April 22nd, 2017

Obama: follow the leader

An ex-aide to Obama has made this claim:

“I think Barack Obama is probably still the leader of the Democratic Party,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, who served as Obama’s deputy chief of staff for operations, said during a CNN interview.

That’s somewhat odd, although I think it’s true. More typically, the former president returns with relief to private life and keeps a low profile, while his place is taken over by new leaders—most likely the previous candidates or his former vice-president (sometimes that’s the same person), or the head of the party in one or other branch of Congress. They either run again next time or they become sort of place-holder leaders until the new one comes along and reveals him/herself.

But those people are not taking the lead right now:

Mastromonaco was asked about other figures on the left, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), declining to call them the Democratic Party’s leader.

“Bernie … I think if you ask Bernie he would say no,” she said.

“He even said he wasn’t a Democrat the other day,” she said, pointing to the Independent Vermont senator’s comments this week.

Bernie never was a Democrat. He’s still a bit too far to the left (and definitely too old), although the party has moved closer and closer to him in policy, and he joined up (unofficially) for appearance’s sake and to run for major office.

And Hillary Clinton? Done, far more done than Richard Nixon was when you didn’t have him to kick around anymore. And I believe Hillary knows it.

The former Obama aide added that she thought Perez would play a role in helping resolve the “Democrats’ identity crisis.”

It is partly an identity crisis—how far to the left will the Democratic Party go in order to appeal to voters it thinks it needs to get elected? And it’s partly a crisis caused by a streak of post-Obama losing, as well as Congressional and state losses while he was president. What’s more, it’s a somewhat similar crisis to the one that ended up propelling the more moderate, savvy, and young Democrat Bill Clinton (you remember him; Hillary’s spouse) to the top of a retooled Democratic Party some twenty-five years ago.

Obama reversed that moderation during the eight years he was president. He initially ran as a more moderate Democrat (although nowhere near as moderate as Bill had been) in rhetoric and policy. Then, in a slow but sure process, by the time he was in his second term and particularly the last half of his second term, when he was freed from all need to be re-elected, he wasn’t moderate in the least.

Obama made the Democratic Party what it is today. He was their leader, and he was successful in that he got elected twice and muscled through a lot of policies that moved the country to the left. But he did it in part on the power of his personality and on people’s desire to usher in a groundbreaking presidency in the racial sense. The Democrats were happy to follow him leftward, but they may have forgotten that when the king is gone there have to be successors. It’s not clear whether Obama has any, or if so, who they will be.

22 Responses to “Obama: follow the leader”

  1. Vanderleun Says:

    Another resume that is only skin deep.

  2. Daniel in Brookline Says:

    Frankly, if Obama wants to continue as the (unofficial) leader of the Democrat Party, that’s fine with me. There will be no room for new Democrat leaders, not while Obama is sucking up all the oxygen in the room.

    Perhaps eventually, a young Democrat will make a name for herself* by challenging Obama openly for leadership. That, at least, would be entertaining to watch.

    * the Democrat who takes on Obama could be a ‘him’, but at this point I doubt it.

  3. groundhog Says:

    I don’t know if he’s the leader, but no doubt he’s their number 1 fund raiser for now.

  4. groundhog Says:

    or will be.

  5. parker Says:

    Go for it barry, give us another 1000+ state legislative seats and another 5 governorships. Go barry go.

  6. AesopFan Says:

    I can’t think of any better way to keep the Democrats in a national minority for the next decade.

  7. John Guilfoyle Says:

    I think the air in the D party will be so full of 0 & the Clinton crime family that no one else will get any room to breathe.

    I’m ok with that.

    And if it means Warren, Sanders, Kaine, & Gabbard are in the dog fight ring next time around, I’m really ok with that.

    Please run your craziest & most left leaning.

  8. Yancey Ward Says:

    I don’t think Clinton thinks she is finished.

    I am laying the marker down right now- the Democratic primary in 2020 will be a death match between Hillary Clinton and Barack Michelle Obama.

    And a death match it will be.

  9. huxley Says:

    As an ex-San Franciscan I’ve got my eye on Kamala Harris. She’s half-black, half-Indian-American, a looker and current US Senator from California in Barabara Boxers’ old seat. She’s only 52.

    In 2020 she will have as much senatorial experience as Obama did in 2008.

    Democrats might get tired of their current Politburo bench of geriatric leadership and it’s clear they don’t mind a lightweight resume.


    Trump had better get the economy going.

  10. M J R Says:

    Writes neo, “Bernie never was a Democrat. He’s still a bit too far to the left . . . .”

    Bernie is what a large number of Democrats, probably a majority of Democrats, think and believe and feel. Bernie is where that large number want to head, and that large number know it — but just can’t say it out loud, because political viability.

  11. Trimegistus Says:

    I think it’s true — and I think it explains why Obama didn’t do much to help Mrs. Clinton during the campaign, and why he was quick to advise her to concede on Election Night.

    He is finally rid of the Clintons. (One can certainly sympathize.)

    More importantly, he can be the Pope of the Democrats for the next thirty years. He’ll be the one collecting seven-figure “speaking fees.” He’ll be the one courted by anyone who wants to run for office. He’ll be the one coordinating strategy.

    I wish him success at this; I really do. With Barack sucking the financial oxygen out of the room, undercutting potential rivals for adulation, and bringing his uniquely bad strategic insights to the table, the Democrats will lose power for another decade at least.

  12. Cornhead Says:

    The five thousand people in Omaha who attended a rally starring Bernie think it is Bernie. The rally was for the the Dem candidate for mayor of Omaha. Unbelievably the race is a national political proxy war. There is a chance Obama might show up here to get out the vote.

  13. huxley Says:

    Bernie is what a large number of Democrats, probably a majority of Democrats, think and believe and feel.

    M J R: I’d like to argue with you. But I can’t.

    It has long been clear Democrats accuse the Republicans of becoming extremists because Democrats don’t notice their own hard shift to the left.

    When Obama ran in 2008 it was considered wacko, talk radio propaganda to say Obama was a socialist. After he won Newsweek ran a cover saying, “We’re all socialists now.”

    Eight years later a real socialist gave Hillary Clinton a pitched battle, seemingly out of nowhere, which was a major factor in Clinton’s implosion as a candidate such that she managed to lose to Trump.

  14. Ray Says:

    When Obama said he wanted to fundamentally transform the US, most people didn’t realize he wanted to transform it into a third world banana republic. I live in one of the richest counties in Virginia and now we have beggars on the street corners.

  15. neo-neocon Says:

    M J R:

    I don’t think you understood what I meant, so I’ll make it more clear.

    The quote: “Bernie never was a Democrat.” In other words, Bernie never became a member of the Democratic Party (only briefly, in order to run on the Democratic ticket for president). Basically, his entire political life except for that brief and pragmatic detour into the Democratic Party was outside the Democratic Party. So I meant that literally. When he was a senator, he was an Independent. When he was governor of Vermont, he was an Independent as well. And he’s been very upfront up being a socialist for his whole political life (except for that presidential run, where he de-emphasized it somewhat).

    I also wrote: “He’s still a bit too far to the left” for the Democratic Party. It’s true. When he returned to the Senate after his 2016 presidential run, he went back to being an Independent. And one of the reasons he didn’t win the nomination in 2016 was that he lost to the more centrist candidate, Hillary. He was too far to the left of the Democratic Party most of his life to be its leader, and until very recently he still was (I maintain that the events of 2016 indicated that he still is too far to the left).

    That doesn’t mean that in recent years there hasn’t been a move of the Democrats towards him. There has. But he’s still not their leader.

  16. Sam L. Says:

    I agree with Daniel in Brookline.

  17. M J R Says:

    neo-neocon, 6:41 pm — “And one of the reasons he didn’t win the nomination in 2016 was that he lost to the more centrist candidate, Hillary.”

    Thanks for the clarification, even as I think I did know where you were coming from. I do know and recognize that he has always been an independent — in his case, *socialist* — except for his brief 2016 foray into the Democrat Party (he always did caucus with them).

    I agree that that’s “one of the reasons” [above]. But another reason was the Democrat establishment deck was heavily stacked against him, because “Hillary!”. We don’t know whether he’d actually have captured the nomination facing a level playing field, but I think his chances would have been much, much greater, minus the superdelegates and minus all that establishment hardball thrown at him.

    I note that you referred to Hillary as “the more centrist candidate,” and it’s true as far as it goes. Hillary’s statism/socialism was a more corporate statism/socialism, whereas Bernie’s was more populist. Even so, yes, I agree that Hillary was “more centrist” than Bernie, but you and I may disagree over just how much so. Hillary’s instincts as well as world view were definitely statist/socialist (“it takes a village”); I for one am not convinced she evolved politically *that* much from her Wellesley College days.

    She was more willing to do what seemed politically doable now, and Bernie was more the radical, gleefully forcing the populace to accept the statism/socialism he would have forcibly rammed down their throats.

    I credit your judgment (of course), but it still strikes me that “Bernie is where that large number [who ‘think and believe and feel’ as does Bernie] want to head, and that large number know it — but just can’t say it out loud, because political viability.”

  18. huxley Says:

    I’m still gobsmacked — to use an old Andrew Sullivan tic — Bernie emerged as a serious candidate and sideswiped Hillary hard enough to help drive her into the ditch.

    Once upon a time in America it was death to serious political ambitions to be associated with socialism. Thus Democrats considered that charge against Obama in 2008 to be a blood libel.

    But like so many stances Democrats trot out to show they are tough on communism or support traditional marriage, it’s all a sham which will be discarded in a hot New York minute if the winds change.

  19. huxley Says:

    It’s fun to think of Obama as the Barzini character from the Godfather secretly masterminding everything.

    I don’t doubt Obama will try, is trying. But I don’t think it will work.

    Obama’s magic touch was his cool, smart, black persona. However, he was never a mastermind, as we can see by how just about everything he did blew up or elected more Republicans or sold more guns.

    If I may mourn a bit of my past — it took another little piece of my heart to see Bruce Springsteen and his wife on David Geffen’s yacht with Obama and Michelle.

  20. M J R Says:

    huxley, 1:15 am — “But like so many stances Democrats trot out to show they are tough on communism or support traditional marriage, it’s all a sham which will be discarded in a hot New York minute if the winds change.”


  21. huxley Says:

    Testing. Now I can’t comment in Gap-Toothed.

  22. huxley Says:

    That got through. Dunno. I’ll check back in later.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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