Barack Obama recently served as a featured speaker during the House Democratic caucus’ virtual messaging summit, continuing to run afoul of the longstanding tradition of former presidents keeping relatively quiet during subsequent administrations and engaging in a pattern which W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner characterizes as “dangerous” in a recent op-ed.
According to CBS News, Obama’s appearance before the caucus included his suggestion that Democrat lawmakers take pride in the successes they have had instead of focusing unnecessarily on legislative struggles, as they go forward into the midterm election cycle.
Specifically, Obama urged Democrats not to be shy about touting the wins they have notched together with President Joe Biden on matters such as COVID-19 and the economy, using his own experience bringing the Affordable Care Act into existence while falling short of securing a public option as an example of celebrating wins and not dwelling on losses.
The directness and specificity of Obama’s engagement with Democrats in Congress at this time, according to Antle, represents a “stunning break from the norm that erstwhile holders of the nation’s highest office keep their domestic political activities to a minimum.
What’s more, in Antle’s estimation, is the fact that this is not the first time Obama has entered the current political fray in such a straightforward manner, opining that “[r]ather than a one-time infraction that can be papered over, this latest display could help cement a new status quo that encourages former presidents who are constitutionally barred from holding office to overstep their boundaries.”
Adding to the problematic nature of Obama’s actions, according to Antle, is that his “willingness to re-write the post-presidential game comes at a particularly dangerous political moment, when American traditions safeguarding the peaceful transition of power need to be reinforced rather than eroded.”
Antle went on to remind leaders of a series of instances in which Obama broke with tradition in this way, including his appearance at a United Nations climate conference, his involvement in congressional redistricting advocacy initiatives, and his frequent public criticism of former President Donald Trump.
Noting that other past presidents have engaged in high-profile activities such as making political convention speeches, writing an op-ed here and there, representing the nation at foreign dignitaries’ funerals, or fundraising for worthy charities, Obama’s endeavors are far more akin to those of a party kingmaker or “heavy political operator.”
Antle is surely correct in asserting that “providing a temporary boost to the Democratic Party can’t be more important than the broader interests of democracy itself,” but given the dire electoral straits in which liberals currently find themselves due to the folly of having nominated Joe Biden, desperation may prompt Obama to push the boundaries even further and continue his encroachment on this long-respected American political tradition.