President Obama’s farewell address provided another step in the transfer of power to a new administration, but it also represented a significant pivot point in the future of the Democratic Party.
As Obama walked off the stage Tuesday night, he left behind a vast leadership vacuum for a party in a perilous position at all levels of government. Democrats suddenly find themselves out of power from the White House to Congress to statehouses, and looking to rebuild a depleted bench of potential candidates able to bring the party back.
The president had a grander theme to his remarks—the preservation of our democracy—but portions sounded particularly pointed at distraught Democratic voters: “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”
As far as running the party infrastructure and becoming a top spokesman, several Democrats are doing just that. Rep. Keith Ellison, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and others will face off Saturday in Phoenix for the first forum before next month’s DNC chair election.
But it’s states races later this year and the 2018 midterms that will illustrate just how quickly Democrats can rebound from a couple of disappointing election cycles and the absence of a leader in the White House.
— Kyle Trygstad