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Obama Wins a Divided Country

It’s a cold and rainy morning in Washington. 

Last night, a few hundred supporters gathered outside the White House to celebrate Obama’s reelection. Driving through downtown D.C., an occasional group of revelers passed by on the sidewalk; others walked around them quietly. Obama won reelection last night, but the past four years have taken a toll. The country is deeply divided, maybe nowhere more so than the capital.

National Journal’s Ron Fournier reports:

Barack Obama won a second term but no mandate. Thanks in part to his own small-bore and brutish campaign, victory guarantees the president nothing more than the headache of building consensus in a gridlocked capital on behalf of a polarized public.

If the president begins his second term under any delusion that voters rubber-stamped his agenda on Tuesday night, he is doomed to fail. …

“The mandate is a myth,” said John Altman, associate professor of political science at York College of Pennsylvania. “But even if there was such a thing as a mandate, this clearly isn’t an election that would produce one.”

He pointed to Obama’s small margin of victory and the fact that U.S. voters are divided deeply by race, gender, spirituality, and party affiliation. You can’t claim to be carrying out the will of the people when the populous has little shared will. 

Obama has no mandate. The latest numbers show Obama with a margin of 2.6 million votes nationally. In 2008, he won by nearly 10 million. He’ll still face a strong Republican House, which now has (at latest count) around 57 million Americans relying on it to keep the executive branch in check. He’ll also face the repercussions of his first-term policies: the unemployment that hasn’t waned, the economy that hasn’t recovered, the terrorists that haven’t been defeated, the Iranian mullahs that haven’t been dissuaded.

The best news for Obama is that, as his campaign kept reminding voters, this was his last election. Another such victory, and he would be undone.



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