Obama won, but did he get a mandate?

By Bill Press

Tribune Media Services

Americans can breathe a sigh of relief. No more “I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.” No more robocalls by celebrities asking for your support. No more back-to-back TV commercials telling lies.

It’s over. And after weeks of speculation about Obama maybe winning the electoral vote, but no way winning the popular vote, after predictions the outcome might not be known for days or weeks, after irresponsible suggestions by some commentators that the election might even end up in Congress — where the House would select Mitt Romney as president and the Senate would tap Joe Biden as vice-president — that’s not the way it turned out at all. It ended quickly and clearly. By the time polls closed on the West Coast, we knew Barack Obama had been handily re-elected, winning both the Electoral College and the popular vote, and owning seven out of nine contested battleground states. Florida makes eight.

Yet right away Obama’s enemies tried to undermine his victory. On Fox News, Karl Rove tried to repeat his hat trick of 2000 by insisting the networks were wrong in calling Ohio for Obama. While others on Fox News accepted Obama’s win, but were quick to belittle it. “This is not a mandate,” declared Dick Morris (who had predicted a Romney “landslide”). “He’s got no mandate,” grumbled Charles Krauthammer. Fred Barnes immediately dismissed Obama as a “man with no plan and no mandate.” And the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Rupert Murdoch, asserted that Speaker John Boehner has “as much of a mandate as the president.”

Talk about a bunch of sore losers. Do they want some cheese with that whine? Those naysayers are not only pathetic, they’re dead wrong. Who says you need to win by 15 points to have a mandate? When the Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush president in 2000, Republicans insisted he had a mandate. President Obama didn’t need the help of the Supreme Court. He won the election on his own. That’s a mandate. With Florida, he won the electoral vote by 332 to 206. That’s a mandate. Without Florida, he still won big, with 303 electoral votes. That’s a mandate. He beat Romney in the popular vote by almost 3 million. That’s a mandate.

And nobody knows it better than Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Like President Obama, they defined this election as a clear choice. Calling it “a big choice about two futures,” Ryan asked: “Do you want the path the president has put us on” or the path Romney would put us on? That’s what this election was all about. Had Romney won, no matter how narrowly, he would have assumed the election as a mandate to pursue his agenda. And so President Obama can rightly and without reservation claim his victory as a green light from the American people to continue his agenda: on jobs, on immigration reform, on climate change, and on deficit reduction.

But Obama’s not the only one who received a mandate on November 6. So did congressional Republicans. And the mandate from the American people to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell is also very clear: Stop saying no to everything. And start saying yes to something.

Americans have had enough gridlock. They’re sick of excessive partisanship. They don’t want perpetual campaigns. In between campaigns, they expect our elected officials of both parties to sit down together and fix problems. There’s a time to campaign and a time to govern. This is the time to govern. But that’s not happening today, for one reason only. Obama and Democrats are willing to compromise. But under John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the Republican Party has become the “Party of No.” As Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann write in their outstanding new book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks”: “The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

And, God knows, there’s no more critical time for bipartisanship than right now, with America facing a “fiscal cliff” — $1.2 trillion in cuts to domestic and defense spending resulting from the failure of last year’s Super Committee. President Obama’s already demonstrated his willingness to compromise. If Boehner and McConnell won’t budge, maybe Republicans could bring in Governor Chris Christie. He knows the importance of working together.

© 11/9/12 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

108 Responses to Obama won, but did he get a mandate?

  1. emile says:

    Did you miss the part where the unions had been giving concessions since 2004? This is what lead up to just saying ….NO.
    Before we can blame the union for everything, we do need to point out how badly things were being managed by this overpaid ceo and his overpaid whiteshirts.
    They are not foregoing anything. The judge has OK’d bonuses.

  2. jeffg1967 says:

    ‘we do need to point out how badly things were being managed by this overpaid ceo and his overpaid whiteshirts.’…Rayburn came in after the fact for the sole purpose to restructure the company. He hasn’t even been there a year (march 2012) so he had no involvment with the previous poor management. As far as his pay he doesn’t work for Hostess, he is paid from a source outside of the Hostess payroll so his pay, no matter how much or little has no effect on Hostess’ bottom line.
    Nobody disputes that Hostess was badly managed in the past. As the Teamsters UNION pointed out, if the concessions weren’t made then there would be no jobs. The bakers apparently preferred no jobs to a job.
    By the way, while you may not like how much executives make, their pay has little if any effect on the bottom line of a company. You could slash them all to $1 a year forever and you still wouldn’t make a dent.

  3. emile says:

    I dont care what they make. My concern is what they are being compensated for. If you’re a ceo of a company and cant keep it out of bankruptcy court why would you even think you should be getting a BONUS? I dont mean a $25 Home Depot gift card. I mean like blankfien $200 or $300 million.

    Its all such a big mystery,the money is gone, its all the union’s fault, and now we’re out of business.
    Lets give the ceo a $2Million BONUS.
    I dont hate ceos or rich people I dont want to take their hard earned cash away from them.
    In order for our monetary system to work for all……The Money Needs to be Taxed.
    The Money…..not the people.

  4. jeffg1967 says:

    ‘My concern is what they are being compensated for’ and Rayburn is being compensated for what he was hired to do. He was brought in to to EITHER save the company, which he almost did except the bakers union got greedy OR oversee it’s shutdown and sell off. By the way he did not take or ask for a bonus.
    ‘The Money Needs to be Taxed. The Money…..not the people.’ Since when do we tax people? All we do tax is money. The fact that 48% of US citizens pay 0% income tax should tell you that. You seem to answer why don’t we all have to do our fair share? Why do you want only one group, a group that already contributes the lions share of tax ‘revenue’ to our government to pay more? Why don’t you want to pay more? Why don’t you pay your fair share?
    Raising taxes on the wealthy from 35 to 39% will pay for 8.5 days of the US government operation. How do you plan on paying for the rest?

  5. emile says:

    My point was that the banners always say “Tax the Rich” It isnt the rich we want to tax. It just so happens thats where the money is.It isnt personal, its Business. Why cant boehner say that?
    Another option would be to print more T-Bonds and print more money and use it to
    Buy Bonds.
    No Wait, thats how we got here to begin with.
    We would need a treasury Mint on every corner.
    Reprinting more zeroes on the bills like the Third World Countries do.

  6. jeffg1967 says:

    “It isnt personal, its Business.” And how can you say that when proposals have been offered that would hit the same group of people by closing loop holes and limiting deductions but Obama is focused on this ‘fair share’ thing. It’s Obama who says that ‘the rich just need to pay a little bit more’, ‘millionaires and billionaires need to do their fair share’ etc. It’s Obama who is making this about a class of people. Remember Boehner wants to extend the Bush era tax rates for ALL americans, Obama wants to raise them on a select few. Obama is the one threatening to veto a lower tax rate for the middle class if he doesn’t get what he wants.

  7. emile says:

    Isnt boehner a little american patriot. A tax break for the middle class that wont even pay our property taxes. and then a tax break for the rich that would allow them to purchase another Villa in Belize.
    Let bush’s tax breaks expire, then we’re done with them and we can propose a new tax break in 2013 for the middle class. I would just give ev1 $20,000 and close the house and senate for 6 months.

  8. emile says:

    In these times. With liberty and justice for all
    Working In These Times

    Monday Oct 1, 2012 12:50 pm

    Foxconn Riot Flashes a Glimpse of China’s Slow-burning Labor Crisis
    By Michelle Chen

    On September 23, in Taiyuan, China, about 2,000 workers erupted in a burst of anger, leaving a factory compound scarred with broken glass and flames. But the trouble was just as quickly extinguished, and it’s now back to business as usual at Foxconn, one of the world’s premier electronics makers.

    While details of the fracas, which left many injured, are still emerging, the pattern is familiar: the uprising reflected increasing unrest throughout China’s manufacturing workforce, as well as the intense workplace stress that has become a hallmark of the Foxconn empire since a string of well-publicized worker suicides in 2010. The question now is whether this tension will ultimately be channeled into direct action that might yield long-term changes in the global production chain that manufactures our prized gadgets.

    In contrast to the despair workers displayed in 2010, the riot represents an angrier response to the everyday miseries of assembly-line work, which is mind-numbing, exhausting, and low-paid, and which largely feeds off of a steady flow of migrants seeking any kind of stable work in the city.

    One account posted on sina.com (translation via U.S.-based China Labor Watch) suggests the violence began with a scuffle involving migrant workers and security forces, and quickly metastisized once “a guard stabbed a worker from Shandong and seriously wounded him”:

    At this moment, all workers from Shandong were enraged and started to fight the guards. At first the guards were aggressive since there were hundreds of them. However, as more and more workers from Shandong gathered, the guards were overpowered and beaten. Realizing that they were outnumbered, the guards started to run away.

    Soon, others joined in: “a lot of [workers] lost their minds and smashed everything they saw, including the supermarket and internet cafe on the campus.” Photographs of the scene appear to confirm this.

    But neither the exact extent of the violence nor how many participated are known. Predictably, Foxconn has denied damage to the facilities, according to the New York Times. At the same time, with thousands of police reportedly sent in to suppress the protests, there should be some concern about the authorities invoking workplace violence as a pretext for a wider anti-worker crackdown.

    Geoffrey Crothall, spokesperson of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB), tells Working In These Times via email:

    [T]he vast majority of work disputes, strikes and protests are peaceful. Even if police are called in, most disputes do not escalate into violence. That said, given the fact that many workers have to suppress anger and resentment against their employer because there are no formal channels for resolving grievances, we should not be surprised when violence does break out.

    The riot suggests that while workers may not yet have a clear agenda for improving working conditions, they are growing more conscious of the power of collective action. Their rage is further justified by the police reaction, indicating local authorities’ alignment to a powerful multinational corporation.

    A translated online dialogue published by CLB indicates that long before the clash, workers were suffering from oppressive conditions:

    A worker, who said he had been employed at Taiyuan Foxconn for three years, highlighted the failure of the Foxconn trade unions to properly represent workers’ interests. … He hoped workers could handle the conflict in a rational manner in order to avoid unnecessary casualties.

    This post was immediately challenged by another worker, who responded that workers had not meant to instigate a riot but that they had no other way to address injustice. When they called a hotline to complain about the abusive security guards, for example, they were told their complaint could not be handled.

    According to Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch, the outburst was long in the making due to the social dislocation and isolation of migrants, who “are far from their homes, and will naturally feel more vulnerable to mentally stressed. If the management does not pay attention to such issues and even suppress their with heavy workload and inhumane treatment, such things will happen again.” He noted that there have been previous workplace conflicts, “but the company ignored it and kept the same management style. That is why we believe the root cause of this riot is Foxconn, not just a random case.”

    Foxconn’s most prominent client, Apple, has generally had far more to say about its shiny product line than about Foxconn workers (although the Taiyuan plant, according to one source, was not a formal iPhone assembly plant, others say it may have made Apple parts). But it has boasted an elaborate corporate social responsibility campaign, commissioning the Fair Labor Association, a mainstream U.S. auditing group, to investigate conditions at Foxconn factories. As we’ve reported previously, the FLA’s recent report card was mostly favorable, but noted inaction on “the most challenging action items–such as compliance with Chinese labor law regarding hours of work.”

    That’s largely because the greatest barrier to progress is simply a lack of workplace rights, which is rooted in the interlinked forces of global capitalism and an authoritarian government that squelches independent union activity.

    CLB’s research, however, suggests that young Chinese are becoming more effective at pressuring their bosses for fairer treatment. These actions will become more crucial if China’s boom, and low-wage labor market, continue to cool down.

    As labor scholar Eli Friedman has pointed out, neither the state, nor the Communist Party’s official unions, nor even foreign watchdog groups, can bring about radical change. That will only be developed though homegrown, street-level worker activism that channels rage into a focused movement for economic justice in China’s volatile labor system.

    We don’t know how many more riots it will take before the companies, officials and consumers who have taken advantage of China’s exploited workforce over the years recognize that nation’s tattered social contract must be revised. But workers have already begun writing the second draft.

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    ABOUT THIS AUTHOR

    Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet, Colorlines.com, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain. Follow her on Twitter at @meeshellchen or reach her at michellechen [at] inthesetimes [dot] com.

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    “Working In These Times” is dedicated to providing independent and incisive coverage of the labor movement and the struggles of workers to obtain safe, healthy and just workplaces. more »

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