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Will Wilkinson:

AT THE national level, the result of yesterday's election could hardly be less interesting. Barack Obama remains president. The size of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives remains for all practical purposes unchanged. The Democrats did extend their majority in the Senate by two seats, but that still falls short of the number needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. If Americans truly desired an end to gridlock, you wouldn't know it from last Tuesday's results.
All of that is total nonsense, and buys into the intensely frustrating myth of the uniform popular will. There isn't one. I would be willing to bet that most people did want to end gridlock. And they expressed it by voting for the party they wanted to be in un-gridlocked power. Of course, it so happens that the two parties are pretty close, and representative democracy is subject to a lot of distortions (read: gerrymanders), and so there's no clear message that people wanted to end gridlock. But that's not because the people as a whole had some monolithic opinion which was basically happy with the status quo and so stuck to it. People wanted to change it, just in different directions!

Democracy is complicated. Elections are even more complicated. Nobody comes out with mandates, the election isn't really proof that any of the things - gay marriage, healthcare reform, stimulus, feminism - people have been touting are in fact grand election-winning ideas. There probably is no such thing as a grand election-winning idea, because it's all bigger and messier and more complex than that. And election results do not give us any insight onto the singular, overall 'view of the people' because there isn't one. People should stop writing articles about it.

(The post I'm quoting is actually pretty good, apart from that. And obviously narrow ballot measures about gay marriage or marijuana give much clearer messages about what the electorate thinks than broad representative elections, though still not as much as commentators might want to claim.)