Quite predictably, some pundits in big media are spinning the Republican takeover of the Senate as telling us that America wants President Obama's policies to be more Republican, whatever that might mean. Some of these voices are now going to demand that President Obama should do whatever Republicans say he should do on the budget and taxes, immigration and energy, trade and foreign policy, because of the election.
I will leave to others the question of whether there is a new Republican mandate to cut Social Security benefits, or to deport more undocumented Americans who have committed no crime in the United States, or to block efforts to curb U.S. carbon emissions in order to do our share to protect the climate, or to ram through more secretive trade agreements, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, that increase corporate power at the expense of public interests like labor rights, environmental protection, and access to essential medicines.
I will limit myself to this: there is no Republican mandate for more war.
It's true that some Republican candidates tried to use the "ISIS crisis" to portray Democrats as "weak on national security." But these Republicans haven't yet been forced to put forward and defend any specific "more aggressive" alternative policy in the court of public opinion. It's one thing to say that you think the president is doing a bad job confronting ISIS. It's quite another to be forced to say what exactly you would do differently.
Do these Republicans want to see U.S. ground troops engaged in combat against ISIS in Iraq and Syria? If so, let them say so on the record; let them introduce and vote for an authorization of force for Iraq and Syria that includes the use of ground combat troops.
Do these Republicans want to see the U.S. expand its bombing targets in Syria from ISIS and Nusra to include the military forces of the Syrian government? If so, let them say so on the record; let them introduce and vote for an authorization of force for Iraq and Syria that includes targeting the military forces of the Syrian government.
Do these Republicans want to see the U.S. engage in military action in Iraq and Syria indefinitely? If so, let them say so on the record; let them introduce and vote for an authorization of force for Iraq and Syria that includes no time limit.
Do these Republicans want to scuttle any diplomatic agreement with Iran on curtailing its nuclear program, setting the U.S. on the path to yet another Middle East war? If so, let them say so on the record; let them say openly in front of the American people that they prefer war with Iran to a negotiated agreement on constraining Iran's nuclear program.
The best way to thwart big media spin that Republicans have a mandate for more war is to force Republicans onto the record on whether they support or oppose specific "more war" policies where the American people can see it.
That's why it's crucial that Congress debate and vote on a sustained combat role for U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, including whether that role should include combat troops, and who should be targeted.
That's why it's crucial that key Democrats speak up in favor of a negotiated agreement to constrain Iran's nuclear program - to force Republicans to say whether they support a negotiated agreement or not, and if not, to say whether their proposed alternative is more war.