Let me get this straight: Barack Obama was a problem for Democrats? I pose this question because in the candidate-a-palooza over two nights of debates on CNN, you may have noticed a lot of hand grenades being hurled at the 44th President. Yes, they were kind of wrapped in gauze, but they were explosive nonetheless.
His approach to addressing crime, deporting undocumented immigrants, organized labor, trade deals; it was all battered by Democrats vying to win the chair he held only a few years ago. They generally did not use Obama’s name, but everyone knew what they meant, and frankly it was kind of weird. This is No Drama Obama we’re talking about here. Hope. Change. Health care. Fighting our way of the Great Recession. Last year, a CNN poll found Democrats giving him a 97 percent approval rating. The current occupant of the White House has fever dreams of such numbers.
So what happened? Two things.
The first is President Donald Trump. As Trump has steadily gone about scouring away all hints of Obama’s legacy – the rules, regulations, laws, and policies – he has convinced progressive Democrats of something they always suspected. Obama was not bold enough. Many progressives now seem to believe, Obama should have established such far-reaching, transformative, iron-clad changes in government that no raging Republican could so easily erase them. Never mind that such moves were probably politically impossible at the time.
The second? Joe Biden. The former vice president and current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination has the single most legitimate claim to the Obama record. He was in the meetings. He helped shape the strategies. He used his relationship with Congress, forged over many years, to turn some of Obama’s legislative dreams into reality. The other contenders know if they play it politically safe and respectfully bow to all that work, Biden could ride his advantage in the polls like a thoroughbred all the way to the convention.
To be sure, it’s risky for any of them to take swipes at Obama, and you can expect lot of professions of respect to follow each attack. But the attacks will keep coming – at least as long Obama’s old running mate remains out front.