44 and “Political Capital”
Yes, he did.
Our new First Family. The new face of America to the world. Let’s get to work and fix this thing.
I do want to mention on other thing that I’ve been thinking about all day. A few weeks back, Newsweek ran a cover story penned by the executive editor, Jon Meacham, titled, “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Blue,” that was essentially a warning to a not yet then president Obama that he be should wary of trying to shift the country in leftward direction, because America is, in Meacham’s estimation, a conservative country.
The article was based on a set of assumptions that I felt were already moving past their expiration date long before Barack Obama blew up the electoral map last night. As I looked at the new terrain, which saw my home state, Virginia (which last went blue at the presidential level in 1964), Indiana, Florida, Iowa, most of the American southwest and possibly North Carolina and Mossuri all vote for a Democrat, I couldn’t help but think of Karl Rove and George W. Bush.
In 2004, Bush was reelected 51% of the popular vote and 286 electoral votes to John Kerry’s 48% and 252 votes. The 34 vote difference was viewed as something of a landslide. People like Rove, Bush’s chief political strategist, began to openly talk about a “permanent Republican majority” restructuring the political landscape in America. George Bush planned to pursue an ambitious agenda with the spoils of his victory:
I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style. That’s what happened in the — after the 2000 election, I earned some capital. I’ve earned capital in this election — and I’m going to spend it for what I told the people I’d spend it on,which is — you’ve heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.”
Now, I want you to go back and look at the numbers from last night:
Popular vote: 53%*
Actual votes received: 63,905,968^
Electoral Votes: 349*
Popular vote: 46%*
Actual votes received: 56,412,952
Electoral Votes: 163*
Missouri and North Carolina have still not been officially called, though the later is poised to go to Obama by an extremely slim margin. In any case, Obama has now received more votes for president of the United States than any person…ever. He gained 1,865,362 million more votes than George Bush’s 2004 total of 62,040,606 votes, which was the previous high. John McCain currently has fewer votes than John Kerry did…and Kerry now has the third highest number of recorded votes in American history. Obama (presently) has 186 more electoral votes than John McCain. By virtually every measure, this was a blowout not seen in almost a generation. Those are the kind of margins that generate significant political capital.
But never mind all that. If you listen to Jon Meacham, well, Barack Obama better tread carefully. I’m sure that he will. He’s a cautious man, which is one reason that he is now the 44th President of the United States. But if people like Mr. Meacham start to get ansty if Obama does move in a bold fashion and mentions something like using capital he’s earned, make sure you show them the above numbers so they understand what a real mandate looks like.
Update: More on this from Steve Benen at Political Animal.