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 Nov. 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 Gov. Chris Christie. He knows the importance of working together.
Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show.