Slender victory isn’t much of a mandate

Tom Toles’ cartoon in the Veterans Day newspaper asked if we needed to have “further discussion” on the word “mandate.” I think we do. In the cartoon, “mandate” is written large, implying, as does the common understanding of the word, a broad and resounding, overwhelming command to execute what you have promised.

This word seems to be the media’s new favorite buzzword. The other day, I heard a national news anchor say to a dissenting Republican, “But the president has a mandate – 60 percent of the voters gave him a mandate!” The president did indeed receive the majority of votes and, as such, can use that as a reason to move forward with what he has promised. But the mandate he received was nowhere near 60 percent. In fact, it was very slender – about 3.3 million, less than the entire population of Connecticut. The popular vote tally gave 51.4 percent to Obama, and 48.6 percent to Mitt Romney.

“Mandate” simply means that Obama won the election, and has the authority to govern. But our country is still deeply divided. The media need to stop acting like giddy cheerleaders or fans at a rock concert. Romney – in a colossal misrepresentation of meaning perpetrated by the media – was soundly criticized for his so-called dismissal of 47 percent of the country So tell me, media, how are you any better?

Kathleen Sutter