Can a president elected without a majority of the popular vote claim a mandate, especially a mandate to end an unpopular mandate? In Donald Trump’s case, yes — and not just from his own election. A post-election poll from Morning Consult makes it clear what Republican voters who pushed Trump to victory expect from their efforts. Nearly three-quarters of his voters want a repeal of ObamaCare, slightly more than combatting ISIS.
Dead last on the list? The border wall:
Nearly three-quarters of GOP voters say the top priority for the Trump White House is to repeal Obamacare, followed closely by combating ISIS. Notably, two of Trump’s main campaign themes – building a wall along the Mexican border and renegotiating trade deals – come in last among GOP voter priorities, at 30 percent and 39 percent respectively.
What about cleaning up the mess left behind in Hillary Clinton’s scandals? The appetite for that fight appears to be waning:
Trump’s victory also brought a big swing in Republicans’ opinion on whether Congress should investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails while she was secretary of State. Before the election, more than 50 percent of GOP voters said Congress should investigate her emails. Now that Trump has won the White House, just 35 percent say the emails should be investigated.
Before we get to the mandate question, the poll holds a few more intriguing findings in the crosstabs. Roughly the same proportion of overall voters are happy over the election results (35/57) as are angry about them (37/55), and “sad” gets only a slightly stronger response (43/50). However, “anxious” scores a significant majority (54/40) that sustains in every income demographic and every ethnic group, with the exception of African-Americans (a plurality of 48/41). Catholics (55/35) are more anxious than Protestants (49/48) and evangelicals (46/49), and atheists/agnostics are very worried at 59/33. Still, “depressed” only gets a 34/58, so selling the Trumpocalypse might be difficult, at least for a while.
On the question of mandate, though, the issue is a little more clear-cut. A wide plurality of voters believe Trump can claim a mandate from the election (47/30), which sustains itself in most of the demographics and gets a majority in a number of them. On ObamaCare, the mandate is further strengthened by the GOP’s retention of the Senate majority, a stunning result that few saw coming. As I argue in my column at The Fiscal Times, the combination of results shows that Trump and the fully Republican Congress have a mandate for repealing ObamaCare — and they had better respond immediately:
Democrats lost almost every pickup opportunity they had – even in two states where they brought back popular former Senators to run for their old seats. In states where the premium hikes have hammered voters hardest, Republican Senate candidates outperformed Trump – states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio, among others.
Two months ago, I predicted that the GOP might stun Democrats over Obamacare, and prices were only one reason. “Voters in almost all key battleground states have at least one insurer pulling out of the exchanges,” I noted. Polls showed that losers far outstripped winners (43 percent to 8 percent) in the Affordable Care Act.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean also predicted a backlash in the Senate races as far back as August. “It feels like there’s a sleeping giant that’s about to awaken on the campaign trail,” he told The Hill’s Sarah Ferris. “It really does seem like an easy target, an easy layup for Republicans to score points.” The Republican triumph in holding Senate control against long odds shows that the sleeping giant did awaken and establishes a mandate for action.
Besides, Republican voters have already revolted over a lack of progress in dismantling Obamacare. Trump’s ascendancy in the primaries came as a direct result of overpromising on that task in the 2014 midterms. If Republicans dally any farther with single-party governance, then the 2018 election cycle will make this look like, well … a tea party of a more genteel type. Even James Carville acknowledged the politically obvious, noting on MSNBC that “Obamacare is dead.”
It should have been put out of its misery in 2012, but the GOP blew a winnable election. They’ve fought a holding pattern ever since, but this had better be the first domestic-agenda item they complete in 2017 while the mandate lasts. If not, there will be hell to pay in 2018.