Elections Are Referendums….Only When They’re Not

The emerging narrative from Democrats and those in the mainstream press on Kathy Hochul’s upset win in the NY-26 special election this week is that this race was a referendum on Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan for Medicare. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaimed that “the people of America resoundly spoke in rejecting the Republican plan to end Medicare” and New York Senator Chuck Schumer declared that “…[T]his election was a strong referendum…”


But remember back in 2010 when Scott Brown captured Ted Kennedy’s seat and Republicans handed President Obama a midterm “shellacking” over his unpopular health care reform legislation? Democrat leaders were singing a different tune then:

“Well, I think that this election was about 9.5 percent unemployment. It wasn’t a referendum on health care reform.” –House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, NPR (01/05/2011)

“This is a choice, a clear choice, not a referendum.” –Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, Meet the Press (10/31/2010)

“I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.” –President Barack Obama (11/03/2011)

“The election [to fill Edward Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts] on Tuesday was a message that we need to focus on jobs and the economy. It definitely was not a referendum on health care reform.” –Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (02/05/2010)

“[T]he Republicans would like this to be a referendum. It’s not going to be a referendum.” –White House advisor David Axelrod, National Journal (01/11/2010)


So for those on the left, elections are only referendums when they win.


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