The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 November 2004

De colores

A friend from blueland writes:

The social studies teacher at our school is up in arms over the fact that the media is saying Bush won by a mandate. I think she's wrong; she claims that mandate means a huge majority of the popular vote and she thinks 3.5 million votes isn't a mandate. I say she's wrong, but I'm not sure how to disprove her.

I pointed to this now-fairly-ubiquitous USA Today map which colors each county in 49 states (Alaska doesn't do counties as we know them) according to how it voted, which might have done the trick.

As of this morning, that map was still in the Blogdex Top Ten, a couple of slots below Jane Smiley's hatchet job in Slate with the subtitle "The unteachable ignorance of the red states." I'll quote just one paragraph:

Ignorance and bloodlust have a long tradition in the United States, especially in the red states. There used to be a kind of hand-to-hand fight on the frontier called a "knock-down-drag-out," where any kind of gouging, biting, or maiming was considered fair. The ancestors of today's red-state voters used to stand around cheering and betting on these fights. When the forces of red and blue encountered one another head-on for the first time in Kansas Territory in 1856, the red forces from Missouri, who had been coveting Indian land across the Missouri River since 1820, entered Kansas and stole the territorial election. The red news media of the day made a practice of inflammatory lying — declaring that the blue folks had shot and killed red folks whom everyone knew were walking around. The worst civilian massacre in American history took place in Lawrence, Kan., in 1862 — Quantrill's raid. The red forces, known then as the slave-power, pulled 265 unarmed men from their beds on a Sunday morning and slaughtered them in front of their wives and children. The error that progressives have consistently committed over the years is to underestimate the vitality of ignorance in America. Listen to what the red state citizens say about themselves, the songs they write, and the sermons they flock to. They know who they are — they are full of original sin and they have a taste for violence.

If you look at that USA Today map one more time, you'll see exactly one county in Kansas that's colored blue: Douglas County. The seat of Douglas County is, um, Lawrence.

The sensible person will of course argue, "Quantrill's Raid was over a hundred years ago. How could it possibly have any relevance today?" It doesn't, unless you're an aggrieved leftist desperate to make a point. (And Quantrill's Raid, incidentally, was in 1863.)

Posted at 5:51 AM to Political Science Fiction


Looks like OK and NE are the only states without a single ounce of blue ink. Interesting.

Posted by: David at 7:22 AM on 6 November 2004

...and Utah, assuming the still-uncolored counties go Red.

Posted by: David at 7:29 AM on 6 November 2004

Charles, your friend need only remind the teacher of how Clinton, when first elected with only 43% of the popular vote, was feted by Big Media as having a mandate because, they reasoned, a majority of voters did after all vote against George H.W. Bush.

But apparently to those en gauche, only Democrats can possibly have a mandate. In my old age I don't bother trying to disprove the Left -- history does the job much more effectively than I ever could.

Posted by: McGehee at 9:39 AM on 6 November 2004

Well, 51% is hardly a mandate, although an actual majority is an accomplishment. Reagan won nearly 59% in 1984, Nixon won over 60% in 1972, there are several more examples of 55% plus. Those would qualify as mandates.

Posted by: Chris at 9:42 AM on 6 November 2004

I would think that after three consecutive presidential elections in which the winner failed to achieve an actual majority, that 51% qualifies. Especially when accompanied by gains by established majorities in both houses of Congress -- something not seen since FDR.

Focusing overmuch on absolute percentages, devoid of context, is kind of simplistic.

Posted by: McGehee at 4:08 PM on 6 November 2004

Okay, McGehee, lets keep in mind that there is only a 3 percentage point seperation and only a 34 electoral vote margin between Bush and Kerry. That ain't much, historically speaking. It's also the case that Kerry achieved the second highest popular vote total for a presidential candidate. Is that enough context for you?

Posted by: Chris at 3:53 PM on 7 November 2004

I looked up mandate and accroding to the definition, Bush received a mandate, as did Kerry. :) A mandate is an instruction from the electorate.

Posted by: Dwayne "the canoe guy" at 3:01 PM on 8 November 2004

I liked Robb Hibbard's quip:

"I'm a little confused about President Bush claiming a 'man-date.' I thought he was against the whole same-sex thing."

Posted by: CGHill at 3:22 PM on 8 November 2004