For eight years, the Democratic Party mistook Barack Obama’s popularity for a sweeping national embrace of “progressive values.” In the meantime, Obama – who probably knew better all along – was happy to ignore the longterm health of the party. As long as he was winning elections and securing a place for his name in the history books, he was more than happy to watch Democrats flounder in the face of his radical agenda. Crushing midterm defeats in 2010 and 2014 hurt Obama’s ability to actually DO anything to advance that agenda, but apparently neither he nor the party leadership woke up to the obvious. Not until it was too late. Not until Hillary Clinton was crying in her cognac.
All of this has been pointed out by conservative pundits in the past, but only now are some top officials in the Democratic Party picking up on just how much damage Obama’s apathy did to their political structure.
“Look I’m a great fan of President Obama,” said Rep. Keith Ellison, the new deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee. “I totally voted for many of the things he supported — Dodd Frank, Affordable Care Act, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — I could keep going. Wonderful achievements. But Barack Obama could have been a better party leader, and I think the fact that he wasn’t put his legacy in jeopardy.”
It’s not quite clear what Ellison means with that last part. Does he mean that Obama hurt his own legacy because he will be remembered as a president who abandoned his party? Or does he mean that by abandoning his party, he left his legacy to Donald Trump and the Republicans, who will probably not care for it the same way it would have been cared for by Hillary Clinton? Maybe there’s not much difference between the two when you really get down to the grit of it.
Truth be told, though, Democrats have been dealing with this problem for a long time now. They get a surge of power when they have a charismatic, unique candidate like Obama or (Bill) Clinton. If they have anyone at the top of the ticket who isn’t a magician of public speaking and PR, however, things start to fall apart. The liberal agenda goes down like cherry Robitussin when voters hear it from a mediocre politician like (Hillary) Clinton. You can only sell it to the American people when it’s properly hidden behind words like “Hope and Change.” Short of cultivating another young, wide-eyed liberal like himself, Obama probably couldn’t do much more for the party than he actually did.
Well, he could have done a good job as president, we suppose, but now we’re getting into fantasyland.