The American electorate gave Barack Obama a mulligan. Clearly, I was wrong a few months ago when I wrote that the election was about the economy, health care, Social Security and taxes. After months of personal attacks and straw man arguments by the president and his supporters, this election turned into a referendum on social policy.
And that's exactly why the president has no governing mandate for his second term.
With the economy ranked as the top concern for likely voters, pre-election polls indicated that far more people believed Mitt Romney would better handle the economy than Barack Obama. Based on historical precedent and conventional wisdom, the president was a sitting duck.
Annual income dropped $4,300 for the average middle class family during President Obama's first term. At least 23 million Americans are looking for work, and one in every six people is living in poverty. And 47 million people are on food stamps, a 50 percent increase, since Obama took office. Such irrefutable facts were irrelevant as the votes were tallied.
To a large degree, President Obama owes his re-election to the mainstream media. With their help, Obama avoided a critique of his record in office.
Among many things, he was not accountable for workforce shrinkage, $6 trillion in new federal debt, a resurgence in militant Islam, or not attempting to prevent the murder of Americans in Libya. Obama didn't have to provide answers on Benghazi or offer a real plan to deal with jobs, deficit spending or energy development.
On the contrary, the Obama campaign was allowed to shift the focus to government-funded birth control, legalized gay marriage and voter identification. Republicans were cast as villains engaged in a war on women, gays and minorities.
Regardless of what he was trying to say, Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin's highly-publicized statement about "legitimate rape" lent credibility to such accusations.
The coup d'etat was Team Obama's characterization of Mitt Romney as a corporate felon with disdain for the 47 percent of Americans who are beneficiaries of a vast array of government programs.
No Democrat argued that the number hadn't risen to 47 percent during President Obama's tenure. They simply shouted, "Yeah, and Romney wants to take all that away from you so he can give tax cuts to the rich!" With media amplification, the message resonated.
Proof is in the exit polls. Over 40 percent of those surveyed said Obama would provide the most help for the middle class. About 35 percent said the same about Romney. This is striking, since only 43 percent believe America's best days lie ahead as Barack Obama prepares to serve a second term as president. And a post-election survey revealed that less than 25 percent think today's children will be better off than their parents. That's not a mandate.
In truth, the exit poll results illustrate a regrettable response to economic adversity that is spreading throughout the nation.
Voters didn't give President Obama a second term because they believe his ideology of government expansion and reduced individual liberty will grow the American economy. President Obama was re-elected because a majority decided economic stagnation is the new normal and they are better off with a government that provides for them.
Gov. Romney offered a plan for America with an unfettered free market, patient-centered health care, sustainable entitlement programs and lower taxes. Such circumstances would stimulate job creation, reduce reliance on government and empower individuals to choose and work toward their destinies.
The Romney vision was rejected in favor of the Democratic Party's promise that government will be the great equalizer for the middle class. President Obama's team convinced a majority of voters that the nation is rigged against them and government dependency is the cure. Not once during the campaign did the president promote individual liberty or the merits of working for the American dream.
It seems the United States of America has reached a crossroads. As it stands, relatively few citizens actually pay for the government they consume. Now half the country voted to send Obama back to the White House to make sure the money keeps coming from the other half of the population.
Take a mulligan on that hope and change, Mr. President, and keep spreading the wealth.
As the saying goes, democracy will survive until people figure out they can vote themselves money.
"Right Angles" appears on the third Tuesday of the month. James D. Kellogg of New Castle is a professional engineer, the author of the novel E-Force, and the founder of LiberTEAWatch.com. Visit JamesDKellogg.com or email jamesdkellogg@ yahoo.com.