Second Term Presidential Mandates Are Nonexistent
Obama's re-election won't improve his relationship with Republicans
November 7, 2012
Presidential mandates are rare, and second term ones nonexistent. Only Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were able to claim and exercise theirs, but just during their first term honeymoons. President George Bush tried to claim one after his 2004 re-election, but that did nothing to help him realize Social Security privatization, tax-code simplification, and medical liability reform. President Barack Obama's re-election will yield no positive relational changes with Republicans.
Yes. House Speaker John Boehner said last night that "there is a mandate—a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs." But even if Boehner is committed to bipartisanship, he'll face a lot of resistance from many of his GOP peers. Republicans easily held onto their House majority last night, suffering only a net loss of five seats (10 if you count the five additional open seats).
Tea Party representatives have been vindicated. Neither the public's 9 percent congressional approval rating, nor its general sentiment that Tea Partyers have contributed to much of the legislative gridlock dominating the 112th Congress, kept them from being re-elected. Their stripes will not change because the president won by a margin of 2.6 million votes. The 113th Congress will be as conservative—if not more so—than the 112th.
Moreover, don't expect President Obama to gain ground in the Senate. Without filibuster reform, a critical rule change that will guarantee the long-term possibility for compromise, the minority party will continue to wield it with impunity. Partisan gridlock will diminish the long-term electability of Republican politicians.
However, this is not to say Democrats are innocent; their caucus has moved much farther left in recent years, and most are not open to reaching across the aisle. We have two diametrically opposed parties in camped in the Capital. Perhaps the 2014 elections will yield some change, giving the president an easier go in the last two years of his second term.
If Democrats and Republicans commit to grooming compromise candidates, then bipartisanship, so prevalent during the 1960s, will return. But for now, expect legislative discussions to produce nothing more than Capital carpets soaked with slicks of oil and puddles of water.