misreading the mandate

Unity often spirals with the perception of some kind of mandate…

I remember in 2004, when Pres. George W. Bush won the election by a 286 to 251 Electoral College count — a 31 to 19 state count — but only received a narrow 50.7% of the popular vote. He then asserted that he had a mandate to privatize Social Security. “I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” Except he didn’t seem to realize such a narrow victory did not result in said mandate.

The 2020 victory of Joe Biden had an eerily similar feel. Biden was inaugurated on a 306 to 232 electoral count — a 25 to 25 state count — but also received only a narrow popular vote victory, at 51.3%. Making it increasingly more politically complicated, the President’s party saw their House of Representatives majority decrease to a mere 8 votes out of 435 (a majority of 1.8%), and the Senate outcome resulted in a 50/50 tie of sitting U.S. Senators. With that as the current legislative backdrop, the President is attempting to spend unprecedented trillions in a precarious inflationary time, with all sorts of partisan policy initiatives creatively now called “infrastructure.” Dare we go out on a less precarious limb here and suggest Pres. Biden has not yet learned from Pres. Bush.

Maybe it’s just me. Always possible. Each of us can be a little foggy-brained at times. But I’m not sure how majorities formed by unequivocal razor-thin margins ever equate to a so-called mandate. If a mandate is a license to enact any policy of choice, far more than 50/50 needs to be in play. Far more than less than 2%. Otherwise the elect is not really representing all of “we the people.”

Let us figuratively think out loud for a moment…

What’s it like to be on the receiving end of a mandate? No harshness, but rather, simply, sincerely, when we disagree with what a leader believes to be wise, what’s it like?

What does it feel like to be on the other end of the opinion, knowing that regardless of what you believe, those in elected authority are determined, come hell or high water, so-to-speak, to jam their desired means and methods through no matter what? 

This could apply to our government, our neighborhood HOA, or other organizations and institutions to which we belong. What’s it like to be on the other end of another’s authority when you respectfully but sincerely disagree?

Do you feel important?

Do you feel like your opinion matters?

Do you feel like you matter?

Do you feel like the leaders actually speak for you and represent you?

Do you feel like they care if they represent you well?

Do you feel like they keep acting as if only they know best?

Do you feel like they think you’re stupid?


Completely misguided?

And do you feel like others presume that unity only arrives if you change your mind?

I’ve been thinking more of this not “treading on me” concept. Let me be honest. I’m not a huge fan of the brash, in-your-face, shouting display, no matter its association with historic American patriotism. The Intramuralist is also not a fan of the arguably less brash, but still disrespectful, your-perspective-doesn’t-matter approach. Each seems to feel it’s ok to still tread on someone.

There’s no humility in those approaches. And I feel like so many of us, while we believe that humility is good thing, we also behave as if we believe it starts with “you.”

Humility never starts with somebody else, friends. Humility always starts with “me.”

What would it change if we realized how people on the other side of “me” feel? What would it change if we realized when we declare a mandate, how we’re making other people feel? What would it change if we realized that we are actually misreading the mandate? … that maybe, just maybe, we’re not called to enact mandates but to model humility instead?

My sense is that such an approach would be totally good and right and true… healthy and positive… solution-oriented… progress making…

… unifying, too…