The Associated Press has finally faced the reality of the presidency of Barack Obama and the “Obama coalition” that swept him into office: “What worked for Obama just did not work for this party.”
“In boasting about his tenure in the White House, President Barack Obama often cites numbers like these: 15 million new jobs, a 4.9 percent unemployment rate and 74 months of consecutive job growth,” writes the AP’s Lisa Lerer in a devastating post-mortem on the Obama presidency. “There’s one number you will almost never hear: More than 1,030 seats.”
That sobering number is the total of all of the seats — including Congress, state legislatures, and governorships — lost by the Democratic Party over Obama’s two terms.
Lerer describes the collapse of the Democratic Party as an “unexpected twist” of the Obama’s presidency, but in her analysis reluctantly suggests what conservatives have been pointing out since the Republican wave election of 2010: The American people personally like Obama but can’t stand his policies, and the so-called “Obama coalition” existed for Obama alone:
When Obama won the presidency, his election was heralded as a moment of Democratic dominance — the crashing of a conservative wave that had swept the country since the dawn of the Reagan era.
Democrats believed that the coalition of young, minority and female voters who swept Obama into the White House would usher in something new: an ascendant Democratic majority that would ensure party gains for decades to come.
The coalition, it turns out, was Obama’s alone.
The reality is the unpopular, largely social issues-based agenda pushed by Obama, his insistence on using executive action to ram it through, and his neglect of standard “party-building” initiatives did not simply cause the Democratic Party to lose seats, it caused them to lose seats in what experts say are the largest numbers in decades.
Lerer provides a succinct summation of the state of the Party from one of the candidates for chair of the Democratic National Committee. “We built this beautiful house, but the foundation is rotten,” said Jaime Harrison, South Carolina Democratic Chairman. “In hindsight we should have looked at this and said, ‘Maybe the state parties should be strong.'”
With Trump’s surprising gains in the Rust Belt, the post-Obama Democratic Party is essentially a coastal party, relegated to California, Oregon, Washington, New York and a handful of other states. In the final tally, the presidential candidate with the highest disapproval rate of any presidential candidate ever recorded beat the financially and politically advantaged Democratic candidate 304 to 228, nearly wiping her off the electoral map. The county-by-county map paints an even more desperate picture for Democrats going forward: