Democratic presidential candidate, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is intervened in the spin room after a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Among Democrats, there is one enduring knightly saint: former president Barack Obama. Largely spurred by some bizarre nostalgia for the Obama days, getting the endorsement of the former president would be the coup-de-grace in the politics of that party for any of the gaggle still legitimately in the running. After all, who would not want an endorsement from Saint Barack? Instead, the candidates are left jumping through hoops to grab a piece of that undeserved halo that Time magazine placed on his head all those years ago. And they are not only subtle about their pandering. Whether mimicking Obama on the campaign trail, harping on their membership in the Obama administration, overstating their cooperation with Obama, or running commercials implying a non-existent endorsement from the saint, it is all there for us to see.
Of course, this begs the question of why anyone would want to emulated Obama. It makes more sense when one considers the Democrats are paralyzed by a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome, consumed by hatred of the big bad orange man. Even Democrats who had become disillusioned with Obama by the time 2016 rolled around pine for those halcyon days. They would gladly welcome St. Barack back into the White House. But, that ain’t happening, so we are left with candidates trying to channel their best Obama and tap into that misplaced nostalgia.
Pete Buttigieg probably comes the closest in the analysis. He is young, has a short and not-very-prolific political background and he hails from the Midwest. Sure, he’s not black, but he is gay and the possibility of America’s first openly homosexual president is maybe more groundbreaking than America’s first black president. He shares two other things in common with Obama. First, he is the darling of hedge fund managers and Wall Street philanthropists. In 2008, Obama set a record for donations from Wall Street types, but Buttigieg is becoming Obama on steroids in this area. Second, most of the words out of Buttigieg’s mouth make as much sense as the amorphous “hope and change” repetitive nonsense that came from Obama’s mouth. Both have a knack for saying little with many words.
Of course, Biden was Obama’s sidekick for eight long, laborious years and one would think that he would have first shot at a piece of that halo. The fact Obama has failed to endorse his former vice president probably speaks louder volumes than Biden’s tweeting out a picture of Obama/Biden friendship bracelets. Biden loves to name-drop and it reeks of desperation. When you factor in the penchant for Biden gaffes like pondering life if Obama had been assassinated, or forgetting the name of the man you worked for for eight long, laborious years does not help Biden either.
Like a good soldier (ahem…panderer), Biden loves to defend Obama from incoming facts. However, that ploy only works for so long. As his chances for the nomination slowly recede into the sunset, the desperation has reached such peak levels that Biden even floated Michelle Obama as a possible VP selection while putting Barack on the Supreme Court. However, Obama had one thing Biden infinitely lacks: charisma. Obama’s biggest selling point was his oratorical and communication skills. What else explains his saintly status despite endless war, eight years of unfulfilled promises and economic stagnation. Biden and the phrase “oratorical and communication skills” just do not go together.
Bloomberg has his own problems in this area. In his previous incarnation, he was probably the most critical of Obama, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to hitch his star to Obama. Bloomberg spent $15 million on ads extolling the virtues of working with Obama to deny every American their Second Amendment rights. He even uses Obama’s voice in that commercial, suggesting some kind of pseudo-endorsement. Surprisingly, Obama has not said he isn’t endorsing Bloomberg. However, this appeal may ring hollow after more people learn of Bloomberg’s glee at throwing black kids face first into walls in New York City when he was mayor. Perhaps, money (and Bloomberg has some very deep pockets) heals all wounds because several former black Obama donors and supporters have fallen into the Bloomberg orbit. Or maybe it’s just good, old fashioned bribery. And how have the other Democrats responded? Not by attacking his record as mayor but by criticizing him for his newfound love of Obama.
Now, Bernie Sanders is a whole other story and the one who has not so openly hitched himself to the aura of Obama. It is probably an optic thing: a septuagenarian socialist Jewish dude from Vermont adopting an Obama-like dialect would go over like a lead balloon. But, they both did sing the praises of Cuba’s literacy programs, so there is that. And what does Sanders have to gain by going all Obama on the rest of the field? St. Barack publicly said he is not endorsing anyone until after the primaries and privately said he would “speak up to stop” Bernie from being the nominee.
So let’s end where this article began. The Democrats should be happy 2020’s version of Obama has yet to materialize. The fact is that despite the Trumpian nightmare they find themselves in, there was very little change under Obama to go with that never-materialized hope. Obama presided over a bank bailout (a crisis not to be wasted), taking two wars and turning them into seven, and disrupting an already dysfunctional one-sixth of the American economy by making it even more dysfunctional (Obamacare). These are hardly “achievements” a sane presidential candidate would attach themselves to under ordinary circumstances.
But, Americans love nostalgia and it appears Democrats love recent nostalgia the best. It also proves that this group of Democrat presidential wannabes are not at all sane, and these are not at all ordinary times.