True to the form of an opposition party tearing itself apart out of the anger, despair, humiliation of defeat, there is a small terracotta army worth of candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the US. The many who actually receive a mention in the media, and whose names any sane person would actually recognise, are only a mere fraction of the hoard of candidates who have filed with the FEC which is well into the hundreds.
One of the leading questions which commentators have sought to answer is which of this field, which could fill an actual field, is the most fitting successor to take up Barack Obama’s mantle.
It is likely that everyone has scrolled past a few dozen articles on their social media feeds which have claimed not-Senator Beto O’Rourke is the worthy champion of Obama’s legacy. As is so common in the age we live in, where satire begins to seem more real than news, the most apt appraisal of O’Rourke’s campaign came from The Onion, which announced that the candidate had launched an ‘Obama cover campaign,’ complete with ‘stripped down version of Change We Can Believe In’ and a ‘fiery rendition of Yes We Can.’
Moreover, it is to be expected that the latest run of former Vice President Joe Biden, clearly hoping that the rule of third time lucky hold out, would be considered the most obvious contender to pick up where his running mate left off. However, to state this would be to misunderstand the nature of the vice presidency, which has no constitutional significance beyond the requirement to maintain a heartbeat to protect against the eventually that the president may cease to. Thus the vice presidency is defined by whomever is on the top of ticket, as a supplement to their own profile.
The fact that Obama, as the first black nominee for a major party, chose Biden as his running mate reflects this. In choosing the gaffe-prone Biden who had, throughout the primaries made a number of questionable statements regarding Obama, was an acceptance by Obama that the country had a long ways to go before true racial parity was achieved, that this would be an uncomfortable process for a lot of people, and that he didn’t mind the occasional slip up so long as the underlying intention was good.
The attraction to Biden is based upon his perception of electability, as a highly qualified candidate, who has always maintained an image of being an important political ally to the sort of blue collar workers who abandoned the Democratic Party in 2016. In this regard, he is looked upon as the safest bet to deny Trump a second term. However, the last presidential election should have taught Democrats that the notion of ‘electability’ is an utter fallacy, which made them complacent to the point when they took their traditional blue collar voters for granted as they tried to win votes where they hadn’t seen success since Jimmy Carter was elected.
The candidate whose support most embodies what the Obama-voting spirit has become, is Bernie Sanders. Eight years of hyper-partisan deadlock, leading to political stagnation has been rather anticlimactic for the intense optimism, and minor personality cult, which characterised the 2008 election. Many have been underwhelmed by the Obama presidency as a result.
One key Obama election promise which was unfulfilled was his failure to close the notorious detention centre Guantámino Bay, which is not only still open but was passed on to a successor who embraced it. In fairness to Obama, he signed an Executive Order to close the facility on his very first day in office, yet the Senate, then under the control of his own Party, blocked his efforts by refusing to supply the appropriate funds. Examples such as this go a good way to explaining the origins of the ‘drain the swamp’ mentality that took Trump to the White House.
This resistance which has equated hope with genuine audacity, has darkened the outlook of anyone who voted Obama, giving them a newfound cynicism but seemingly has not undermined their political goals nor their resolve to achieve them. It seems that ‘Yes We Can’ has morphed into ‘Yes, we can and by God we will.’
Not only is Sanders the natural successor to Obama, but he is also the most obvious alternative to Trump available from the Democratic field. At the time that both men originally entered the fray of presidential politics they were seen as being on the fringe, or even being outsiders, of their respective parties; even though in many ways they resemble caricatures of both party extremes.