… just what does George Bush's win mean? Well, let's start here:
Let me put it to you this way: 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 …-- President Bush, today at a press conference
We'll have plenty of opportunity to deal with terrorism and our wars, so let's set them aside for now and look at the domestic concerns Bush mentioned today:
-- Reform of Social Security begins now, he said. By "reform," of course, he means privatization.
-- Tax "simplification." This means a so-called flat tax, which could be either the reduction of the income tax to one bracket or a switch to a "consumption" tax, another name for a national sales tax.
-- Legislation to limit damages in civil suits.
-- Regulatory "reform."
In addition, of course, there is a certainty that Bush will be appointing new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court and hundreds of judges to lower levels of the federal judiciary. And he will, no doubt, be replacing several members of his cabinet.
His domestic agenda certainly is ambitious, but really is just a consolidation of ideas he has been pursuing since he took office. The difference is that he now may have the strength to push through large chunks of it.
Which brings us to the "mandate" question. Did he get one or not? Well, 51 percent of the vote is hardly the sweeping victory that some Bush partisans would have you believe.
Here's one picture of what it looks like.
One percentage point over 50 is not the landslide victory scored by some presidents in the past (Reagan in 1984, Johnson in 1964 and FDR in 1932, for example). And it's hardly a ringing endorsement of a president who had huge support until his invasion of Iraq turned outto be a more difficult mission to accomplish than the president guessed. This is a purple nation, and Bush would be well advised to remember that.
On the other hand, Bush's opponents would be foolish to minimize the importance of his victory. The election was a referendum on the job Bush has done—and he won. He's the first president to be elected with a majority of the popular vote since his father in 1988. And while the accompanying Republican gains in Congress are not sweeping, they are significant. As Kevin Drum notes,
If the results had gone the other way, we'd be talking about them as a clear repudiation of Bush and everything he stood for.
Going forward, the big question will be how skillfully Bush employs the strengths voters gave him on Tuesday.