What Obama’s Farewell Means for Democrats

As the country prepares for a new president, Democrats search for a leader of their own.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama leaves the stage after President Obama gives his presidential farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Kyle Trygstad
Jan. 11, 2017, 10:35 a.m.

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 state 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


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