Mandate? What Mandate?
As I write this on Election Day 2016, I do not know the outcome of the elections. However, in spite of all the October (and November) surprises, fluctuating polls, leaked e-mails and leaked bawdy conversations, there is one thing I do know. On November 9th the winning presidential candidate will claim a mandate from the people and begin to lay out a program for the new administration. Mandate? What mandate?
First of all, all indicators predict that the election will be very tight. Most polls favor Mrs. Clinton but they all show that Mr. Trump is within striking distance in a number of key battleground states. It is quite likely that the final result will be within one or two percentage points. That’s not much of a mandate. If the winner wants to lead the entire country true leadership must begin with humility not arrogance (with our candidates I know this will be difficult). The concerns of the losing half the country must be taken into consideration along with the concerns of the winner’s supporters.
Secondly, many voters are not voting for a candidate but voting against a candidate. The two major party candidates have the highest negative ratings since the invention of negative ratings. How these two greatly disliked candidates made it through the primary season is extremely perplexing (the parties need to look at reforming the concept of primary elections because they do not appear to be resulting in greater democracy). But the fact that the voters disliked the other guy more is not much of a mandate either.
It is also quite possible that we will have a split government again. Democrats appear in the lead for the Presidency but the Republicans are favored to win the House of Representatives. The Senate is a toss-up. President Obama felt that his winning the presidency outweighed the opposition’s control of Congress and acted upon this belief through executive orders and administrative fiat. But this is not how American democracy is supposed to work.
Add in the fact that 31 of 50 states have Republican governors and are likely to hold or better this number and you have a country that is all mixed up. Commentators will say it is split down the middle but that is a gross over simplification. There are many issues and many opinions that form voter decisions. In addition, we know that many voters vote, not with their heads, but with their gut, or heart, or another piece of their anatomy.
There are big issues that our country faces that were barely addressed during the campaign: a public debt of $ 20 trillion plus unfunded future obligations many times that amount, unsustainable entitlement programs, technological disruption that will decimate the traditional job market, rising regional powers that are filling the vacuum of a passive US foreign policy and we haven’t even gotten to the economy (or the social policies of the progressives).
Such issues are not resolved by Democrats taxing the rich (European social welfare policies are supported by high taxes on everybody), Republicans cutting taxes (low interest rates didn’t stimulate the economy – why do you think low taxes will do any better?), or more entitlements to an unproductive and unmotivated workforce. These issues will not be resolved by progressive socialist policies proffered by Mrs. Clinton or import substitution policies championed by Mr. Trump.
We need to take a step back and think about what America stands for and how America came to be the richest, most powerful country on earth. We need to look at the historical record and determine if the mistakes that we made (and there were many) were inherent to the American political and economic system or an aberration.
In my essays and books, I have come down firmly that these errors occurred when we strayed from our American principles of personal liberty, equality of opportunity, the rule of law, and the free market economic system. We have fallen short in living up to these principles but as long as they remain our North Star we will always know how to get back on track. If we ignore these principles then we will be truly lost.