Watching the Fiscal Cliff debate it is hard not to get the feeling that Democrats feel like they won a mandate in 2012. Barack Obama won 332 electoral votes and garnered almost four million more votes than Mitt Romney. Senate Democratic candidates nationally won 55%-45% and House Democrats garnered just under a million more votes than the GOP. Against this backdrop it is not hard to see why partisans on the Left would believe 2012 gave them a mandate. But details to matter more than partisan’s personal beliefs.
Democrats only won two more Senate seats in 2012 and they only gained 8 House seats. Of those 8 House seats almost all of them came in blue California and Illinois after redistricting. At the Presidential level Obama won every swing states minus North Carolina but his wins in Ohio and Florida, where large swathes of the rich live, was hardly convincing. Furthermore, in 2008 Barack Obama tied John McCain among those earning over $100K a year. This year, Mitt Romney won every income group except those earning less than $50,000 a year. Unfortunately for Romney and Republicans these voters made up 41% of the electorate and backed Obama 60%-40%.
Obama’s coalition, and by extension the Democratic coalition is not nearly as diverse or deep as Bill Clinton’s coalition. Instead, Democrats relied almost solely on young and minority voters to carry them to victory. Obama’s wins in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan while convincing were hardly overwhelming. A mandate this does not make. One does not have to dig deeply to see that Obama lost deeply among formerly traditional Democratic voters. In the South, excluding Florida, he failed to carry a majority white Congressional District. In the Midwest he was crushed in every state minus the swing states. Again, a mandate this does not make.
In 2008 Barack Obama won an astounding 365 electoral votes and 70 million votes to McCain’s 60 million. This year the President barely won over 61 million votes and fewer electoral votes. In short, the President and Democrats may have had a better night on November 6th but this win surely did not provide a mandate.
Yet throughout the Fiscal Cliff debate the President and his liberal allies have acted like the election was a mandate to not only increase taxes on the rich but also push for more Stimulus spending. Hush, don’t tell anybody but in 2011 the President said he would cut spending if given a second term.
As a starting point for the Fiscal Cliff talks Obama proposed no spending cuts and a massive $1.6 trillion tax increase on the wealthy and businesses. By the way, basic economics 101 says any tax increase on a business indirectly is a tax on consumers as businesses simply pass on the costs to said consumers (including Obama’s core $50K and under supporters). When Republicans balked at such a ridiculous proposal the President labelled them as obstructionist.
Little has changed from the President’s initial stance. His latest proposal calls for a $1.4 trillion tax increase and he has promised to find $400 billion in cuts in the new year. Republicans for their part know that defending the wealthy is a bad PR move but they are fundamentally opposed to raising rates on anybody. Instead, the GOP has provided $800 billion in new revenue through the elimination of high income and big business tax deductions. For a President and his allies who believe 2012 was a mandate this is woefully inadequate.
The election gives Obama cover to pursue an ideological agenda of raising rates on wealthy individuals and business under the guise of fairness. Republicans blocking his efforts are in a precarious situation as they lack a clear voice on what they would like instead. Both sides seem locked into their positions and the Cliff looms closer and closer. How this drama plays out remains to be seen but if Democrats continue to act as if 2012 was a mandate all Americans, even Democratic voters, will see their taxes go up, wages decrease and a sluggish economic recovery dip into another deep recession. Perhaps in 2014 or 16 that will give Republican victors a mandate to govern after the short-term blame wears off and voters see Obama for what he is. A purely partisan liberal President.