Obama didn’t run on anything. To be sure, the president’s second-term agenda was amorphous at best, except for rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the rich. Still, the direction was clear. He chose not to take an obvious opening to become more moderate after the 2010 elections. Instead, he moved left. He ran on an unabashed social liberalism seeking to impose an unprecedented contraception mandate on employers — including religious employers — and he successfully sold it as a natural extension of the rights of women. He ran on a scorching economic populism that worked in the Midwest. He made his overall vision of government aggrandizement clear enough, and still prevailed.
The president doesn’t have a mandate. No, he doesn’t, but who cares? He doesn’t need a mandate to consolidate Obamacare, get some kind of amnesty for illegal immigrants, appoint a few more Supreme Court justices, and unleash his regulators.
Republicans will benefit from a period of soul-searching. Well, they might. On the other hand, it could just as easily become a period of divisiveness, folly, and self-delusion.