A masterclass taught by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. (Elected Democrats and Democratic aspirants to office in 2020, take notes.)
As the Trump show goes on around them, newly-elected Democrats, veteran Democratic leadership, and 2020 presidential hopefuls are being increasingly drawn in to a circular firing squad.
At a time when it is more important than ever for Democrats to fight back-to-back against a near-constant bombardment from President Trump, that Democrats are instead turning against each other is sending the public a message that might be even louder than Trump’s.
There have been friendly fire incidents everywhere on the Democratic side, damaging reputations, relationships, and reelection chances alike.
Congressional members have been badmouthing each other on Twitter. A campaign staffer openly, and savagely, criticized a sitting member of their own party. There have been accusations of racism leveled against Democratic leadership. Alarms about growing anti-Semitism in the party are beginning to sound. Democratic plans don’t seem to be ready for primetime, and they don’t reflect the will of the electorate.
No one has emerged as a clear successor to former President Barack Obama.
Public confidence in Trump seems to be eroding, but Democrats aren’t polling much better. Trump may be losing on immigration, but Democrats aren’t exactly winning.
Trump, whose approval ratings should be much higher considering the strong economy, seems to be alienating moderates and independents with his outbursts on Twitter, whether they are planned or unplanned.
Democrats, whose approval ratings should be much higher considering Trump, seem to be alienating moderates and independents with a far-left ideological laundry list of grievances that will definitely raise taxes on the middle class, if nothing else.
The public infighting can’t be helping much, either.
One of the the main problems is that social-media savvy Democrats have become almost too adept at whipping their fans into a frenzy on Twitter. Twitter likes it when people rage against the machine. Twitter does not like it when people compromise with the machine. That’s boring because everybody does it.
Of course your fans won’t like it. No one cares about the paperwork. That’s why no one watches CNN.
But the newly elected are perhaps misunderstanding the delicately balanced two-roles of the new career they have chosen.
One role, is campaigning: The other, is legislating. Never the twain shall meet.
Meaning, everyone is allowed to say whatever they like about their political opponents during campaign season, the ones they face in the primary and in the general election.
But after the dust settles on Election Day, you better cool it.
Those people you lambasted are now your colleagues, your co-workers; you need them. They are also professionals, and professionals treat each other with respect when they disagree.
They do so out of deference to the office they hold, for the country they serve, for the people they represent. Not because they like it, not because they’ve ‘sold out’, not for personal gain. Not for the benjamins.
They work with those with whom they disagree because compromise and respect are the only way anything gets done in a Democracy, which, gratefully, we are still living in.
If you want to see two masters at work, take a look at Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama as they vied for the Democratic nomination in 2008.
2008 Time Machine
It was the best of times to be a Democrat, it was the best of times.
Our post-industrial, seventh-generation technological world was humming along nicely. Americans were dead-tired of Republicans, the Bush years, the war years, the recession years. Hope and change were something people in the U.S. craved. Kind of like now.
The time was ripe for a Democratic President, and the DNC wasn’t completely unaware of that fact. The DNC also had a solid plan; an heir apparent: The first female President of the United States.
And about time, too.
Hillary Clinton was in 2008 an experienced female candidate, with great name recognition, prepared to go the distance with a strong fundraising arm, a ready-built campaign machine, and an experienced statesman and former President, Bill Clinton, to help her every step of the way.
Not that she needed it.
But in 2008, having former President Bill Clinton on your campaign team must have seemed like a secret weapon, the ultimate insider. Who better than a man who had already won two-terms? Everyone loves a sure thing.
Enter one Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. A one-term Democratic senator with no name-recognition, a community organizer, and a stunningly charismatic speaker, Obama leapt off the page of potential Democratic nominees for President. He almost instantly eclipsed John Edwards, who was also making a bid. Soon his star rose even higher than that of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
When Clinton’s hold on the nomination started slipping, things got ugly.
She didn’t start it, but she didn’t stop the birther bandwagon so much as climb aboard it. Hillary Clinton wanted to win. And Barack Obama wasn’t some venerated liberal superstar above reproach in those days; he was a community organizer without one-quarter of her experience.
If unsubstantiated rumors about Obama’s eligibility, considering no one had ever even heard of the guy prior to 2006, were enough to derail his nomination, she was fine with it. Her campaign supporters were circulating an email in 2007 questioning Obama’s origins when it looked like Clinton might lose the nomination.
For his part, presidential candidate Barack Obama didn’t exactly hold back on Clinton, either. He called her husband’s behavior with regard to her campaign “troubling” and accused both of distorting key facts. Obama accused the Clinton campaign of underhanded tactics and politics dirty tricks, and Clinton herself of dishonesty.
Some of the political attack ads they took out against each other are particularly revealing of the depth of their personal acrimony during the Democratic primary.
Then, it was over. Obama cinched the Democratic nomination.
Once it was over, once Obama became the Democratic nominee, Clinton and Obama buried the hatchet. Clinton endorsed Obama, and encouraged all her supporters to unite behind the newly-minted Democratic candidate.
President Obama, for his part, returned the favor when he gave her a job after his election, and a good one, too: Secretary of State. Though his staff was still smarting from the primary, Clinton and the newly elected President had long since reconciled professionally and moved on.
When Clinton sought the Democratic nomination again in 2016, President Obama endorsed her candidacy. Which is more than he has been willing to do for his former Vice President and 2020 candidate, Joe Biden.
If Democrats are smart, they will follow the lead of Obama and Clinton, put their differences aside and decide to work together, no matter what, for the common good of the Democratic Party and the nation.
Much may depend upon it.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)