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November 9, 2012 / needhamgrassroots

FAIR: When a Mandate’s Not a Mandate (When it’s a Democratic One)

There is in the media a curious notion about how politics work:

that the politician who wins an election should quickly move to satisfy voters who did not support his agenda.

But for many in corporate media, that is what centrism is all about–when the politician is a Democrat.

From FAIR 11/9/2012 — When it comes to explaining election results, there’s no precise way to determine whether voters gave the winner a “mandate”–defined by Oxford as “the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.” That makes it interesting to see how media use the expression–and which presidents they think earned one.

A mandate.

A mandate.

In 2004, George W. Bush won 50.7 percent of the popular vote over Democrat John Kerry, and had a 286-251 edge in electoral votes. As FAIR noted (Media Advisory, 11/5/04), many outlets proclaimed that to be a “mandate.” “Clear Mandate Will Boost Bush’s Authority, Reach,” read a USA Today headline (11/4/04); NPR’s Renee Montaigne said (11/3/04), “By any definition, I think you could call this a mandate.”

So this week Barack Obama won re-election; before the Florida results were final, he had a 303-206 electoral vote advantage and 50.5 percent of the popular vote. What do you call that? For a lot of people in the media, definitely not a mandate.

Not a mandate.

Not a mandate.

On CBS Evening News (11/7/12), Bob Schieffer declared, “In the hard world of American politics, the president did not get a mandate yesterday.” On the NPR website (11/7/12), a headline was “For Obama, Vindication, But Not a Mandate.” The Washington Post’s Dan Balz (11/7/12) called it “an uncertain mandate, although Obama will attempt to claim one.” While USA Today declared Bush’s 2004 victory a mandate, the front-page of the paper the day after the election bore the headline “A Nation Moving Further Apart.”

Glenn Thrush of Politico (11/7/12) wrote that Obama’s “hard-won victory seemed too narrow and too rooted in the Democratic base to grant him anything close to a mandate–much less the popular support needed to break the deadlock of Washington partisanship as he promised during the campaign.” The racial subtext of the “Democratic base” echoed the pre-election analysis of Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen (11/5/12), who wrote:

If President Barack Obama wins, he will be the popular choice of Hispanics, African-Americans, single women and highly educated urban whites…. It looks more likely than not that he will lose independents, and it’s possible he will get a lower percentage of white voters than George W. Bush got of Hispanic voters in 2000.

A broad mandate this is not.

Read many more examples at original:


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