Obama's Mandate To Go Long
by Todd Beeton, Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 04:15:16 AM EST
As Thomas Frank pointed out in a recent column for The Wall St. Journal, Barack Obama has hardly been acting as though he won, let alone as though he has a mandate. But if his decisive victory in November and his dominant majorities weren't enough to convince him, perhaps the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll (h/t TPM) will.
To start off, it should be noted that WaPo finds Obama's transition with an outstanding 80% approval rating, up 13 points since late November. On the subject of whether Obama has a mandate (versus those who say he "should compromise"), a slim majority says 'Yes':
Do you think Obama has a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the presidential campaign, or should he compromise on the things the Republicans strongly oppose?
Has mandate 50
Should compromise 46
While a 4 point spread doesn't seem like a lot, that's actually quite impressive that Obama has inspired half of the country to urge him to implement his policies completely absent Republican input, especially considering, ya know, what a right-wing nation we are and how much people despise "bitter partisanship"!
But the more dramatic result for me was on the question of whether Obama should go long or just make incremental change:
Do you think Obama has a mandate to work for (major new social and economic programs) or for (only small policy changes)?
Major new programs 71
Small policy changes 22
Not only does this signify an overwhelming mandate for Obama to implement real, dramatic change in the policy arena, but it's really a call on Obama to use government to make Americans' lives better. It's a complete and utter rejection both of the Republican Party and of their mantra that government is the problem; the American people clearly see government, in the hands of Barack Obama at least, as the solution.
The respondents to this poll are sending an unmistakable and unambiguous message to the President-elect to go long. People get that that's the only way that whole "change" thing is truly going to happen. Obama would probably say that the rhetorical (and more substantive) concessions he's made to Republicans over the past 2 months and his call to work across the aisle in a bi-partisan way blah blah blah have been a means to an end in order to build the sort of political good will with both the Republicans in the minority AND the American people that will enable him to implement the bold and dramatic change that he's been talking about for two years now. One hopes that no later than Wednesday President Obama will cease building that good will and start using it.