Now that Romney's conceded Florida and the Obama's electoral vote count is more or less official (of course it won't be until the actual polling of electors takes place in December), let's look at some historical perspectives.
The big question of course is whether Obama has received anything that could reasonably be called a mandate.
Above the scroll, this year's result:
Keep reading and we'll look at some other numbers which, I incidentally, I have taken from Wikipedia. I know there are some who do not like that but this sort of information is relatively straightforward so I hope you will all indulge me.
I'm going to skip the big blowouts, like FDR (over 400, four times in a row), LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1984. The most important comparisons come here:
Bush I 168
Here's the real point. For all his bluster about getting a mandate in 2004, George W. Bush never had the margin that Obama got in his second, much closer election.
In fact if you want something even remotely comparable you'd need to go back to Woodrow Wilson and William McKinley and things were quite different for both of those two-time victors than they are today; the only similarity is that both of McKinley's elections took place during a period of great economic disparity (also known as the "Gilded Age"), when the nation's economy was, relatively speaking, in the doldrums.
T. Roosevelt 88
Charles Evans Hughes 254
William Jennings Bryan 176
There actually are few valid comparisons in the past 100-plus years. If anything, it's easiest to compare the two Clinton elections and the two GWB elections with the two Obama elections.
If things had been similar this year to what they were like in 1996 or 2004, Obama would have increased his electoral vote total. It's only because the Republicans were able to use the excuse of the economy against Obama (and get so many people to believe he was actually responsible when the fault must lie with Bush), not to mention the pathetic if veiled appeals to racism, that things are as close as they are right now.
Early on during Tuesday evening, it appeared as though Obama might conceivably win the election yet come up short in terms of popular vote. We now know that isn't the case; the most recent results I can find show Obama with 50%; Romney with 48% and the two separated by about 2.5 million votes; not clear whether or not that includes the totals from Florida and there are of course states where counting is not yet complete; Oregon and Washington conduct their elections entirely by mail and over half of all Californians now vote absentee so it will be several days before all of the votes are tallied up. Once again, the fact is that Obama is clearly over 50% of the total in popular votes and that's a decisive difference. So whether or not it's a mandate, it's most certainly an endorsement.
I was apparently being too subtle for my own good. I also think it's not necessarily a bad idea to err on the side of modesty, particularly in light of a) Obama's victory speech the other night and b) Bush's completely unwarranted crowing in 2004. That having been said, I really do think that Obama's victory is a mandate from the voters and an endorsement of what he's been doing since he was first elected. And he'll be entirely justified in using all the political capital he's gained by winning the election. Especially if his second term agenda is a more up-front progressive one.