If you thought the first black president—who helped deliver more government control of healthcare, nominated two Supreme Court justices who helped legalize gay marriage, and basically ushered in the era of men being allowed to use girls’ bathrooms and locker rooms—would have some staying power with the base of the party, you might just be wrong. According to exit polls from Super Tuesday, the base of the party wants to put Barack Obama behind them.
“Mr. Obama remains popular in the Deep South, where black voters play an outsized role in Democratic politics,” reports the Washington Times, “but from Maine to Minnesota, voters said they are no longer thrilled with the man who brought them the first universal health care plan and flexed his executive pen to grant a deportation amnesty to ‘Dreamers,’ to ink a deal with Iran and to commit the U.S. to curbing greenhouse gases.”
Under normal circumstances, the party looking forward would be a good thing. Nostalgia for the past during a time when you’re looking for a new party leader doesn’t always translate into motivated voters. For example, 2008 was the first presidential election following the death of Ronald Reagan when the Republican Party didn’t have an incumbent president running. Finding “the next Ronald Reagan” was a huge (though unofficial) theme of the GOP primary. It felt like all the candidates were comparing themselves to Reagan, or presenting themselves as his successor. It didn’t work. So, in one respect, it’s good for the Democrats that they’re moving beyond Barack Obama.
But the problem is who he’s been replaced by.
As the party has moved further to the left, Obama’s radical agenda has become “too centrist” for the base of the Democratic Party now. Despite Joe Biden’s victories on Super Tuesday, the base of the party is actually gravitating toward Bernie Sanders and his agenda, not Joe Biden’s.
“Even in states where Mr. Sanders got clobbered Tuesday, such as North Carolina, his idea to replace Obamacare with a more expansive ‘Medicare for All’ plan wins majority support,” writes the Washington Times. “Ideas such as tuition-free public college are backed by more than 70%, according to NBC’s early exit poll tallies.”
In California, 56 percent of Democrat voters back Medicare for all; free public college was supported by 75 percent, and socialism was viewed favorably by a ridiculous 53 percent.
Biden’s electoral victories have less to do with him and his agenda than they do with his perceived electability over Bernie Sanders. Voters who support the socialist agenda of Bernie Sanders but voted for Biden are simply terrified that Sanders is destined to lose in November, and exit polls showed that beating Trump “was far more important to voters than picking someone who was ideologically on the same page.”
This, of course, presents a real problem for Democrats should Biden win the nomination. If you’re not fired up to support the candidate, there’s a good chance you’ll actually be less motivated to vote. In 2004, a Pew Center poll showed that “Bush voters show the highest level of positive support [for a presidential candidate], while Kerry supporters show the highest level of ‘voting against’ the opponent since they have been asking the question.” How’d that election work out for John Kerry?
While Biden may technically be more electable, the energy and support are really for Bernie. If Biden wins the nomination he won’t have the kind of enthusiasm that Bernie Sanders would–especially if Bernie’s supporters think he got screwed over.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis