Leading from behind
Obama is said to be planning a return to the public stage this fall in a move that has some Democrat strategists concerned. Unwanted as the “face” of the Democratic Party and unwilling to be the “foil” for Republicans, Obama is expected to campaign for candidates in deep blue territory and to fund-raise.
Town Hall reported last month:
The savior is returning. Barack Obama may get back into the trenches to help his party, which was widely expected, especially with the midterm season upon us. The former president is reportedly having regular check-ins with Democratic Party leaders, with speculation that he’s aiming to rebuild the party he helped destroy over the course of his presidency.
The era of the permanent Democratic majority that was talked about pervasively post-2008 crashed and burned after the 2010 midterms. Democrats passed a $1 trillion stimulus that didn’t do much and Obamacare saddled the middle class with skyrocketing premiums, less competition, and less choice. Most importantly, it was sold to the American voter as a lie. Remember if you like your plan/doctor, you can keep it under Obamacare? Well, you couldn’t keep your plan, nor could you keep your doctor.
Since Obama’s presidency, the Democratic Party has been decimated across the country. The GOP now controls two-thirds of the governorships, the White House, Congress, and 69/99 state legislatures. They’re the dominant political force in the country.
That Republicans are the “dominant political force in the country” doesn’t sit with well Obama, so he’s plotting his return and his strategy for rebuilding the Democrat party.
As usual, he’ll be leading from behind.
Former President Barack Obama will re-emerge on the national scene this fall, though Democrats expect him to do so with caution.
One aide describes the beginning of a “delicate dance” that aims to put Obama in the Democratic fray but prevents him from remaining the face of the party.
Aides will huddle with Obama in the coming weeks to plot out what shape the former president’s fall schedule will take. Advisers close to him say that while he will play an active role in helping his party rebuild, much of his work will be behind the scenes.
He is likely to take on fundraising, for example, something he has done for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee since leaving office.
. . . . “He’ll tread lightly because he is not going to be the face of the party when it actually counts in 2020 and 2024,” Jillson said. “So the extent to which he would emerge and speak to a wide range of issues would preclude the emergence of someone else. They must find a standard-bearer for future elections, and I think he can at least in the short term suck up all the available oxygen.”
Obama’s been meeting with the DNC chairman and lawmakers over the past few months, but he is wary of becoming a foil for President Trump and Republicans.
The Hill continues:
The Hill reported in July that he met with DNC Chairman Tom Perez as well as lawmakers at his office to give his guidance on a number of issues.
But advisers to the former president acknowledge he also doesn’t want to be “a foil” – as one top ally put it – for President Trump and the Republican leadership.
In recent months, Trump blamed Obama for doing “nothing” about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. He also taunted him for never coming to a Boy Scout jamboree and went after his policies on everything from healthcare to Cuba and North Korea.
Obama has chosen to remain silent. And even during the recent healthcare fight over his signature legislation, for example, he sought to keep a low profile.
“He has to be careful,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “At a moment when President Trump’s approval is falling so fast – including with his base – there is a risk for Obama taking center stage and triggering the energy that many Republicans currently lack.”
“He would be the target against which Trump would direct his fury,” said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “From Trump’s perspective nothing better could happen.”
Jillson said that a light Obama footprint on the national stage could allow breathing room for future Democratic leaders to emerge.
It’s quite interesting that both Obama and Democrats recognize that the party needs to be rebuilt; it’s not clear that Obama or Democrats understand how and why their party was decimated in the first place.
It’s long been noted that Obama’s “coalition” of voters wasn’t transferable to other Democrat candidates. And in another tacit admission that Obama’s endorsements will get one only so far, one Democrat strategist explains that while Obama can draw a crowd, he won’t be any help getting actual votes.
The Hill continues:
Democratic strategist David Wade added that “it’s a great moment for President Obama to emerge.”
“Unlike many of his recent predecessors, he left office without scandal and with high approval ratings,” Wade said. “And with the incumbent president in the White House bogged down by investigation and deep unpopularity, the contrast is helpful.
“Pundits are always going to overthink and overanalyze the pros and cons of having a former president on the campaign trail, but the truth is, there’s little downside. He has unique convening powers to draw a crowd, energize Democrats, make a closing argument, and then it is up to candidates to close the deal.”
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