t clairvoyant. But we did know during the campaign that a Republican president and a Republican-controlled Congress in the current era will always want to privatize Social Security, and will waste no time (literally, in that case) in trying to do that when they hold the White House and majorities in both congressional houses. We just forgot that, to our near-detriment–a mistake that, I trust, we the public won’t make again, however much Republican candidates insist otherwise during the campaign. Because the Dem candidates will remind the public, during the campaign, of what happened after the election of 2004. And of the current congressional Republicans’ claim in that New York Times article that a clear election victory is not a mandate on issues that were at the express and constant heart of a national campaign, because, after all, the opposition party doesn’t recognize as a mandate a vital policy proposal made only after the election that retroactively turned out to be all about that vital policy issue after all. I mean, who knew? Well, the Republicans did.
And now we do too, and it will be a prominent factor in campaigns to come. The sheer trickery; the attempt, in 2004 and now, to utterly undermine the very concept of democracy. The current congressional Republicans’ express equating, as Shear reports, of a policy issue clearly at the heart of a campaign with a policy not even mentioned during the campaign. It’s of a piece with the Romney campaign’s modus operandi of incessant, outright misrepresentations of fact. And also of a piece with state and federal Republican legislative and executive-branch officeholders’ policy of delegating to lobbying groups the actual writing of legislation, including during lame-duck periods, enacting policies never proposed and, in some instances, expressly rejected by the officeholders, pre-election. (Think: Michigan, Dec. 2012.)
But there’s also a separate issue of the messenger’s’–Shear’s–curious acceptance of the false equivalence of Bush’s and Congress’s handling of the Social Security privatization issue in late 2004 and early 2005 and resolution of the tax and spending issues of the fiscal cliff. Shear mentions that Obama’s current approval rating in this week’s polls is his highest since shortly after bin Laden was killed. He doesn’t mention that Obama’s approval rating has been above 50% throughout the post-election period, including the period before the Newtown shooting rampage, when the cliff talks were the news story, daily. And that Bush’s approval rating plummeted once he announced his Social Security privatization plan. And that the juxtaposition of the drop in Bush’s approval rating and that announce was not coincidence; the polling on that issue was awful for him.
We all are, by now, used to the news media’s acquiescence in the Republicans’ false-equivalency game. But, really, until I read this Times article, by a reporter whose reporting is normally of high quality, makes me wonder whether there’s just is no limit to even the reporter-as-mindless-stenographer-for-fear-of-appearing-to-be-anti-Republican mindset at even the very highest level of the mainstream media.