Obama’s warning to the Democrats: A call for unity, or more division?

Rohan Arora ‘22 is a PPE major from Edison, New Jersey.

ROHAN ARORA, Asst. Opinion Editor—Former president Barack Obama recently spoke at a gathering of the Democracy Alliance, a group of wealthy Democratic donors who raise and contribute large amounts of money for the left.

In his remarks, the former president issued a word of warning, seemingly to the democratic presidential hopefuls of 2020. Obama cautioned that the majority of Americans do not want a revolution, or to tear down the entire system and rebuild it, but do want to see the system made a little fairer. With this, Obama pled with the party that going ‘too far left’ may not be the answer.

Obama’s remarks come at a particularly important, and simultaneously odd, time. On the one hand, there as been a growing anxiety within the democratic party on whether the path to beating trump revolves around a moderate-left candidate such as Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, or a far left candidate like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth warren. Some people, most notably far left twitter users, took exception to the former president’s comments, to the point where the hashtag #TooFarLeft was trending in the top 15 on twitter. People were accusing Obama of being ignorant of society’s needs and out of touch.

It is important to consider where the former president is coming from. Obama has already served two terms in office- two terms which he won. No other candidate on the stage can say they have won even one, let alone two presidential elections. Obama’s comments come at a time where multiple big democratic donors have reportedly expressed concern at the rise of far-left, and in Warren’s case, Anti-Wall Street ideology. The rising popularity of Warren has led to a growing mentality within the elite democrats that they would be better off supporting Trump in 2020 if Warren or Sanders were the nominee, according to CNBC and BusinessInsider.

In my view, Obama, and other prominent democrats have been trying their best to preserve the integrity of the center-left wing of the Democratic Party, in an effort to not alienate the group of donors which give the democrats most of their money. The sad truth of the matter is that small-dollar donations alone cannot fully sustain a presidential campaign, especially against the record-breaking war chest of money Trump and the RNC has amassed.

The ideological shift further left of the party has also adversely affected the more moderate democrats, who have to make a choice between embracing the progressive platform and alienating more moderate, ‘non-revolutionary’ voters, or sticking with the old moderate-democrat platforms which commonly get large proportions of bipartisan votes, while facing criticism by the progressive voters for this.

I have personally witnessed this in my time interning on the hill. Not only is there a divide between the parties, there is a growing divide within the democratic party between the two paths to ‘beating Trump’ and each side is not willing to accept the benefits of the other.

While Obama is clearly taking a side here, I do not see his comments as trying to divide even further. I think Obama is trying to implore both nominees and voters to not be as rigid with their beliefs. The growing polarization of the two parties in the US has led to an overwhelmingly hostile discourse between the two sides, often escalating into violence. In imploring the democrats to be wary of going too far left, I think the former president is simply implying that it falls on the left to start the process of mending that hostility, but they can only do so by winning the presidency in 2020.

Rohan Arora ‘22 is a PPE major from Edison, New Jersey

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