Advice for a Former President: Part II

If one intends to review this post, but has not yet read Part I (which is immediately below), I would start there 😉

If I had been in the company of former President Barack Obama over the past week, I would have suggested that he call the three former advisors who have been generally regarded as pivotal in assisting his successful run for the presidency against the “Clinton Machine” in 2008: David Axelrod, David Plouffe, and Robert Gibbs. I would have suggested that he ask each to provide him an assessment of the seven remaining Democratic presidential candidates’ respective chances, first, for winning the Democratic nomination, and then, for the candidates considered to have a realistic chance to secure the nomination, their respective chances for winning the presidency.

If Messrs. Alexrod, Plouffe, and Gibbs provided dim assessments to Mr. Obama similar to those expressed in Part I of this note regarding the nomination prospects for Messrs. Steyer and Buttiegieg and Mses. Klobuchar and Warren, and of Mr. Bloomberg’s questionable ability to amass a winning November Democratic coalition, I would then have suggested that Mr. Obama ask his advisors: How many of the Swing States can Sen. Sanders reasonably win? How likely is Mr. Sanders’ strategy to “expand the electorate” to win the Rust Belt states won by Mr. Trump in 2016 (as well as retain Minnesota and Colorado), when his calls for revolution may be as likely to repel older voters as they are to enlist younger voters? How likely is Mr. Sanders to win the presidency when he is prone to comments that alienate key constituencies, such as recently happened with Florida, a state that Mr. Trump only won by 1.2%, when he complimented the deceased Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro? How well is Mr. Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, going to fare in southerly North Carolina or individualistic Arizona?

If Messrs. Axelrod, Plouffe, and Gibbs could offer no greater assurance of Mr. Sanders’ chances than, “He has a committed base. Anything can happen. Look at Trump.”, I would indicate to Mr. Obama that he has a duty to act – as soon as possible — for the good of the nation. I would assert that Mr. Biden remains the Democrats’ strongest candidate in the general election. Mr. Obama should:

Call Mr. Steyer, and tell him that if Mr. Steyer truly cares about defeating Mr. Trump, he should immediately fold his candidacy. Mr. Obama would indicate his intention to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden that, even if short of a formal endorsement, any voter would understand.

Call Mr. Buttigieg, congratulate him on an extraordinary campaign, and tell him that Mr. Obama would use his influence with any Democrat President to secure a major post for Mr. Buttigieg in the Democratic administration to further his future political prospects … provided that Mr. Buttigieg immediately folds his candidacy. He would also advise Mr. Buttigieg of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden.

Call Ms. Klobuchar, congratulate her on a successful campaign, and indicate that Mr. Obama would speak highly of her as a Vice Presidential nominee to any Democrat that secures the nomination … provided that Ms. Klobuchar immediately folds her candidacy. He would also advise Ms. Klobuchar of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden.

Finally, call Mr. Bloomberg, and thank him profusely for his financial contributions to the Democratic effort, and ask that Mr. Bloomberg continue with those efforts; but that he, Mr. Obama, based upon his and his advisors’ knowledge of politics, doesn’t believe that Mr. Bloomberg can amass the enthusiastic coalition that Democrats need to defeat Mr. Trump. He would also advise Mr. Bloomberg of his intent to speak in glowing terms about Mr. Biden. He would ask (you don’t speak peremptorily to a billionaire whose funds you need, even if you’re a former President of the United States) that Mr. Bloomberg fold his candidacy and devote his efforts and resources to Mr. Biden.

Such an overt effort on Mr. Obama’s part would smack of an establishment partisan power play against Mr. Sanders reminiscent of 2016. It would undoubtedly wildly antagonize the Progressive wing of the party. It’s an extraordinary step, to be taken only if there is consensus among the seasoned political operatives who managed Mr. Obama’s ascendency to the presidency that Mr. Sanders has little chance to defeat Mr. Trump in Swing States. Offensive? Almost certainly. Wildly counterproductive? Perhaps. But a sharp cut to the Democratic viscera with months to cauterize and dress the wound – and to give Mr. Sanders and disappointed progressives the time to recall that Mr. Trump is the adversary, and what happened in 2016 when some of them stayed home in a huff — seems preferable to slow political exsanguination with Mr. Sanders. Democrats shouldn’t rely on being saved by a second major electoral upset in the space of four years unless they have to.

Clearly, many of us are concerned about the Democrats’ November prospects if Mr. Sanders is the presidential nominee. Attached is a link to a New York Times article by Thomas Friedman, recently sent me by a close friend, suggesting that the Democrats form a “Team of Rivals” headed by either Mr. Sanders or Mr. Bloomberg and including many of the Democrats’ presidential candidates. Although I am not as confident as Mr. Friedman that his approach would result in a Democratic landslide, his idea is superior to mine since, if implemented, it would engender amity and a cohesive electoral strategy between the two wings of the Democratic Party rather than fractious discord. That said, I question its efficacy. Assuming that the moderate Democrats privately agree that Mr. Sanders will have difficulty defeating Mr. Trump, their dueling ambitions are strangling America.  Mr. Sanders, an authentic True Believer with the nomination seemingly within his reach, presumably considers this his last chance to bring about a vision of America that almost certainly doesn’t encompass alliances with billionaires like Mr. Bloomberg. That said, either Mr. Friedman’s approach or mine would seem to require a willingness by Mr. Obama to actively intervene in the Democrats’ nominating contest – which,  if it was to occur, should already be well underway; and of which we’ve seen no indication.

3 thoughts on “Advice for a Former President: Part II

  1. After reading this as well as a myriad of other articles, it’s time for some frank talk. The Democratic Party is undergoing a transformation that was aborted in 2016 when the DNC rigged the system-with Obama’s blessing-to install Hillary as their nominee. This was despite the rather obvious trend that she was not the candidate that generated any enthusiasm throughout the Democratic base. Had this fix not been in place for Hillary in 2016, the Donald would still be hosting Celebrity Apprentice or if not, the Democratic Party would be farther along than they are now to transitioning to their true younger base.
    All this talk about moderate voters and swing states is just cover instead of saying Older White Voters. If Bernie Sanders was just a flash in the pan, he would not be where he is now in 2020. But it’s not just Bernie Sanders, it’s his ideas that have him where he is, because after him, there will be someone else with the same type of ideas. Some pundits are comparing Sanders to McGovern in 1972. The difference is that McGovern was a one idea candidate (Vietnam). Four years later, no more war, no more McGovern. That’s not the case with Sanders. He’s still here.
    Joe Biden is the Hillary of 2020. No enthusiasm from anyone except old white voters. What does Biden, who can barely recite scripted lines, offer now? Saying that he can work with Mitch McConnell? That thought is senility defined. Ask Merrick Garland how well Joe Biden can work with Mitch McConnell.


    1. My reaction is more or less as expressed in the note I posted a while back, “It’s Donald Trump.” For the good of our nation, I think Mr. Trump needs to be removed; although I will certainly vote for Mr. Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee, I don’t think he can beat Mr. Trump in enough of the Electoral Swing states to win the presidency because a decisive segment of the electorate in those states will find Mr. Sanders more scary than they find Mr. Trump repugnant. Even if Mr. Sanders’ ideas are the way of the future — although I doubt that they will carry a majority of the public during his or our lifetimes — they certainly don’t command a majority now, which is the time that counts. I agree that Mr. Sanders might well have beaten Mr. Trump in 2016, but that … was then. With Mr. Trump already in place, I fear that the Democrats will be hoping for a Hail Mary if they select Mr. Sanders.


  2. A friend of mine also sent me a link to the NY time article. This was my response to him.:

    I agree with the columnist in principle. We need all of them to go full out in the national election for whomever the Democratic presidential candidate is in the fall that’s for sure. But I would just be hesitate to pull anyone into the cabinet that is in the Senate unless we can be assured with 100% certainty that the replacement will be a Democrat. Not sure we can do that with Romney but with him in the Senate we might have at least a point of entry to work with in the Senate.

    We need the senate almost or maybe more than the Presidency. I think the control of the Senate is critical. Just look at the federal and supreme court and the impeachment under McConnell. If we don’t win the senate and win the presidency it will be a repeat of the last years of the Obama presidency. We need the head of the ticket to help pull votes for the Senate races not make the Senate more difficult to win.


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