Former President Barack Obama speaks to Democratic supporters at Genesis Convention Center, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Gary, Ind. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Throughout the course of the 2020 presidential campaign season, we’ve heard a lot of talk about former President Barack Obama. Much of it has been from Joe Biden, primarily because he wants to remind black voters who are a core Democratic voting bloc that as vice president he had Obama’s back for 8 years.
A secondary reason has been to suggest in so many words to the non-socialistic Democratic primary voters who are still out there that he will continue to build on Obama’s legacy. In Biden’s world, that equates to a middle of the road type of liberalism rather than the uber-left styles of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
While Biden’s assessment of Barack Obama’s legacy misses the mark, the Washington Post’s David Swerdlick wrote a hot take so wildly off the mark about Biden’s former boss that it left a lot of people, especially conservatives, scratching their heads in utter bewilderment.
Introducing Barack Obama … the conservative:
Perspective: Democratic presidential candidates still can’t figure out how to talk about the most popular figure in their party, @Swerdlick writes, and there's a simple reason.
Barack Obama is a conservative. https://t.co/45gsMfhQ2c
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 22, 2019
From the piece:
Given the political climate, it’s no surprise to see the party’s base clamoring for something dramatic. But the contrast between Obama’s steady approach and the seeming radicalism of his Democratic heirs can’t just be chalked up to changing times. It’s because the former president, going back at least to his 2004 Senate race, hasn’t really occupied the left side of the ideological spectrum. He wasn’t a Republican, obviously: He never professed a desire to starve the federal government, and he opposed the Iraq War, which the GOP overwhelmingly supported. But to the dismay of many on the left, and to the continuing disbelief of many on the right, Obama never dramatically departed from the approach of presidents who came before him.
There’s a simple reason: Barack Obama is a conservative.
Yeah … no.
The argument has been made before … and was soundly refuted, but nevertheless some folks still persist in making it.
Here’s the thing I don’t think writers/commentators/pundits on the left who make these claims get about Obama:
In spite of the fact that on rare occasions he was willing to work with Republicans on some legislation (in contrast to most of the Democratic candidates running for the office today), Barack Obama was a liberal through and through. He was just one of those types of liberals who chose the incremental path to implementing core Democratic party policies.
Whereas the Warren and Sanders types in the party tell voters the time is now, that we can’t wait x-amount of years for XYZ legislation to pass, in some instances Obama was willing to slow-roll his signature policy proposals over the course of a year or more (as he did with Obamacare).
And even at that, with Obamacare, he knew it was still flawed (didn’t go far enough) in the minds of liberals and that at some point another liberal would have to come along and “fix” it. But he was willing to roll with Obamacare in the form that passed because it gave the left more than a running start towards their ultimate goal: Single-payer and/or Medicare for All (which is why Warren has thanked Obama on several occasions for getting Democrats to “this point” on “healthcare for all”).
In other words, where Warren or Sanders are “we must do it now” types of liberals, Obama was an incrementalist liberal. Didn’t mean he was a “liberal Republican” or a “conservative Democrat” or anything of the sort. It just meant he was willing to take pieces of policy victories over a period of time rather than have the whole cake served all at once.
On a related note, it’s too bad that in 2019 the Washington Post still apparently doesn’t know what the word “conservative” means. Sigh.
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 16+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –