One of the most heated post-election memes revolved about a simple question with a complicated answer: Did the President win a mandate Tuesday?
That’s because an electoral mandate is a claim; there’s no clear or quantifiable definition. It’s a term that presidents and other politicians embrace because it’s a potent weapon in arguing that there’s clear support for his or her policies.
And so it was that pundits contended that President Obama’s re-election means that a majority of Americans supports the president’s economic policies, the Affordable Health Care Act, same-sex marriage, and many of his other priorities.
Others insisted that the president’s ability to stitch together support from a range of Americans is the practical definition of a mandate. (He won the female vote by 12 points, the Latino vote by 40 points, and the African-American vote by 80 points.)