comscore As Obama accomplished policy goals, his party floundered | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

As Obama accomplished policy goals, his party floundered


    In this July 27, 2004, file photo, Barack Obama, then-candidate for the Senate from Illinois, speaks to delegates during the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston.

WASHINGTON >> 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.

There’s one number you will almost never hear: More than 1,030 seats.

That’s the number of spots in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress lost by Democrats during Obama’s presidency.

It’s a statistic that reveals an unexpected twist of the Obama years: The leadership of the one-time community organizer and champion of ground-up politics was rough on the grassroots of his own party. When Obama exits the White House, he’ll leave behind a Democratic Party that languished in his shadow for years and is searching for itself.

“What’s happened on the ground is that voters have been punishing Democrats for eight solid years — it’s been exhausting,” said South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who lost two gubernatorial campaigns to Nikki Haley, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the U.N. “If I was talking about a local or state issue, voters would always lapse back into a national topic: Barack Obama.”

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.

After this year’s elections, Democrats hold the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in just five coastal states: Oregon, California, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware. Republicans have the trifecta in 25, giving them control of a broad swath of the middle of the country.

The defeats have all but wiped out a generation of young Democrats, leaving the party with limited power in statehouses and a thin bench to challenge an ascendant GOP majority eager to undo many of the president’s policies. To be sure, the president’s party almost always loses seats in midterm elections. But, say experts, Obama’s tenure has marked the greatest number of losses under any president in decades.

“Obama just figured his important actions on policies like immigration and health care would solidify support, but that hasn’t really materialized,” said Daniel Galvin, a political science professor at Northwestern University and the author of a book on presidential party building. “He’s done basically the minimal amount of party building, and it’s been insufficient to help the party.”

It’s a political reality that Obama has only been willing to acknowledge publicly after his party’s devastating November losses. He’s admitted he failed to create “a sustaining organization” around the political force that twice elected him to office.

“That’s something I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House,” he said at his year-end press conference.

It is perhaps not surprising that Obama — a politician who promised a post-party era — turned out not to be a party stalwart.

Obama and his aides came into office neither beholden to his party’s establishment, nor particularly interested in reinforcing his party’s weak spots.

He electrified the 2004 Democratic National Convention with a speech seeking common cause over party differences. Four years later, he defeated Hillary Clinton, the pick of the party insiders, to win the Democratic presidential nomination.

In the White House, Obama’s failure to do the typical Washington schmoozing was a constant source of complaint among congressional Democrats, as was his reluctance to endorse down-ballot candidates and inability to parlay Organizing for Action, his grassroots organization, into a significant force.

State parties languished and the Democratic National Committee struggled with dysfunction and debt.

“We built this beautiful house, but the foundation is rotten,” said South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison, a candidate to lead the Democratic National Committee. “In hindsight we should have looked at this and said, ‘Maybe the state parties should be strong.’”

Toward the end of his presidency, Obama began doing more, stepping in to assist more than 150 state legislative candidates in October and campaigning across the country for Clinton.

He’s indicated he intends to make partisan politics a bigger piece of his post-presidential life. Aides say Obama will be closely involved in an effort to focus on drawing district lines more in the favor of Democrats.

The president’s advisers blame the losses on such structural trends. They point to a flood of Republican super PAC dollars and a resurgence of Republican political power in statehouses. That state-level dominance has given Republicans the ability to redraw district lines and created voting rules that could benefit their party for years to come.

The refusal by many Democrats to accept help from Obama in the 2010 and 2014 midterms was also a strategic mistake, they argue.

“Frankly, when people have asked, the president has been more than willing to engage,” said David Simas, Obama’s political director.

Some Democrats blame Obama for an executive agenda that highlighted social issues — such as transgender rights and access to birth control — over the economic anxiety still felt by many voters.

“The backlash to the Obama presidency was perhaps bigger than any of us really realized,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democratic Network, a Democratic think tank. “A lot of the story of this election was people feeling like the culture was evolving in a way that made it feel like they were no longer living in the country they grew up in.”

Others are focusing on the one clear truth of the November defeats: What worked for Obama just did not work for this party.

Perhaps the most remarkable twist of a shocking political season? Even as voters chose to elect a successor who vows to undo most of Obama’s legacy, his approval rating remains the highest it’s been since the spring of 2009.

Comments (66)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Leave a Reply

  • Labor Participation Rate:
    In September, the US labor participation rate fell to 62.7%, the lowest since the US economic malaise under president Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.

    What has Obama accomplished that benefited a MAJORITY of Americans?

    It’s about JOBS JOBS JOBS.
    January 20, 2017 #MAGA

  • Lost all hope in Barry when I lost my long time family doctor and my health insurance increased shortly after his national health plan was approved. The Democratic party had nothing to do with the loss of hope here. Its all on Barry.

  • “Chris Matthews, who, in the past, has both cried over an Obama speech and compared him to Jesus — described exactly what happens to him when Obama speaks: “I have to tell you, you know, it’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don’t have that too often.” ”

    the amerikan pravda media had that gushing feeling for the last eight years.

    soon, that awful legacy of the last eight years will be behind us. yet, the democrat media still have not learned that they too have lost touch with the working class americans of all colors, gender and religion.

    • Yes, it has been such a terrible 8 years. Time to bring back the good ole republican days where the stock market drops like a lead balloon, unemployment doubles, and the Deficit goes through the roof. God I miss those days. lol

      Sadly we are headed back to those days. Prove me wrong republicans. Lets see if you can continue the growth in jobs, the increase in the stock market, and reductions in the federal deficit or will the Donald be like previous republicans and soon crashes the economy? Obama has a pretty good record. It will be interesting to see how well the Donald stacks up against it. Not well is my guess but time will tell.

      • I think you forget that Obama helmed the slowest recovery ever, creating “The Great Recession” for most of his years, which was caused by Democratic (Clinton) policies to hand out home loans like candy to people who couldn’t afford it.

        • You got it wrong. The Mortgage Crisis was 2007-2009, the resulting Recession lasted all the way into the early to mid 2010s. The economy was slow to recover, thanks to Obama’s bad polices.

        • nomu, before you comment on what caused the mortgage crisis, you might want to at least base your conclusion on facts.

        • Eh cabot, W was president then, but who had control of Congress? The Democraps. W’s last 2 years and Odummys first 2 terms Congress was controlled by the Democraps. What happened during those 4 years? Unemployment rose above 10% and the Stock market dropped to 7000. The same 7000 that Boots keeps harping on the Republicans. I told her a hundred times this FACT, yet, the true PUPPET that she is, still finds it her duty to lie about it everytime. After the 2010 election the Democraps lose the House to the Republicans. In years 2014 and 2015 the Republican House reduced government spending. Stopping Odummys wasteful binge spending. And look to doing it in 2016 again. An accomplishment never before achieved. Now with Republicans controlling everything, the people have said enough. So it seems that losers like you and Boots feed at the slop trough called the MSM(including SA) non-stop leading to your brain damaged state. True puppets you and the many are.

      • The stock market may indeed suddenly drop like a lead balloon but in the meantime it’s at record highs. When Trump was winning the election the liberal media was pointing out that stocks were tanking. Funny they’re not saying anything now. The deficit is already through the roof thanks to Obama.

        Btw, was more anti Hillary than pro Trump.

  • Another thing he should not have done was to get involved in state problems. Remember beer gate, Trayvon, and taking the side of the criminal and not thecop just because the criminal is black. He has never blasted anyone for riots because of the elections or the Soto’s funded BLM.

    • The problem with Demoncrats is that they always bring up the race card or playing the victim when they can’t win an argument, hoping to get sympathy from Grubber subjects. What’s that phrase “cry wolf”…electorate saw through the veil of their elitist smirk and voted for Trump.

    • Obama is a great leader. One of the best we have had. Sure is a lot better than what preceded him and probably a lot better than what will follow. Time will tell if the market continues to rises to say 30,000 or falls to under 10,000.

        • Eloquent and caring? allie, I’ll give you an A+ for consistency. Thank you for the laugh. Merry Christmas.

        • Allie, you might want to move to Germany. Merkel is everything HitLAIRy could have been. In addition to that, college is free there. The sooner you move there the sooner you can finally progress from the 13th grade and get to a real university that doesn’t teach Chicano Studies and Libtard Politics. Bon Voyage!!!

      • The stock market will hit a record breaking 20,000 either next week or sometime in January 2017. Trump is a smart businessman who knows how to get things done. The rising market is reflecting this.

        • Trump can claim Wall St.rally after 1/20/17. The higher it gets, the worst his fall. Investors are hedging that trumpf will spend trillions of tax payers monies on infrastructure, jobs and privatization of government. Meaning private companies, with business buddies, will be raking and rap ING the tax paying middle. Right up that rear facing bullet hole. Lol.

        • Yes nomu,looking foward to trumpf spending trillions of tax money on infrastructure and government like I said.

        • NanakuliBoss, better pull your $420 dollars out of the stock market to pay that 12.6% property tax increase you got as a gift for voting (D), last thing you need is for the (D) party to send out HPDs finest to rip the mailbox out from your house!

      • Oh Boots your stock market analysis is getting stale….like I have replied, it is not the middle class that are reaping the benefit of the rally except your rich liberal friends and the rest of the rich people. The middle class your phony party like to court during election are always getting screwed with your tax and spend policies. Your phony party like to spend money on the welfare w#hores–government unions and abled body lazy w#hores sitting in public housing collecting welfare checks and foodstamps while high on crack.

  • The article states, “He’s indicated he intends to make partisan politics a bigger piece of his post-presidential life”. That should help keep Republicans in power. It is unfortunate that the President never adapted to being the President of everyone, not just Democrats. The community organizer attitude, that there must be an enemy, prevailed throughout his presidency.

    • Yes keep those republicans in power. They have done such a great job. Record deficits, High unemployment, falling stock market. Well enjoy. Won’t be long I am sure before you are referring to republicans as nothing more than RINOs.

      • How many of the immense problems of this state have been solved by our one party govt.? Choke neck traffic, unaffordable cost of living that causing our young middle class to brain drain to the mainland, Doctor shortages/health care crisis, highest homelessness per capita, sub-par education system, a govt. that caters to the wealthy and special interests with corruption at all levels, to name a few. You would think with no political opposition our govt. could solve some of these issues? The sad reality is our state is an anomaly and out of touch with the rest of the CONUS.

      • Maybe the U.S. would be better off with a one party system, like Hawaii’s. In fact, it was Nancy Pelosi who famously said “We really only need one party”, when she was speaker.

        • Actually there are two parties. The establishment and the anti-establishment. Brexit and the last election proved that. Just ask klastri, ikefromeli and the rest of the over educated.

  • Had Obama gone after those responsible for the 2008 financial crash and had the Securities and Exchange Commission deal out prison time, Hillary Clinton may have had a chance.

  • Barack should go back to teaching, both him & his wife. Go back to
    Chicago & help with fighting crime through education. Then he could
    go back to Kenya and do the same. Then they’ll have some legacy. He’s
    basically a good man but needs more experience.

    • IMHO O is a dysfunctional man from s dysfunctional family. He’s also a racist.
      Experience…sadly liberals voted in a Community Organizer and now there’s a record…we see a total FAIL. If someone mentions his approval poll….I say POLL…you believe in POLLS….LOL!

  • “His approval rating remains the highest it’s been since the spring of 2009”

    Something has to be skewed about it. Not sure who they’re polling or how, I know I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in his approval ratings. Is it the same people over and over? Where are they obtaining their data from? What demographics?

    In the many conversations I’ve had with people over the years, feedback I’ve heard is that he’s been the worst POTUS we’ve had since Jimmy Carter. When you consider just one aspect of his tenure alone, the national debit, it’s astonishing. He inherited 9 trillion and that is the total amount from every POTUS in our history combined. He single-handedly accumulated 11 trillion all by himself in 8 years. Now the new POTUS will be inheriting 20 trillion. That is unprecedented. And people are wondering “what happened” to the Democratic party. Really?

  • today is christmas eve, a time of reflection and peace. the world is in termoil. i pray for peace.
    me, i going down the beach, poke some fish, make some poke’, have some poi and some chicken long rice and hang out with the ohana. then go to midnight mass, eat some good saimin then go moi moi. cannot wait to open my presents in the morning. life is good..i count my blessings.
    glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will!
    aloha everybody!!

  • History will judge that the “hope and change” era of Obama and the Democratic party accomplished nothing lasting, or beneficial for all Americans. Instead the push toward social and economic justice of Obama’s policies fractured society and pitted loud and militant special interests groups against the majority of Americans. In short, Obama’s legacy is about inefficient, ineffective, and divisive government…But there is now hope in the changes that the new year and new administration can bring.

  • A good article by the AP, but they forgot to mention all the federal department govt. scandals under his watch as POTUS. The failures of the VA, EPA, IRS, OPM, DOE, Affordable Care Act to name a few. The growing economy was likely more due to congressional push back on his initiatives than anything his office accomplished. History will remember Obama as a charismatic, popular, first black president, but also one of the worst federal managers of all time. Sadly, his legacy is the Trump presidency, a dubious honor at best.

    • Agree with dtpro1. Lots of scandals that the media including SA don’t include probably because Hawaii is pro-Obama. As for the growing economy, the primary reason is quantitative easing and related monetary policies. Obama shouldn’t boast about it as Trump after winning the election has lifted the stock markets to all time highs. So Trump without even taking office is already lifting the economy. We’ll see how he does on non-financial issues which still scare half of America.

    • He was elected because of his color that was it. Many people join the Grubber subjects, they were swept by his impassioned shallow speeches. Remember he is a lawyer, and like all lawyers, they make their case no matter how idiotic maybe more palatable to the Grubber subjects. Many were tagged to be racist if did they did not join the chorus of pro-obama. See it is always the Demoncrats who bring up the race card or playing the victim if they can’t win an argument.

  • Obama, the most deviously incompetent president in recent history, had a big hand in destroying the corrupt Democrat Party. His far Left agenda has resulted in a broken America that needs fixing and the American voters have spoken, loud and clear. Please go away Mr Obama, go away from Hawaii and the White House so that the country may heal. Do it for your aina, do it for your country, do it for the people who elected you.

    • IRT MaiPono, Hawaii born President Obama did destroy the Democratic Party with his Left Progressive and Liberal ideology and it has resulted in beening a winner for the United States and its citizens.

  • Obama’s boasts ring hollow. Job creation under his tenure is misleading if one defines employment as full-time employment. According to a study by Harvard and Princeton economists Katz & Krueger, from 2005 to 2015, the proportion of Americans workers engaged in what they refer to as “alternative work” soared during the Obama era, from 10.7% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015. Alternative, or “gig” work is defined as “temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract company workers, independent contractors or freelancers”, and is generally unsteady, without a fixed paycheck and with virtually no benefits. Krueger, who until 2013 was also the top White House economist serving as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Obama, was “surprised” by the finding. Nearly all of the 10 million jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were not traditional nine-to-five employment. “Workers seeking full-time, steady work have lost,” said Krueger.
    That is the reality of Obama’s job creation legacy.

  • Little Barry Hussein simultaneously used the principles of affirmative action and white privilege to get to where he got. One would have thought with a Harvard education he would have had a little something more on his resume than community organizer before going into national politics. But the skids were greased for him by a combination of a cheerleading and uncurious media, powerful white progressives, and useful idi0ts. He enjoyed the luxury of a 100% uncritical MSM – Star Advertiser especially – for his entire 2 terms. When opponents tried to hold him accountable his supporters invariably played the well worn race card. He also spent a good deal of time wearing the social justice warrior hat and in the process alienated a lot of people who never had a racist or sexist bone in their bodies. In the end Barry was a small man who occupied a position that was way above his abilities.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up