The Democrats’ assault on the Obama legacy is a disaster.
Amongst the talk of health care, border security, and Clorox, there seems to be one thing candidates all agree on; that hitting Obama is OK.
Let’s clarify. It isn’t OK. Electorally speaking it’s about the dumbest things candidates can do. Second only perhaps to a bare chested bar brawl between Biden and Bernie.
Firstly, and most simply, they should understand just how popular Obama is (still). In May 2019, CBS/YouGov concluded that 91% of Democrats nation wide thought his presidency was either excellent or good. On the other hand, only 2% thought it was poor.
The same polling company also found that across the country 57% of people approved of him and that Obama is, unequivocally, the ‘most popular Democrat’. Moreover, there is evidence to show Obama is becoming more popular as time goes on. Real Clear Politics puts his approval at 57.2%, experiencing a near 10 point increase in his final year in office. And finally, when Trump travelled to Britain earlier this year, they were all too happy to remind him of well his predecessor is viewed across the pond.
The former president is also described by fans as: Intelligent, Presidential, a good speaker, stands up for ordinary people and a leader. I’m sure the current crop would go to the end of the earth to be seen like that!
Well, maybe not actually. Because for some, they look at those ratings, that popularity, and those character traits and say no. No, I do not want me or my party to be associated with that. Don’t be so silly.
Why, I ask, can anyone seriously think like that? And even if they do think it, why do they think saying it out loud will enhance their chances of becoming the party’s successor to Obama?
The second reason why targeting Obama is so foolish is a bit more nuanced. During this week’s debates leading candidates lashed out at colleagues for using ‘Republican talking points’ (both Booker and Harris used some derivation of that line). Bernie even interrupted moderator, Jake Tapper to tell him his ‘question is a Republican talking point’. (P.S. enjoy that video!)
By attacking Obama, Democrats are doing exactly what they appear so desperate to avoid. They are giving credit to Trump when he essentially conducts 2020 rallies as re-runs of his 2016 campaign where he attacks Clinton and Obama. Here, Democrats are the ones who are using Republican talking points. Trump might want to pretend either one of those two candidates is on the ballot, but that doesn’t mean Democrats have to make the same foolish mistake.
Thirdly, the approach of attacking Obama stinks of a strategy that is trying to be too smart. Joe Biden is the front-runner, they might think — Biden is heavily tied to Obama’s administration — so therefore we must go after Obama. Hang on, Biden received the biggest knock in his polling after the first debate, when he was challenged by Harris on bussing; a policy that occurred decades ago, long before he served Obama. Democrats don’t need this weird three step move whereby they use Obama as a surrogate for Biden. They are not running against Obama, they’re running against someone much, much worse.
Democrats have three years of law breaking, tax avoiding, justice obstructing, sexual assaulting, race hating, subpoena avoiding, dictator worshipping, Russian conspiring that they can target. They are fighting an administration which prides itself in gross nepotism, gross negligence, and gross incompetence. If that’s not enough ammunition then the party is in a worse state than I thought.
As the image of Trump’s Presidency, and by extension, the Republicans’ writ-large, falls further and further into the gutter, the Obama years need to be used as a shining light of leadership. It is all too easy to forget quite how different the two men and their administrations are. Trump cannot become the new normal. For the sake of the party that is important. But for the sake of general decency it is even more important that we do not assimilate the horror of Trump with the hope of Obama.
What concerns me is that if some Democrats think the way to gain support at this stage is to attack the only Democratic president this side of the millennium; one that successfully won them two terms; and yes, one that was the first African American, then the party is in for a long, painful, and ultimately losing cycle. Democrats rightfully condemn Trump’s desire to divide and rule, yet they themselves are wrongly looking to the Obama years as a source of discord and disunity.
The party already has an over-size oaf in an ill-fitted suited to aim at. They don’t need to turn the gun on themselves.