Proper presidential behavior after winning a tenuous election

Inspired by the many “Gore Won!” “No, Bush rightfully won!” threads.

I think it’s pretty clear that Bush, while he is now the sitting president of these United States, didn’t exactly have an overwhelming mandate from the people (and likewise, neither would Gore have possessed one, had a few hundred votes turned his way in Florida instead of Dubya’s way).

Many people are going on that since Bush’s victory was so narrow and disputed, he shouldn’t act as though he won a Clinton-style landslide, with the majority of the voters in this country behind him.

Why not?

We don’t live in a parliamentary system. Bush doesn’t have to try to appease other people to stay in power. And he has enough chums in Congress to shove through almost any agenda he wants.

It may be rude, it may essentially give the finger to half the country, but, hey, he’s the prez.

My personal feeling on the matter is that the opponents of his swagger should clarify their warning thusly:

Bush shouldn’t act like he won by a landslide and has the support of everyone in the country, b/c it might alienate a lot of people and cause them to shy away from him–and other Republicans–in future elections.

Of course, that assumption (that such behavior will alienate borderline voters, thereby hurting Republicans) is highly debatable.

So how about it? Once a leader’s in office, no matter how narrow his margin of victory, should he be trying to

a) push through his own agenda, and to hell with what anyone else thinks

b) try to determine the will of the people and act in such a way that as many of them as possible are happy?

Well, obviously, he should be declaring his very first Sunday in office to be a national day of prayer. :rolleyes:

I think it’s a combination of both. No matter how “disputed” Bush’s win was in November, as our President he has a right to push his agenda, the way every other President has in the past. It wouldn’t matter if his win was validated by a hundred or a hundred million votes–his job NOW is to do precisely what he was elected to do, and what he has been doing since January.

There are, however, a number of people that will forever view the outcome of Election 2000 as a fraud. Partisanship aside, it would serve Bush’s agenda well if he gave the concerns of these (to use one of my favorite liberal words) “disenfranchised” people fair voice. Then again, I haven’t seen him saying “screw off” to anyone recently, so I suppose he’s been doing what I suggested already.

I’m fully prepared for left wing flack about this post. (In the interest of being fair, I’m an Independent.)

In pure Clintonesque fashion, I’m guessing that is the technical term for winning an election without getting 50% of the vote.

Maybe you could look to Kennedy for an example.

No, no, no. He should look to Lincoln as an example. So far, Bush hasn’t had half the country declare their independance because they felt his election was fraudulant, so he’s doing pretty good. Lincoln killed millions without a popular mandate, and Bush hasn’t do that yet either.

OTOH, I wouldn’t advise Bush to go to the theatre! :eek:

I think it was Jim Hightower who said that the only things in the middle of the road were yellow lines and dead armadillos.

While a lot of politicians run to the center (to look unifying and pick up all those wishy-washy “swing voters”), the successful ones govern to their core – Clinton went left, most of the time, and Bush is going to the right. Of course there are issues and times when that’s moderated – Bush is going to soft-pedal or avoid any abortion issues he can, since they raise too much heat and light and he has a very thin majority in Congress – but, in general, that’s what they do.

The whole “Bush doesn’t have a mandate, so he can’t swing to the right at all” is actually a fiendish argument; I admire it a lot. If Bush was as dumb as his critics say he is, and actually tried to govern that way, he’d get very little done (and none of his agenda), so he could be painted as do-nothing by the Democrats and would not be strongly defended by the Republicans. If, as he mostly seems to be doing, he ignores that stream of arguement, he’s clearly defying “the will of the American people” and Democrats can keep their base energized to fight on all of their important issues.

Honestly, he has to ignore that argument entirely; it’s just a trap for him and a way to rile up the Democratic left wing. I don’t think anyone making that argument seriously expects Bush to govern that way; it’s just a strategy for making debate points.

First, I don’t agree that Bush is avoiding the abortion issue. For one thing, he appointed Ashcroft, who is very strongly anti. For another, he reinstituted the international abortion “gag rule”.

Bush seems to be charging full steam ahead with a very conservative agenda. I’d say the real reason that he should not be doing so is that he prsented himself as a moderate when campaigning (“I’m a uniter, not a divider”).

I dunno if I’d agree with that – there’s a fairly substantial number of folks who think Clinton “betrayed” the liberal left and went too far towards the Conservative end of the spectrum (a lot of these folks ended up voting for Nader as a result, I believe). And while I think Clinton wasn’t that bad of a president, I’d hesitate to call him a “classic leftist Democrat” role-model…

I agree that Bill Clinton could not claim a “landslide” victory in either presidential race. Bear in mind, though, that there is a world of difference between winning with 47% of the vote (or whatever) and winning with fewer votes than another candidate in the race.

Frankly, I’d like President Bush a lot more if he’d acknowledge the fact of his questionable election. One way to acknowledge that would be to resist forcing an agenda. He may have every political right to do so, but if he’s the decent man his fans think he is, he would behave with a little more humility.

As opposed to, say, Reagan, who was eligible for godhood after smiting Mondale.

How would Bush be helped by admitting he’s a weak president? Maybe he is a weak president, but going on TV and admitting that he doesn’t have the authority to pursue his agenda would be political suicide. Why would he do that? He may be dumb, but he’s not stupid. He understands that politics is about belief. If people believe he can work for his agenda, then he can. If people believe he’s illegitimate then he’s screwed.

But admitting you are illegitimate is a pretty good way to get people to believe you are illegitimate. PRETENDING to be legitimate is much smarter.

Look, he either has the votes or not. What matters is not how thin his margin was, but whether his policies enrage people. He should be aware that he didn’t get a lot of votes, which means that his policies might be unpopular, so he should be careful. He shouldn’t do anything to jepardize the 2002 elections. But if the voters don’t care, then it doesn’t matter how close the election was waaaaay back in 2000.