It was a progressive mandate. A mandate the Republicans and media want to ignore, a mandate to tax the super-rich and preserve core Democratic social programs. The Republicans and most of the mainstream media already are spinning the election as an affirmation of the same old status quo, one requiring a bipartisan consensus to avoid the fiscal cliff. This is a conservative self-serving spin. The election was a tremendous mandate for the incumbent president, given the depressing level of unemployment, a galvanizing win for Senate progressives, and a shattering blow to the Tea Party, the Christian Right, the voter suppression cadres and the billionaires with their One Percent brethren.
There is a danger in winners reading too much into the mandate, however. For example, Paul Krugman is back at demanding more than Obama can delivery. Krugman, in an op-ed titled “Let's Not Make a Deal,” insists that Obama should just say no to the Republicans and “go over the cliff if necessary.” Does it occur to Krugman that there was no voter mandate for Obama and Biden becoming Thelma and Louise?
The important fact stressed by Krugman is that Obama enters the immediate confrontation with a much stronger hand than at any time in the past two years, a voter mandate to tax the super-rich, preserve Social Security, Obamacare, and core Democratic social programs. The House Republicans are playing with a far weaker hand, but a hand nonetheless. If they commit suicide, of course, there will be no deal. But the more likely strategy is to achieve a deal with minimal Democratic sacrifices, and set in motion a showdown with House Tea Party Republicans in the 2014 elections.
Everything depends on where the AFL-CIO, NAACP, Latinos and women’s rights groups, and allies like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown want to draw the line. This could well be a repeat of national election on domestic issues, with the Democrats backed by a voter mandate while the Tea Party has been stripped of theirs.