The defeat of Donald Trump should be a moment of pleasure for Barack Obama. It is in many ways. Trump was Obama’s political arch-enemy, who incited and undermined him in office with the racist Birther conspiracy and then defeated his successor Hillary Clinton in a vicious campaign that was partly led as a revolt against Obama’s years.
Trump was eventually defeated by Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden, a closer confidant than Clinton and an even more loyal defender of his old boss’ record.
But the manner in which Trump left the White House in a highly competitive election, in which the 45th president expanded his base after four turbulent years marked by scandals, impeachments and disasters, indicated that Obama’s ambitions also suffered a setback.
The Democratic Party is in good hands. My time in this office has not put everything in order. After all that we have done, there is still much that I want to do.
President Barack Obama
Obama, who vehemently championed Biden as he did 2016 for his former Secretary of State Clinton, considered his own presidency a turning point for the United States, similar to that of Ronald Reagan three decades earlier or John F. Kennedy 20 years earlier.
“I don’t want to portray myself as some kind of a lone figure. I think part of what is different are the times,” Obama told the Reno Nevada Gazette Journal in 2008. “I think that the 1980 elections, for example, were different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the development of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and Bill Clinton did not.
“He [Reagan] put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.
Eight years later at the Democratic Convention, Obama handed the baton to Hillary Clinton in what the Kansas City Star and other broadcasters called a kind of pitch for a third term.
“The Democratic Party is in good hands,” Obama said. “My time in this office has not made everything right. After all we’ve done, there’s still a lot I want to do.”
On a different path.
Trump’s victory over Clinton a few months later torpedoed the political career of the former First Lady, but he could not shake Obama’s conviction that, like Reagan, he had left the country on a fundamentally different path. Trump’s narrow victory in the electoral college, despite losing the referendum, was an aberration.
“I have faith in this vision because I am confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I could have mobilized a majority of the American people to stand behind it,” Obama told his former advisor David Axelrod in a CNN podcast.
The outcome of the 2020 elections raises questions about this view. Trump, who has been widely condemned for his handling of a pandemic that killed more than 230,000 Americans and plunged the economy into a deep recession, received more than 70 million votes, dwarfing the record Obama set in his first term victory in 2008.
Remember that if Obama and Biden had done their job properly, I would not be President now. The fact is, they were HERITABLE!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2020
Biden is still on track to win the referendum with a record total of almost 75 million, but for an incumbent who ran against extremely hostile media coverage after a chaotic first term, Trump showed tremendous popular support.
Not least the four-year period suggests that too much has changed for Biden to be able to preserve Obama’s legacy.
“Biden does not come directly after the Obama presidency. That opportunity is over, and that candidate is Hillary Clinton,” Don Zinman, professor of political science at Grand Valley State University, told Washington Newsday. “The obvious heir was Hillary Clinton. She did not make it. Now so much has happened between the Obama presidency and what would be a Biden presidency”.
In a primary field of Democrats full of progressives who impatiently followed Obama’s gradual approach to change, Biden was a staunch defender of his old boss’s record on health care reform, climate change and, for a time, even immigration policy.
Biden must be careful
Barbara Perry, Director of Presidential Studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, warned that Biden could lose popularity with young voters if he became too much of a