Within days of winning the election, President Obama announced that his victory gave him a mandate to raise taxes on the "rich."
Come again? This was a two-and-a-half-point election. It reflected a painfully divided electorate. The only mandate I saw was to unite a divided country.
I voted for Obama. I voted for him because I know how hard it is to buy health insurance for a single person with even a minor pre-existing condition. In the case of my nanny/housekeeper/dear friend, it was gastritis. Thank God for Kaiser, which sold me the insurance that some years later saved her life when she was diagnosed with cancer. So call it what you will, but I did not want to see Obamacare repealed.
Years after I stopped worrying about unwanted pregnancies, I did not want to risk Roe v. Wade. I was appalled that contraception could even be an issue. I believe that whoever wants to marry should have a right to do so regardless of their sexual orientation. I voted for Obama because I worry about cutting back on environmental regulation.
I voted for Obama because I believe local schools need help from the federal government, because I believe we are one country, and that if there is an earthquake in California, we will need as much help from our fellow states — which is to say the federal government — as New York and New Jersey do in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
I voted for Obama because he ended the war in Iraq and is committed to ending the war in Afghanistan.
I did not vote for Obama because I think I am paying too little in taxes.
Like many people I know, I am "rich" by Obama's standards. I pay more taxes, percentage wise, than Mitt Romney and Warren Buffett, because I earn virtually every penny of my income. I work. And yes, all those deductions that allow the truly rich to not work, or at least to not work all the jobs I do, make me angry.
I am all for closing loopholes. I am all for ending deductions for things I don't even understand. But I am not for putting a low cap on deductions that would make it all but impossible for the charities I support to raise funds.
I am not for putting a limit on the mortgage deduction that would mean, as a practical matter, that "middle class" (not rich) people in California would be priced out of the housing market, and the charities I support would not be able to raise what they need to survive.
And frankly, I don't think I'm alone. As a matter of fact, on this one, I don't think 51 percent of all Americans are to my "left" — if that's how you define the higher tax constituency.
Obama needs to be very careful. Yes, he was re-elected. But so were all those folks who blocked the extension of the Bush tax cuts if they excluded individuals and small businesses who make enough money to qualify as rich — but not enough to send their kids to college, or help their aging parents, or buy a home in a decent neighborhood.
We need to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. But Obama must also avoid the political cliff.
One of the amazing things about this country is that the middle class doesn't hate the rich. We are not a society divided by economic castes. Yes, there are real issues as the gap between the top and the middle, between CEOs and those in good but not great jobs, grows.
But beginning a new term with what will look to many like a class war is not the way to fulfill the real mandate of this election, which is to bring us together, not turn us against each other.
Susan Estrich is a best-selling author whose writings have appeared in newspapers such as The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, and she has been a commentator on countless TV news programs. Read more reports from Susan Estrich — Click Here Now.