Does President Barack Obama's impressive victory give him a "mandate?" That he won re-election itself seems to be a sufficient answer; how he won doesn't matter. Those who say, "yes, but..." are carping. An election victory is what you make of it.
Overwhelming results occur only once in a presidency: FDR's second term, LBJ in '64, Reagan's second term. One could argue that Obama '08 was such a landslide. Landslides require three elements: an extraordinarily charismatic leader on one side, a non-consequential candidate on the other and historical circumstances that overshadow the common political dialogue.
Besides, the last three "mandates" -- or "landslides" -- happened before the advent of the Internet, the unfettering of corporate money in politics, and the removal of the Fairness Doctrine, which required a measure of real balance in reporting.
What constitutes a "mandate," anyway? By any standard, Obama's re-election was not only convincing, but also significant. This election was a test of the truth as no other -- keeping track of Mitt Romney's misleading statements was head-spinning. It was also a test of patience and investment -- hallmarks of Obama's first four years. There will be much more to say about the nature of the president's leadership, his style, in the weeks to come.
After all, Obama's campaign went negative too. But a look at how Obama won tells us he indeed has a mandate. Obama won Latinos, Blacks, the young, and especially single women (unmarried, divorced or widowed) by overwhelming, historic proportions. He lost the white male vote, but not by a degree greater than one should have expected, given the candidates and the electorate.
His mandate, then, is to continue -- to "forward" - the policies that support diversity, inclusiveness, empowerment, choice and opportunity (we are the "land of opportunity"). His mandate is also to find a way through the right wing noise machine and reach the middle-aged and elderly whites who see an economy shifting and a country growing in unfamiliar ways and are scared they will be left behind or lose out.
Obama indeed has a mandate: to once again move our country toward that "more perfect union." That is the best way forward.
Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.
William Bennett: Four more years of the status quo The American people have chosen, and they chose, rather than change, four more years of the status quo -- Barack Obama as president, a Democrat-controlled Senate, and a Republican-led House.
The result is surprising. Many, including me, thought the country was tired of the last four years of partisan gridlock, economic malaise and mounting debt and would pitch back to the right. That did not happen. However, fewer Americans supported the president this election than in 2008. According to the latest tallies, Mitt Romney was behind in Florida, and lost Ohio, Virginia and Colorado by fewer than 400,000 votes for the four states combined.
But a narrow loss is still a loss, and the results tell us several things. First, it is incredibly difficult to beat an incumbent, especially after a brutal and costly primary fight. Second, it appears that Obama's negative advertisement blitzkrieg over the summer defined Romney in a way he could not overcome. Third, if the economy was the key issue in the election, which the exit polls indicate, then clearly voters blame Republicans and George W. Bush for the state of the economy more than Obama.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from this election is the state of American culture. A majority of Americans reaffirmed Obamacare, Obama's foreign policy, high unemployment, bigger government and more dependency on government services. There is an alternative, but people must learn what it is.
For this we can point only to the education system and character-forming institutions. So while Republicans must broaden their coalition to include minorities and young adults, which they can do with future leaders such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, it is more important and consequential that they fight to take back schools, families, communities and the culture because those institutions cross all demographic barriers.
Republicans can no longer be the party of only business and individualism. Otherwise, they will be grasping for a shrinking, narrowing electorate and coming up short again in future elections.
William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.
Bob Greene: As one campaign ends, others begin
And so begins campaign 2016.
Those words are intended not as satire or as whimsy. The purported finish line represented by Tuesday's re-election of Barack Obama is someone else's starting line. The phrase "permanent campaign" has evolved from winking hyperbole to irrefutable reality. Presidents come and presidents go; the never-ending campaign endures.
The demise of the long 2012 presidential race is replaced by the instantaneous birth of new ambitions in each major party, even as the candidate who came up short (Mitt Romney, this year) is beginning to grieve for what might have been.
There are people and entities -- partisan websites all along the ideological continuum, news-oriented television channels, radio talk shows, campaign strategists-for-hire, political consultants, pollsters -- whose livelihoods depend on the presidential contest that never ceases. To them, Election Day itself is little more than a signpost along the road and certainly no reason to slow down.
The public may have grown weary of this year's politics, but the professionals are already picking sides and players for the next one. Governing can be dreary; campaigning always promises exhilaration. Legislators doing their jobs seldom hear the cheers that are the soundtrack of the campaign trail. And there will forever be an audience; people, whatever their protestations, like to watch a fight.
So, even as the newspapers Wednesday morning, with their banner headlines, declare that President Obama is heading back to the White House for the next four years, other men and women are hearing a proclamation that, although literally silent, is to their ears as distinct and loud as a blaring announcement over the public-address system in some vast sports stadium:
"Will the runners please report to the starting blocks. . . ."
CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story;" "Fraternity: A Journey in Search of Five Presidents;" and "Once Upon a Town: The Miracle of the North Platte Canteen."
Ruben Navarrette Jr.: Obama should thank Latinos