President Barack Obama told NPR’s Steve Inskeep that he hopes to play a role in rebuilding a beleaguered Democratic party, which saw significant down-ticket losses during his administration.
The president told Inskeep he hopes to serve as something of a “talent scout,” helping identify and mentor promising Democratic candidates as they prepare to pursue high office.
“What I am interested in is just developing a whole new generation of talent,” Obama said of his post-presidency. “There are such incredible young people who not only worked on my campaign, but I’ve seen in advocacy groups. I’ve seen passion about issues like climate change or conservation, criminal justice reform, you know, campaigns for a livable wage, or health insurance, and making sure that whatever resources, credibility, spotlight that I can bring to help them rise up.”
“You want to be a talent scout and build the bench that Democrats have admitted they don’t have?” Inskeep asked.
“Well, not only a talent scout but I think also, you know, a coach, a friend, somebody who can build on the incredible work that has already been done by young people and that to a large degree was responsible for getting me elected,” Obama replied.
As The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Rachel Stoltzfoos notes, the institutional Democratic party has seen historic losses under his presidency. Since assuming office in 2008, Democrats have lost 11 Senate seats, 63 House seats, a dozen governorships, and more than 800 seats in state legislatures. While the party fumbles forward with a difficult 2018 Senate map and no leader, the GOP is enjoying political success it has not seen in nearly a century. In the days following the election, The New York Times noted that Republicans “now dominates almost everything in American governance.” (RELATED: By The Numbers: The Unprecedented Price Democrats Paid Under Eight Years Of Obama)
Press coverage of Obama in the waning days of the last two midterm elections underscores the extent to which Democrats in wide swaths of the country chaffed under the albatross of a president unpopular in many quarters.
“Obama has yet to acknowledge his own weak standing with the public at any of his political events,” CNN’s Jim Acosta wrote in the weeks before the 2014 midterm elections. “Instead, the president appears to blame what he describes as obstructionist Republicans and a polarized, vapid news media.”
Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico piled on.
“Democrats, meanwhile, spent months figuring out new ways to distance themselves from the president and say they disagreed with his positions,” he said. “Obama himself has missed the adoring crowds, replaced by an endless parade of fundraisers where he has gone through the motions of a speech about hope over cynicism that even he didn’t seem to believe anymore.”
Nevertheless, the outgoing president is one of the few ecumenical figures going in Democratic politics, making the talent-scout role as much a necessity as a personal aspiration. Coupled with a resurgent popularity in his final days in office, Obama may finally find the midterm pitches which have eluded his last eight years.
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