Barack Obama is not in office any longer, but the former president is doing what he can behind the scenes to rebuild the Democratic Party after devastating losses at the ballot box. According to sources with The Hill, the 44th president is meeting regularly with top Democratic lawmakers at his West End office and over the phone regarding the future of their party.
Obama is meeting, for example, on a by-request basis with new Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez. The topic of conversation between the two men usually pertains to the direction of the party. The former president holds regular “check-ins” with Perez to make sure everything is going OK.
Obama has also met with freshman Sen. Chris Van Hollen and many other congressmen over the months since leaving office. Considered adept at messaging, the Hawaiian native has spoken extensively with Democrats on how to communicate policy with the public.
Like most former presidents, Obama has kept a relatively low-profile since vacating the White House. Besides remaining in D.C. to let his daughter finish high school, he has not been very public in the political scene. However, that may change very soon. He has agreed to hit the fundraising circuit for Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, this fall (Northam asked Obama to help his campaign reach millennial and African-American voters). Also, the Illinois Democrat will be working more extensively with former attorney general Eric Holder on battling alleged GOP gerrymandering across the country.
Obama hasn’t been totally quiet since becoming a private citizen. He made a public statement decrying the GOP healthcare bill not long ago. He also gave then-candidate for the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron, his endorsement – Macron went on to win his election in a landslide. Regarding work with the Obama Foundation, he has also recently met with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Democratic Party took a beating last election cycle. According to most polling, they were supposed to keep the White House and win back the Senate. Neither happened. Thanks in part to Trump’s shattering of the electoral “blue wall,” Democrats lost in a stunning upset. They failed to hold the Oval Office, did not win the Senate chamber, lost more gubernatorial seats and state legislative chambers. The party, left without a designated leader, is in disarray.
Obama is now trying to help pick up the pieces. But is he the best person for the job?
The former president left office with a hefty 60 percent approval rating – not bad. He even boasted that he’d win a third term if given a chance. While he may have some room to brag about himself, Obama’s coattails are certainly nothing to be proud of.
Obama entered office in 2009 with Democratic Party domination in D.C. His party controlled the House, Senate and majority of gubernatorial seats. All of that collapsed under his eight-year tenure. Senate seats fell from 55 to 46; House seats dropped from from 256 seats to 193; once controlling 28 gubernatorial seats, there are now just 16 Democratic governors left in office; countless state legislative seats have also fallen out of Democratic hands in the past eight years. Altogether, the Democratic Party lost over 1,000 seats under Obama’s presidential tenure. I wouldn’t call that stellar leadership.
Obama may know how to win elections for himself, but maybe Democrats should look elsewhere for advice.