Politics, as we are constantly reminded, is the art of the possible. And yet there is this equally persistent theme in political discussion about who has a mandate after an election, and for what. Policies are presented to the electorate as a bundle by political parties, not as a series of plebiscite questions, and which ones are enacted depend, as they ought, on circumstances and the greater good of the body politic. What counts as a “mandate” then?
It seems to me that the mandate can only ever be: you are elected to govern or legislate because the bundle of policies you presented were considered least offensive or the best available as a bundle by the voters. So there is neither a mandate for a singular policy nor a requirement that everything you presented must be executed as you presented it.
So does Obama, or Boehner, or in my country, Gillard’s carbon tax, etc., have a mandate? The question is entirely meaningless. As representatives, these politicians have a duty: to govern for the benefit of all. This means making the best judgement calls one can. It does not mean that they get either a free ride for their policies, or that they can do anything they like because they gained a majority in this or that race.
Political guys! Listen up! You are elected in a democracy not to represent only your people or policies. You are elected to act as the representatives of your constituencies. Stop behaving like kindergarten children and grow up. None of you have “mandates”, just political roles.