Paul Ryan: “Idea Man” Seeks Mandate

Terrance Heath

I’m no doctor, but defeated Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan may still be too “shell-shocked” to resume his role as the right’s “idea man,” if his latest addition to the growing list of GOP excuses for their stunning election day losses is any indication. Ryan say sit’s “urban” voters’ fault that the GOP ticket went down to defeat last week.

Reflecting on the 2012 presidential election, and the loss that he has labeled a “foreign experience,” Rep. Paul Ryan believes that President Obama’s re-election was due in part to the large voter turnout in “urban areas.”

In an interview with a WISC-TVreporter, Ryan said, “I think the surprise was some of the turnout, especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race.”

… Ryan repeated the same “urban area vote” narrative in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel when he was asked if the the loss meant that voters had rejected the Republican vision.

The former GOP vice-presidential nominee said, “Well, he got turnout. The president should get credit for achieving record-breaking turnout numbers from urban areas for the most part, and that did win the election for him.

Let’s just cut to the chase, here. “Urban” is code for “black people. It has for some time, but can arguably be expanded to include Latinos, low-income individuals and families, and possibly even LGBT voters — allof which broke for Obama last Tuesday. Just how and why this coalition came together to reelect Barack Obama is something I plan to address in another post. For now, I want to focus on a couple of problems with Ryan’s “urban areas” excuse.

First, why is Ryan blaming his party’s defeat on “Voters In The Hood”? Is Ryan disappointed that voter suppression backfired on the GOP, and had the unintended effect of galvanizing churches and community organizations to the point that Black and Hispanic voters turned out in record numbers? Is Paul Ryan upset because those “urban voters” were undeterred by long lines and long waits, engineered by conservatives who assumed Black and Hispanic voters were too lazy to stand in line just to cast a ballot?

Perhaps he shares the view of Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim Vanderhei that only white men can confer a mandate, which is why Paul Ryan also claims that voters didn’t give President Obama a mandate “because they also reelected the House Republicans.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), in his first national interview since he and running mate Mitt Romney were defeated last week, said President Barack Obama didn’t win an election mandate to raise taxes.

“I don’t think so, because they also reelected the House Republicans,” Ryan told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl. “So whether people intended or not, we’ve got divided government. This is a very close election, and unfortunately divided government didn’t work very well the last two years. We’re gonna have to make sure it works in the next two years.”

Ryan sought elsewhere to qualify Obama’s win in interviews Monday as a result of turnout from “urban areas.”

There are, at least, a couple of problems with Ryan’s claims.

First, House Republicans don’t have a mandate.

House Democrats got more votes than House Republicans. Peggy Noonan’s not gonna like this, but number-crunching geeks have another big surprise for Republicans. This time it’s the Washington Post’s nerd corps that’s bringing the pain. Ezra Klein reports that the Post’s dean of demographics has crunched the numbers and found that House Republicans “did the equivalent of winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote.” (That’s got to hurt, considering that President Obama won both the popular vote and the electoral college.)

…House Republicans did the equivalent of winning the electoral college while losing the popular vote.

It can be a bit difficult to tally up the popular vote in House elections because you have to go ballot by ballot, and many incumbents run unopposed. But The Washington Post’s Dan Keating did the work and found that Democrats got 54,301,095 votes while Republicans got 53,822,442. That’s a close election — 48.8%-48.5% –but it’s still a popular vote win for the Democrats. Those precise numbers might change a bit as the count finalizes, but the tally isn’t likely to flip.

Let’s repeat that. House Republicans may have the majority, but Democratic House candidates won the popular vote.

The GOP’s control of redistricting is the only thing that saved them. The reason the house didn’t flip is because Republicans have a lock on gerrymandering. As Ezra pointed out, in states where Republicans controlled redistricting, Democrats saw a wide disparity between their share of house seats and their share of the presidential vote.

What saved Boehner’s majority wasn’t the will of the people but the power of redistricting. As my colleague Dylan Matthews showed, Republicans used their control over the redistricting process to great effect, packing Democrats into tighter and tighter districts and managing to restructure races so even a slight loss for Republicans in the popular vote still meant a healthy majority in the House.

That’s a neat trick, but it’s not a popular mandate, or anything near to it — and Boehner knows it. That’s why his first move after the election was to announce, in a vague-but-important statement, that he was open to some kind of compromise on taxes.

Thus Americans woke up on November 7th to a House majority that didn’t reflect what most Americans voted for. (For this, I’ll need an assist from Big Bird.)

 

Americans woke up on November 7th having elected a Democratic president, expanded the Democratic majority in the Senate, and preserved the Republican majority in the House.

That’s not what they voted for, though.

Most Americans voted for Democratic representation in the House. The votes are still being counted, but as of now it looks as if Democrats have a slight edge in the popular vote for House seats, 49%-48.2%, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Still, as the Post‘s Aaron Blake notes, the 233-195 seat majority the GOP will likely end up with represents the GOP’s “second-biggest House majority in 60 years and their third-biggest since the Great Depression.”

So how did Republicans keep their House majority despite more Americans voting for the other party—something that has only happened three times in the last hundred years, according to political analyst Richard Winger? Because they drew the lines.

After Republicans swept into power in state legislatures in 2010, the GOP gerrymandered key states, redrawing House district boundaries to favor Republicans. In Pennsylvania, Democratic candidates received half of the votes in House contests, but Republicans will claim about three quarters of the congressional seats. The same is true in North Carolina. More than half the voters in that state voted for Democratic representation, yet Republicans will fill about 70 percent of the seats. Democrats drew more votes in Michigan than Republicans, but they’ll take only 5 out of the state’s 14 congressional seats.

Call it “affirmative action for Republicans.” Call it whatever you want, but don’t call it a “mandate” if the majority of Americans voted for the other guy or the other party.

That brings me to what most Americans did vote for last week. A election day poll by CAF and Democracy Corps shows the progressive agenda won the real mandate, based on voter’s priorities.

Their first priority is to create jobs and get the economy going. Many mistakenly believe that large deficits cost jobs. But when we asked them to chose between work to “grow the economy” and a plan to “reduce the deficit,” they chose growing the economy by more than two to one, 62-30, a margin of 31 percentage points. Fifty-five percent said they felt strongly on the first.

Second, voters disagree strongly with the priorities of the elite consensus congealing around the president’s deficit commission co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and his own discussions of a grand bargain with House Speaker John Boehner. Those discussions suggest a deal that trades cuts in Medicare and Social Security for tax reform that lowers rates for individuals and corporations while gaining revenue by closing loopholes – a sort of Romney-lite tax reform.

When it comes to a deficit reduction plan, Americans have clear ideas.

They want tax rates to be raised on the wealthy. 68 percent find a plan that did not raises taxes on the rich “unacceptable.” 70 percent support a plan that raises taxes on the top 2 percent while keeping the taxes of others at the same level.63 percent would find a plan that continued to tax investors’ income at lower rates than worker’s wages unacceptable. 75 percent would support a plan to create a higher tax bracket for millionaires. 67 percent finds a plan that lowers tax rates on corporations or the rich unacceptable.

They do not want Social Security benefits cut over time. By 62 to 31, they would find a plan that did that unacceptable.

They do not want Medicare payments cut or capped: 79 percent, nearly four out of five, find capping Medicare payments forcing seniors to pay more unacceptable.

By 50 percent to 41 percent, they favor a deficit reduction plan that starts with closing loopholes and raising tax rates at the top, and excludes cuts to Medicare and Social Securityover one that closes loopholes but “gets entitlement spending under control, including reducing the growth of Medicare and Social Security.”

The public is very skeptical of the $1.5 trillion in across-the-board cuts in discretionary spending over the next 10 years that Congress has already passed Most Americans do not share the scorn of Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for poverty programs providing a “hammock” for the lazy.

Seventy-five percent – three-fourths of the country – find a plan unacceptable if it requires deep cuts in domestic programs without protecting programs for infants, poor children, schools and college aid.

Moreover they embrace the president’s argument that we should reduce the deficit and invest in areas vital to the economy at the same time. By 70 percent-27 percent, they support a plan to cut “wasteful spending and abolish special interest tax breaks and subsidies so that we can invest in infrastructure and technology and make sure we support education, Medicare and Social Security which are key to the middle class, over a statement that we have to cut spending seriously and that will require across the board reductions in the size of government…including education, Medicare and Social Security.

 

Voters don’t want austerity. They don’t want cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. They want long-investment in job creation, infrastructure, and education. They want the 1 percent to finally pay their fare share. That’s what most Americans voted for, and it’s the exact opposite of the GOP agenda.

John Boehner knows it. How could he notPresident Obama has the upper hand in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations. The White House called Boehner’s bluff and rejected his deal, and Americans are ready to blame Republicans if “fiscal cliff” talks fail. Thus Boehner is life to futilely reason with his unreasonable caucus, while conservatives all but concede that he will ultimately fold.

Paul Ryan, in some dark corner of his mind not yet penetrated by the scribbling and  ranting of Ayn Rand, probably know it too. In which case, he may working valiantly to fool someone — anyone — into believing he and the the GOP were the real winners last night, and succeeding only in fooling himself.

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