Obama, Progressives Lack Mandate for True Agenda
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Americans for Prosperity is one of the nation’s foremost advocates of economic freedom, leading the charge for everything from lower taxes to the rights of workers. Their meteoric rise to the top of the conservative movement has been widely derided by the left, which seeks to paint the organization as a tool of specific interests—but the truth is that AFP is a broad-based grassroots movement that has spread like wildfire, no doubt due largely to its leadership.
Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, has headed the organization through its dramatic growth from origins to its current status as a 2-million member group with permanent affiliates in 34 states. Before joining AFP, Phillips was campaign manager and chief of staff for Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and co-founded Century Strategies with conservative icon Ralph Reed. Phillips lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and four children.
Millions of Americans are still smarting from watching a significant defeat. I’m talking, of course, about the Notre Dame v. Alabama BCS Championship game this week. It was almost painful watching Alabama take down Notre Dame by such a wide margin. Now that's a mandate.
You know who didn't earn a similarly big mandate last November? President Obama.
You wouldn’t know it from listening to the Left or from watching the rather haughty demeanor of the President, but when it comes to national mandates he's no Alabama! So while there is no doubt that this year was a disappointing outcome for conservatives, the close election results mean that the Left lacks the mandate to enact the President’s big government agenda—if Republicans understand and act on the leverage they actually possess.
First, although the President won re-election, it was with 33 fewer electoral votes than in 2008. Even more telling, President Obama's margin of victory in the popular vote fell from 7.2% in 2008 to 3.8% in 2012—from approximately 53% of the vote to 51% of the vote. Want to know just how unusual this is? Clearly, the American people had great misgivings about President Obama.
Public opinion polling also shows just how weakened President Obama is today as compared to four years ago. At this point in 2009, President Obama's personal job approval and personal ratings were soaring over 70%. Today, President Obama's job approval hovers just over 50%—in most polls with Gallup, at the high end of 56%, and Rasmussen and ABC news lower in the 52% to 53% range. Most significantly, with independents, the President's numbers are below 50%, where four years ago they were through the roof.
House Republicans, who are at the moment struggling to regain their footing, are in a far stronger position now than four years ago. In 2009, they held 256 seats and faced a confident Speaker Nancy Pelosi leading a cohesive liberal House caucus with a 78-seat majority. Today, Republicans hold a 33-seat majority in the House after sustaining it comfortably in the face of the Obama re-election. More importantly, Obama lost in 219 of the 234 House Republican districts. So, only 15 GOP House members represent districts where President Obama won the vote; that's an historic low in modern American politics.
But what about the issue terrain? It's true that President Obama did campaign on a class warfare hook of "taxing the rich," but a look at the rest of his campaign rhetoric reveals how far the American public has moved our way. The President almost never made mention of his "climate change" cap-and-trade agenda during the campaign. He mentioned his green-energy agenda only in front of core liberal audiences in order to keep his base happy. Clearly, his polling told him his radical environmental agenda was a loser with the electorate. The President repeatedly spoke of the need to rein in the deficit and even cut government spending. Again, he was compelled to move to the right before the election because his able political team knew what we know—the American people are tired of over-spending in Washington, D.C.
In a recent survey by Rasmussen, 62% of people favor across-the board spending cuts. In a different CBS survey, 68% of Americans said that the debt ceiling should not be raised, reflecting the belief that government is over spending and needs to live within a budget.
Compare this with the absolute disconnect from reality reflected by President Obama’s statement to John Boehner that “we don’t have a spending problem,” and you’ll see how weak of a position Obama really has.
So while President Obama and the left are arrogantly assuming a mandate to tax their way out of the massive debt problem, refusing to negotiate in good faith with conservatives on a debt limit decision, and pushing for more overspending, remember that their victory was narrow and on the issues carefully nuanced. Furthermore, the American people are with us on cutting wasteful government spending. This is a fight they can lose and conservatives can win.
As our country prepares to face crucial spending battles in coming weeks, let's understand this central truth: Congressional leaders possess the leverage necessary to force an end to the spending addiction that has long gripped Washington, D.C. For the sake of our country and for the Republican Party, let’s hope they realize that and do the right thing.