Like a superhero that has gone into retirement, President Obama has been absent from politics since his term as president ended in 2016. However, this does not mean that he has completely abandoned politics. In fact, the former president has indirectly been involved in attempts to ensure that he leaves a legacy behind to combat the opposition long after he is gone. One of the ways in which Obama has ensured that his legacy thrives on has been by holding private talks with potential Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential elections.
The former president has shown interest for a rather more moderate candidate. This comes to no surprise as moderatism has been on the rise since Trump’s election. A moderate Democrat would arguably be the party’s best bet to winning the 2020 election by being able to win over key swing states. This is supported by the fact that moderates have won local elections in states such as Alabama, Kansas and others that are considered to be deep red states. In what has so far been a crowded Democratic field anxious to defeat Trump, there have not been many centrist candidates like Obama or Bill Clinton, but rather, many who seek to defeat the incumbent by aiming farther left. This could prove to be a difficult strategy since many far-left candidates did not fare so well in the Democratic primaries. Yet, in the 2018 midterm elections, more than half of voters for the Democratic Party identified as moderate or conservative rather than liberal.
Not only because of his status as a former president, but also as a relative centrist, Obama’s opinion matters since he has been one of the most successful Democrats in the last ten years. This is not only due to him being the most recent Democratic president, but also due to the lack of a seriously strong candidate on behalf of the Democrats since his departure. Rather than having moved to the center to compromise, both parties have grown to become rather extreme. According to a Pew Research Center study, the political divide on ideology has grown dramatically.
In an era where compromise seems unattainable, Democrats must be the first ones to make the move towards the center if they want to appeal to swing voters and win the elections in 2020. Currently, the GOP has won over these voters; if the Democrats want to win them back, they must be the ones to move to the center and tug these voters back. Furthermore, Obama will probably eventually endorse someone once the primaries approach. However, due to the lack of a strong candidate at this point, it makes sense that he refrains for the time being.
In summary, Obama is wise in preferring a moderate candidate, as it increases the chance for Democrats to win the election. Obama’s eventual endorsement will be of significance given that he still has a large following of voters who look up to him, but he will and should refrain until a candidate whose values align with his arises, for the sake of winning over the swing votes.