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Obama's Election Was A Fluke!

Naomie Emery's new Weekly Standard article, "Mandate for What?," is one of the sillier and more transparent efforts I've seen to argue that, despite Barack Obama's resounding victory, his agenda is out of the mainsteam. Obama's "win on Election Day was enhanced and inflated," she writes, "less by the appeal of his agenda and party than by conditions not of his making, and by circumstances beyond his control."

Emerie argues that McCain was on course to win the election until Lehman Brothers failed:

Hard as it is now to remember, in the first weeks of September, McCain had been forging ahead. He led in most of the national polls, led in the swing states, was winning independents, women, and Hillary voters, and extending his range into enemy country, turning some blue states pale pink. In a deep hole since the 2006 midterms, the generic numbers for the Republican party had even begun to edge up. A Gallup poll released on September 11 showed the Republicans with a 4-point lead in the generic ballot. And then came September 15.

So really it was what Emery calls the "peculiar conditions" of the Lehman failure, and not Obama's agenda, that helped him win. Now, as I wrote in a recent column, no election is never a pure referendum on policy. But this particular attempt by emerie to portray Obama's election as abnormally contingent is hilariously unpersuasive.

First, she assumes that early September was the "normal" part of the election, before Lehman brothers tilted the race toward Obama. But can you remember anything else that happened in this period? I'll give you a hint: it took place in Minneapolis.

In August, Nate Silver tried to project how the polls would be effected by a Democratic Convention followed up almost immediately by a Republican convention. He predicted polls would look like this:


...which happens to be almost exactly what transpired. Early September was right in the midst of that GOP convention bounce.

And how about the notion that September 15 changed everything? That doesn't seem to be the case, either. McCain's convention bounce began fading about a week beforehand:

Emery concludes by arguing that Obama knows his win was a fluke, as evidenced by his centrist actions since being elected:

This is why Saxby Chambliss improved on his lead, why Obama refused to be drawn into the run-off in Georgia, and why, after campaigning against the whole Clinton-Bush era, he is bringing back some of its people and policies, adopting the Clinton economic team and some of the Bush guidelines for the war on terror, and giving the prize spots in his national security roster to George Bush's defense secretary, John McCain's ally, and Bill Clinton's wife. Peculiar conditions padded his lead, but he has to govern the country as it exists now and in the future, and not as it was in that brief span between September 15 and the fourth of November that is now in the rearview mirror and quickly fading into the past.

Ah, so Obama appointing moderates and following through on his campaign foreign policy platform is proof that he's outside the political mainstream. Somehow I think that if he abandoned his campaign pledge to increase troop strength in Afghanistan and appointed Ralph Nader Treasury Secretary, Naomie Emery wouldn't take it as evidence that Obama really does represent the political center

--Jonathan Chait