Bilateral Commentary

It's not a Mandate.

Author:  Dr. Anthony Bryson


The Trump administration continues to grind forward attempting to implement their agenda.  Mr. Trump does so while telling everyone, far and wide, that his electoral victory provides him a mandate to make the changes he so desires, even if they contradict what he said on the campaign trail.  This is extremely maddening as Mr. Trump’s victory was so thin that it does not pass the sniff test in claiming it to be a mandate to make sweeping changes to the institutions of government, affecting all Americans.


I am not going to get into an argument about the popular vote.  The popular vote is a metric to measure the overall temperature of the nation, but it is not the way our President is elected.  We still observe the use of the Electoral College and we must honor the outcome of that mechanism.  Mr. Trump won the Electoral College vote on the strength of taking Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and their collective 46 votes.  It are these states that provided the victory, and these states are the ones to examine to determine the existence of a mandate.


A mandate, in political terms, is being granted the authority to carry out the implementation of a policy strategy.  The larger the victory, the greater the mandate.  A mandate usually assumes that you not only win the election, but you gather a majority of the votes cast.  The 2016 Presidential Election provided an extremely thin victory, and as a result, no true mandate to make sweeping changes.


Of the three swing states which provided the margin of victory, Pennsylvania provided the greatest number of votes in Mr. Trump’s favor.  He won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, or a .73% edge over his Democratic challenger.  It should be noted that this margin of victory is covered not only by the 49,941 votes cast for Jill Stein, but also by the 146,715 votes cast for Gary Johnson.  In the big picture, Mr. Trump amassed only 48.58% of the total votes cast, not even earning a true majority of the votes cast.


The State of Wisconsin provided the next largest margin of victory of the Electoral College winning swing states.  Mr. Trump earned a 22,748 vote margin of victory.  He defeated Ms. Clinton by .77% of the vote.  Again this margin was covered not only by the 31,072 votes cast for Jill Stein, but also by the 106,674 votes cast for Gary Johnson.  47.22% of the vote broke Mr. Trump’s way, but 52.78% of the vote went against the Republican candidate.


The smallest margin of swing state victory came in Michigan.  Mr. Trump won The Great Lakes State by 10,704 votes.  That was .23% of the votes cast.  Not surprisingly, that margin of victory was covered by Jill Stein’s 51,463 votes, and Gary Johnson’s 172,136 votes.  Mr. Trump’s 47.5% of the vote was enough to win the Electoral College representation in Michigan, but was another case of not winning a true majority of the votes in the state itself.


Looking at the actual margin of victory – the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan – Mr. Trump came away with the Presidency on the back of 77,774 votes, or .55% of the ballots cast in those states.  A fraction of one percent of the votes cast in these three states won the election.  As far as a national mandate, Mr. Trump’s victory was provided by only .05% of the ballots cast.  That would be like saying that 30 people at an average NFL game get to dictate the decisions of the other 60,000 people in attendance.


On a whole, more people voted against Mr. Trump and the Republicans than for them.  Mr. Trump’s 46.09% of the vote hardly screams mandate.  The true majority of the country did not endorse Mr. Trump, so for him to claim he has a mandate is not true.  Mr. Trump does not have carte blanche to implement the agenda of his choosing.  Yes, Mr. Trump won the Electoral College, which won him the Presidency.  But he did not carry the numbers required to claim a mandate from the people. 


Mr. Trump must still do what is in the best interest for the majority of people, even if it clashes with his particular ideological or moral imperatives.  Representatives, especially the President, must do what is in the interest of the majority, not just those who voted for him, or provided financial support to his personal interests.  Mr. Trump must represent the shared values of the American people and continue to move the country in a direction where America will continue to maintain the moral high ground and project power internationally based on America’s promise to uphold those same values which make her a shining light on the hill.

Dr. Bryson is an adjunct faculty member at Fielding Graduate University, teaching classes in media and political psychologies.  He is the author of the book, The Trump Card: The Long Game of Discrediting Media and Influencing Elections.


Illustration courtesy of DonkeyHotey (DonkeyHotey/flickr)