In 2008, a young, unknown, fresh-faced Democratic presidential candidate named Barack Obama routinely attracted tens of thousands of people to his campaign rallies. He energized Americans eager to move on from the George W. Bush years with his “Yes, We Can” sloganeering.
On Oct. 24 in Miami, Obama spoke before a sterile and lifeless parking lot on behalf of 2020 Democrat nominee Joe Biden, awkwardly asking his vehicle-encased audience members to “honk if you’re fired up. Honk if you’re ready to go.” The comedown was complete.
Obama Came, Hillary Lost
Perhaps chastened by experience, a friendly establishment media apparatus isn’t hailing Obama this time around as the ace-in-the-hole closing weapon he was loudly touted to be in 2016. Still president four years ago, Obama’s allegedly high approval rankings and his eight years of “achievement” were painted as a potent force primed to catapult Democrat Hillary Clinton over the top. Obama scoured the country, making stops in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania on one day alone – Nov. 7, the eve of the election – a breathless New York Times gushingly detailed.
“Whatever credibility I’ve earned after eight years as president,” the Times reported Obama as telling voters in Ann Arbor, Michigan, “I am asking you to trust me on this one.”
Here’s how ABC News described things in the final days of that election:
Obama is spending every day this week crisscrossing the map to stump for Clinton in key battleground states, and her campaign is capitalizing on his strong approval numbers, which are the highest they’ve been since the early days of his presidency. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll put his approval rating at 58 percent…. Obama is spending two days this week in the battleground of North Carolina and making stops in the swing states of Florida and Ohio.
And then Hillary lost. Not only that, she lost five of the six “battleground” states touted by ABC and The New York Times as part of the Big Obama Blitz. Only New Hampshire went blue, hardly a surprise for a New England state.
2016 decisively proved that Barack Obama does not move the needle anymore. Trotting him out again in 2020 should therefore be seen as nothing but another dab of nostalgia on the part of a Biden campaign that seems far more comfortable dwelling on the past than it does dealing with the harsh new political realities of post-2016 America.
Can’t Walk the New Terrain
Like him or loathe him, Donald Trump’s victory four years ago marked a stark dividing point away from a consensus establishment that had dominated presidential elections since 1988 while hiding behind illusory red and blue option markers. It is vital to realize that Obama’s entire conception of politics exists on the pre-2016 side of this Trump divide. It is a world where his two former Republican rivals, John McCain and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), are far more closely tied to himself and Joe Biden than to the current sitting GOP president.
Obama never meant to destroy this cozy establishment; he meant to radicalize it. Numerous former key members of his administration are embedded in the executive offices of suddenly ultra-Woke corporate America today, and Obama and his wife Michelle have a lucrative working arrangement with streaming video entertainment goliath Netflix. The Obama Foundation, set up by the former president after leaving office, is rife with cozy corporate donor ties.
Over sixty million Americans voted for Trump in 2016 because they are thoroughly sick of this form of politics. It is a sentiment fully shared, though in a significantly different way, by many on the progressive left. If you do not understand this cultural sentiment, you do not understand American politics today.
In reality, only Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whether deservedly or not, fit the new mold of post-2016 politics among the top candidates in the overextended field of 2020 Democratic primary contenders. That Sanders squandered his advantage by kowtowing to leftist talking points on race and other divisive social issues shows how flawed a post-2016 contender he truly was.
Obama belongs in the pre-2016 world. He does not fit 2020 politics. That his party has since chosen two careerists who epitomize the term “politics as usual” as its presidential nominees speaks volumes to the absolute absurdity of any claims that this man was ever a “change agent” of any sort when it came to how the Swamp operates.
The populist nationalism of Donald Trump has brought crucial issues squarely to the fore; fair trade with communist superpower China, global trade, immigration policies that protect the American worker, and an end to U.S. military adventurism overseas.
Biden has struggled to clarify his positions on these topics, which the political establishment was mostly able to safely keep tamped down during its halcyon Uniparty days. His campaign swings from mimicking Trump’s working-class populist approach at one moment to falling back on trite globalist talking points about “hiding from the world” at others.
But Obama seems totally incapable of seriously addressing them at all. Instead, four years later, he continues to put forth the lazy “zinger” that Trump doesn’t care about the presidency. In the process, the former commander in chief avoids the roiling problems that propelled the populist outsider into the White House in the first place. In fact, Trump made his preceding administration irrelevant in the eyes of most Americans today.
“Donald Trump, I knew he would not embrace my vision,” Obama told the parking lot in Miami. “I knew he wasn’t going to continue my policies, but I did hope that for the country’s sake, he’d show at least a little bit of interest in taking the job seriously. That’s not how it worked out.”
You’ve no doubt heard it before. It’s boilerplate Obama when discussing Trump, and it is a statement utterly devoid of meaning in a country so ideologically divided. They are the words of a man who does not understand the political climate of today. Barack Obama is a spent force.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.