Clin­ton wasn’t the only big elec­tion loser

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - An­drew Mal­colm

— We’ve heard an aw­ful lot in re­cent days about the de­ci­sive elec­tion loss of a cer­tain well-known woman. What we’ve pon­dered much less is the even more im­por­tant elec­tion loss of an­other well-known Demo­crat.

Barack Obama wasn’t on any bal­lot any­where. But as he him­self pointed out in re­peated vain pleas to sup­port his heir ap­par­ent Hil­lary Clin­ton, the po­lit­i­cal le­gacy of the man’s en­tire 2,922-day pres­i­dency was on the line. It lost. Be­cause Obama built so much of his record on uni­lat­eral ex­ec­u­tive fiat and par­ti­san con­gres­sional votes, much of it seems likely to be swept away by Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties still con­trol­ling both houses of Congress work­ing with an adopted Repub­li­can pres­i­dent, Don­ald Trump.

The fact is Obama’s two terms will end with his Demo­crat Party in smok­ing ru­ins in Wash­ing­ton and across the coun­try.

But vot­ers — and a fair num­ber of courts — have con­sis­tently re­jected Obama’s record of high-handed ar­ro­gance and ex­ec­u­tive over-reach. He may have achieved much of what he wanted in the short-term. But that’s made it much eas­ier for any suc­ces­sor, es­pe­cially one whose party con­trols Capi­tol Hill, to erase much or all of it.

Here’s a re­veal­ing com­par­i­son: Dur­ing his first week in the White House in Jan­uary 2001, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush had all the Demo­cratic Party lead­ers of Congress over to the White House to chat, munch snacks and talk about things they might work on to­gether.

Fast for­ward to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion whose Demo­crat party con­trolled both houses when he took of­fice in 2009. Obama with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid rammed through their plans, es­pe­cially Oba­macare with­out one sin­gle GOP vote.

In fact, the for­mer se­na­tor who promised to end Wash­ing­ton’s bit­ter par­ti­san di­vide, the for­mer univer­sity lec­turer on con­sti­tu­tional law about the equal branches of govern­ment, first in­vited Repub­li­can Se­nate leader Mitch McConnell to chat at the White House fully 542 days into his pres­i­den­tial reign.

Just two years into his White House lease, midterm vot­ers gave House con­trol back to Repub­li­cans. In 2012, Obama was re-elected with nearly 5 mil­lion fewer votes than in 2008. And the GOP kept the House.

Come 2014’s midterms, Obama cam­paigned that he wasn’t on the bal­lot but his poli­cies were. Boom! Democrats lost ad­di­tional House seats plus the Se­nate.

Now, in 2016, Obama told Demo­crat au­di­ences he would take it per­son­ally if they didn’t turn out for his anointed suc­ces­sor. They didn’t.

Repub­li­cans still con­trol the House, and while de­fend­ing a whop­ping 24 Se­nate seats, lost only two to main­tain thin con­trol. In the next midterms, Democrats must de­fend more.

Clin­ton won the party’s nom­i­na­tion this year be­cause it was her turn, not be­cause she was the most dy­namic or strong­est can­di­date. Repub­li­cans had 17 pres­i­den­tial wannabes, prob­a­bly two-thirds of them qual­i­fied. There is no such Demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal bench to draw from.

Democrats ba­si­cally have no mi­nor leagues to de­velop ex­pe­ri­enced, savvy top-tier can­di­dates at state lev­els. Start­ing with the anti-Obama tide of 2010, Repub­li­cans have built a stran­gle­hold on state leg­is­la­tures and gov­er­nor’s of­fices.

They now con­trol 35 gov­er­nor­ships to Democrats’ 15. The GOP con­trols 67 of the coun­try’s 98 state leg­isla­tive cham­bers, in­clud­ing ev­ery one across the South and both cham­bers in al­most 20 states.

That not only drives the party’s con­ser­va­tive agenda but grants price­less ex­pe­ri­ence and name recog­ni­tion to fu­ture ris­ing stars. In the Nov. 8 elec­tion, the GOP cap­tured blue-col­lar work­ers, once a key Demo­cratic com­po­nent.

Who is left now to re­build the Demo­cratic Party? A strug­gle looms over chair of the trou­bled Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee. VP nom­i­nee Tim Kaine re­mains a se­na­tor. And that’s it.

New names like El­iz­a­beth War­ren per­haps will emerge. But Obama’s bright star will be gone in nine weeks and he faces be­com­ing what colum­nist Charles Krautham­mer calls an “his­tor­i­cal paren­the­ses.”

As his vice pres­i­dent, Obama picked elderly Joe Bi­den, who posed no in­ter­nal chal­lenge, but is too old to pick up the man­tle. In con­trast, Ron­ald Rea­gan men­tored Ge­orge H.W. Bush as his po­lit­i­cal suc­ces­sor, which pro­duced the only three-con­sec­u­tive term party con­trol of the White House since the 1940s.

Obama will go off to his rented Wash­ing­ton man­sion to make a small for­tune on a book and lec­ture tours. Bush 43 chose si­lence dur­ing Obama’s early years, not wish­ing to sec­ond-guess his suc­ces­sor.

Obama, how­ever, has vowed to speak out of­ten in re­tire­ment. Given the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal out­look for dis­man­tling much of his work, Obama will not lack for sub­jects to com­plain about.

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