Monday, December 29, 2014

Mandate madness; What did the 2014 midterms mandate the GOP Congress to do?

2015 could be Washington’s year of mandate miscalculations.  If Republicans rely on the 2014 midterms as their legislative compass and their interpretations miss the mark, they could  lay the groundwork for a backlash in  2016 .  Their challenge for the GOP in Congress  is trying to decipher what are and what are not voters’ mandates to pass certain legislation when most of the electorate did not vote and other  factors contributed to their reelection.
 This was the lowest turnout since 1942 with only one third of the electorate bothering to vote.  In presidential elections the average is over 60%.  To claim there was a mandate that represents widespread views about issues is a stretch.
 The Associated Press pollster’s conclusion about this November election was: “Those on either side of the aisle express sharply divergent views on top issues, making it difficult for lawmakers to discern a clear mandate for governing “.
 Adding to the confusion, voters voted one way on ballot issues, yet voted for candidates who believe the opposite. The only conclusion is that party loyalty trumped dedication to issues in 2014. In Colorado a personhood amendment went down in flames yet Cory Gardner was elected Senator (by a 2.5% percentage point) even though his name remained on a personhood- like bill in Congress.   70% in a recent NBC Wall Street Journal poll favored the elements of the Senate bi partisan compromise on comprehensive immigration, but 48% opposed presidential action depending upon party affiliation.   Every GOP candidate in the Midterms preached repeal of Obamacare, many winning races, yet other polls show 60% of voters did not want repeal and liked the individual elements. Disapproval of Obamacare followed party affiliation per a Gallup poll. Four red states voted to raise the minimum wage while their party has fought it tooth and nail in Congress.
 If there was a mandate, it was for parties to work together per a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. That is wishful thinking. Partisanship runs deep and is heavily determined by demographics, a phenomenon that could be called tribal, a “people like us against them” mentality.  Per the AP exit poll, 87% of Republicans vs 61% of Democrats were white. Women outnumbered men in the Democratic electorate; the ratio was reversed with Republicans.  20% of those backing Democrats and only 12% of Republicans made less than $30,000 per year. 40% percent of Republicans were church going white evangelical Christians, while only 11% of Democrats were. Republicans “are disproportionately southern” and rural compared to Democrats.
Complicating the mandate picture are special interests and a deepening divide between establishment and Tea Party Republicans.  Most within the GOP may agree on the problems, but they see solutions and priorities differently.
 In the end, the interpretation of voter mandates matters little for legislators who are more concerned whether their political contributors’ ox gets gored or  is well fed. Given the enormous cost of campaigning and the loosening of campaign laws to permit more contributions from corporations and the wealthy, that should be no surprise to anyone.

A version of this appeared in the Jan. 2 2015 Sky Hi News

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