Late last year President Obama expressed confidence that a majority of the American people would have given him a third term had he ran for reelection. Not surprisingly, President-elect Donald Trump promptly disagreed.
Is Obama right?
Hillary Clinton ran as the President’s heir-apparent, embracing Obama’s legacy and promising to continue many of his policies. In short, Americans understood that a Clinton White House would be – by and large – an extension of the President’s.
Her message worked (sort of): Clinton won the popular vote. By doing so, she accomplished Obama’s goal of convincing a majority of voters to support his third term.
But American democracy doesn’t work that way. Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the Electoral College. How could that have happened? Consider that Republicans won more votes than Democrats in the House (63.1 million to 61.7 million).
That’s how we lost our Blue Wall.
Simply put, the 2016 election came down to an electorate desiring change. Clinton’s promise of four more years didn’t fit the bill. Americans chose a TV entertainer instead.
Still, it’s impossible to know whether another Obama ticket could have changed hearts and minds. And frankly, I don’t care. As a frustrated Democrat, I’m more interested in asking whether we would have wanted him to run again in the first place.
For a moment, set aside the debate about Obama’s domestic and foreign policy record. Focus instead on his eight years as Democrat in Chief, where his singular goal was to leave the party stronger than how he found it.
The result? Democrats are in a weaker position today than at any point in nearly 100 years. Republicans control 32 State Legislatures, 33 Governorships, the U.S. House, Senate, and – now – the Presidency.
And it’s a trend that started happening well before the 2016 wipeout.
While the President’s a good man, he is a terrible manager. He simply lost control of the Democratic National Committee, hiring a cast of leaders that delivered embarrassment instead of good candidates. Case in point: our current chairwoman, Donna Brazile, was caught in a cheating scandal and then lied about it on national TV; she claimed “persecution” as “a Christian woman.”
Disagree with that assessment? Consider Senator Harry Reid’s (D-NV) take on the DNC. He recently called it “worthless.”
Still, Smart Democrats understand that it’s time to focus on the future. We accept our electoral defeat; we offer no excuses. We’re willing to work with President-elect Trump on areas of mutual concern like building infrastructure and taking a tougher line with China. Meanwhile, we’re presenting common sense solutions that show the American people how we’d govern if given the chance.
Yet our task is made all the more difficult by a President who should understand that words matter. From his inspiring convention speech to his address in Cairo, Obama is a gifted orator who can electrify audiences. Why then would he engage in a pointless conversation about winning a third term? It’s a distraction that’s not even constitutionally allowed.
We have no time to dillydally. In less than a month, the American people expect us to serve as a faithful opposition.
Fair or not, Monday’s interview with President Obama showed that even the best of us can waste our talents on foolish chatter. It’s a disappointing footnote to eight years of great promise.
It’s time for the party – and the country – to move on.
Bryan Dean Wright is a former CIA ops officer and member of the Democratic Party. He contributes on issues of politics, national security, and the economy. Follow him on Twitter @BryanDeanWright.