If Barack Obama wins tomorrow night, a lot of people–mostly conservatives and pundits–will try to deny Obama a progressive mandate.
In fact, I expect them to make idiotic claims along the lines of “the Democrats didn’t win, the Republicans lost.” (remember that gem from 2006?)
But that argument is just stupid. It assumes that people don’t really vote for Democrats, just against Republicans; it treats the Democratic Party as some kind of Brand X that people can choose for no other reason than to punish their usual choice for not living up to their expectations. Anyone saying this is baselessly assuming something that they cannot know for sure–voter intent. When someone pulls the lever, you don’t know if they love that candidate or hate their opponent, and you can’t make a valid assumption as to which it is.
And I bet some people are going to claim that Barack Obama didn’t really win, but George W. Bush lost–that voters punished Bush’s party by voting for the Democrat (there’s that pesky “they don’t vote for you, the only vote against us” argument again).
But, as John McCain is so fond of telling us, George Bush isn’t on the ballot–John McCain is. McCain is different from Bush in few ways. But the one thing they have in common is that they’re both conservatives. So an Obama victory isn’t a defeat just for Bush, obviously, but a defeat for conservatism, since Obama will be defeating the conservative candidate.
Some may argue that, well, Obama has been promoting himself as a centrist so he needs to govern like one. But that’s completely wrong–Obama is touting bipartisanship, not centrism. They’re very different–for example, you can progressive things in a bipartisan manner; that doesn’t make you centrist, it makes you a pragmatic progressive.
And let’s not kid ourselves, Obama is running on a progressive platform after beating out a number of more conseravtive candidates in the primary. He’s promising to raise taxes on the rich and big corporations to cut taxes for the middle class and small businesses. He wants to provide universal health care, end the war in Iraq, move America from fossil fuels to alternative, renewable energy, pass greater business regulation (including penalizing businesses that outsource), etc.
Barack Obama isn’t hiding the fact that he’s progressive. He’s not running on a centrist, conservative platform. Obama is straightforward with what he wants to do, which is to change America for the better–that’s progressivism by definition.
So remember, George W. Bush won by only 2.5% in 2004, yet the media let him claim a mandate for conservative governance. If Obama wins tomorrow, he will have earned an even bigger mandate for progressive governance. All the centrism-pushing talking heads in the world won’t change that very basic, simple fact.