The Mythical Missing Mandate

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  1. Ay, my goodness, you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head! You’ve found what I’ve long believed to the Holy Grail of the New Era of U.S. Politics. Remarkably, so few have discerned the truth of this new era, (if it’s truly new and I’m not sure it is) and that is, with the “Polity” as severely divided as it is in the U.S., the “Gov’t”, (Federal at least) rarely anylonger commands a mandate. Why? Do the numbers. When only 60% at most show up to vote. Assuming that a candidate must win 51% of the popular vote to get elected, that means, he/she/it is elected by only 30.6% of the elegible voters. Now of course the simple minded among us inferthat those who didn’t vote have tacitly given their proxy to those who did vote. While that may be case with some, with some simply not caring, some to mentally impaired to vote, there are a few……not many I agree, but there are a few of us who 1) don’t vote a straight party ticket; and 2) only vote for those positions for which there appears to be a qualified candidate which means 3) for those positions for which we cast no vote at all we’ve adjudged the candidates to be un or underqualified!
    Having lived in Italy for a number of years, I can tell you that what I’m seeing develop here is a de jure multi-party system. While we have a de facto two party system, because of the low voter approval of available candidates we have an unrpresented third and possibly fourth party with no name whose only real impact is to deny either of the two named parties a mandate. How will this play out? Well, in Italy with multiple parties running candidates in federal elections, no party ever wins all and weak, in-bred co-alition governments reign for 9 months to two, maybe three years before there’s another election. Elected government can do little; most real government is accomplished by the centuries old and deeply entrenched bureauracracy. Another result of course is that “Government” has little authority over the polity; it’s roundly ignored, can’t collect income taxes and generally impotent to enforce unpopular laws.
    I believe that as history plays out here in the U.S. you’ll see things more the Italian way. Peculiarly, what we see is the legislative bodies, state and federal, passing or attempting to pass ever more draconian laws in an attempt to enforce “compliance” out of a citizenry that simply ignores these laws or outright ignores the authority of the gov’t to impose the laws.
    Now, in the past, I’ve been accused of being something of a pessimist, but in this case………….I’m not sure that all of this is a bad. Look at it this way as one example shows us, Selective Service “Registration” is at an all time low for compliance having dipped to something like 85% compliance and worse in some areas. When a gov’t can’t enforce it’s Draft laws, it can’t for long project power abroad! Considering the U.S. record of electing genious to the White House and the record of properly using military force, I don’t think that’s all bad.
    Note that one solution to this problem that “worried” gov’ts around the world have begun to impose is mandatory voting with fines for non-compliance. According to an associate of mine from England, it’s not working. Yea, they show up to vote to avoid the fine. But typically, (and now more than ever as they’re angry about being forced to do something), they cast a vote for one position, say dog catcher, out of 40 positions on the ballot due in large part to the crummy selection of candidates. But the “system” apparently puts on a feel good to the election as the Pols can claim 90% turnout. Such shameless schills.

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  3. “…as one example shows us, Selective Service “Registration” is at an all time low for compliance having dipped to something like 85% compliance and worse in some areas. When a gov’t can’t enforce it’s Draft laws, it can’t for long project power abroad!”
    I have two issues with this statement:
    1) The “rate of compliance” of the Selective Service law is irrelevant, as the law itself is irrelevant. Given that we have no law which authorizes an actual draft, having people register for such a non-existent draft is an exercise in… futility, at best.
    2) Given that our military has been 100% voluntary since the end of the Vietnam conflict, I would say it retains the capability of projecting power abroad very nicely, thank you. Admitttedly it has its problems, but most of the time that is due to either micromanaging by the pols in Washington, or the lack of a clear vision for the particular mission (why it is there, and what it is expected to accomplish.)

  4. Everything politicians say is tricky to some extent, because so much depends on controlling the language. My side has been doing a crappy job of that, which is the only real reason anyone can claim a “shift to the right” by that part of the populace that cares. Asking a room full of people to rais their hand if their in favor of terrorism, then claiming a “madate” to do whatever one desires against terrorism is no a mandate, and it is not democracy.
    Its an ugly world we’ve built for ourselves. Much of this ugliness started when I was in DC in the 1980s and early 1990s, thanks to Lee Attwater. Its a reason I’m in New Orleans working for a bank and not in D.C. working on the Hill or K Street. It’s just to umpleasant to be around.

  5. Whatever the events are at the time, when you have a lame duck president,and lots of senators running for president, you aren’t going to see very serious results.

  6. “My side has been doing a crappy job of that”
    How funny. I read that and realized that after all this time, I have no idea which “side” would be yours, Mark.
    But yes — the “mandate” has been misinterpreted by more than one group in recent memory, as your example points out.

  7. So Jack — you think congress’ current problems are more to do with the lame presidency?
    I think it’s impossible to have a mandate now in this county on certain issues.  Certainly a party can’t say it has sweeping support for its ideology simply because their candidates won, regardless of how large a margin it might be.

  8. My opinion is that the only mandate the Dems had was simply not to be Republicans.
    They weren’t supposed to:
    – throw money at their pet pork projects
    – elect corrupt committee chairs
    – waste time posturing over Iraq
    – start the 2006 election a year early
    – presume to dictate from the far left
    I don’t think anyone really expected them to do anything about Iraq. What can they do that’s responsible?

  9. I think it has a lot to do with the current cycle of the presidency. Nothing specific to Bush, just to the fact that he won’t be facing any election with his decisions. Certainly with the senate so close, there is a much greater hurtle to find cloture for the Dems than even the Republicans had before and look how much they complained about the Dems blocking actions.
    You can already see with all the talk about 2008 what attention has been given to. Look at all the the debate over non-binding issues and time spent on matters that do nothing to better our country.
    1998 anyone?

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