At this point, Barack Obama is as much a creature of the Establishment as any swamp monster in D.C. Having put his eight years as President behind him, Obama has turned to new hobbies: starting a media production company, giving speeches to Wall Street–normal elitist things that are taken for granted by most and rarely ever questioned in mainstream circles. This is, of course, a fitting path for the man who sailed into office on a platform literally centered around the world “change”, only to barely change anything once in power. In promising the country’s most desperate the big change that they needed, and then failing to deliver on it, Obama left the electorate vulnerable to an unhinged, pathological liar who was able to harness a similar “change”-based movement behind him, just from the opposite side of the aisle.
Despite his disappointing tenure in the White House, Barack Obama has continued to enjoy high favorability amongst Democrats, and his presence has loomed over this primary like a cloud. While he’s remained silent about his personal preference, his potential endorsement promises to shift the dynamics of the race in a big way, at any given moment. Hilariously, Barack has distanced himself from his own Vice President, Joe Biden, who was once considered the race’s frontrunner before finishing fourth place in Iowa and then fifth in New Hampshire–two embarrassments that shattered Biden’s veneer of “electability”. The fact that Obama not only foresaw that collapse, but also refused to intervene in any way, is proof that he remains politically savvy, and has begun to read the tea leaves.
Even though he’s become more deeply ingrained into the Establishment mindset that he ran against in 2008, Obama is not stupid, and he knows as well as anyone that the exact same grassroots energy that propelled him to the White House now lies with one candidate and one candidate only. It’s not Joe Biden, and it’s definitely not Elizabeth Warren (who Obama apparently voiced support for behind closed doors)–it’s Bernie Sanders. And, with the entire establishment media wailing from the top of their lungs about all of Sanders’ supposed faults and electoral issues, Obama must be reminded of his own ascension to front runner status in 2008 when it became crystal clear that the voters wanted his brand of progressivism over Hillary Clinton’s milquetoast neoliberalism.
Some of the very voices railing against Sanders on cable television, like Clinton-associate James Carville, routinely trashed Obama on cable news as well. And in 2016, how many Republicans came out to brandish their moral superiority against Trump, only to make him stronger and all the more resilient? Obama understands that in the 21st century, the best, most dynamic candidates for President are often those most despised by the party establishment. It’s why the likes of John Kerry and Mitt Romney were met with apathy from actual voters–they were clearly propped up by party insiders, and didn’t speak the language of the working class. Obama successfully channeled this energy against Clinton in 2008, Romney in 2012, and then watched Trump do the exact same to Clinton again in 2016.
Enter Mike Bloomberg. As he spends millions of dollars blanketing the airwaves with his slick ads in an obvious last-ditch effort to stop Sanders, he has risen in the polls by harnessing the exact opposite of the kind of coalition Obama built in 2008–by appealing to Boomers, not doing any grassroots fundraising, totally self-financing his campaign with his own billions of dollars, he’s in many ways the real anti-Obama. And his rise in the polls has come mostly at the expense of the other moderates in the race, namely Joe Biden. To make it even worse, Bloomberg has been heavily featuring Obama in his ads, tricking voters into assuming they were ideological allies during Obama’s time in office–a falsehood recently pointed out quite effectively by Biden’s own campaign. There’s also the fact that Bloomberg is a notorious bigot and lifetime Republican who accelerated and celebrated the racist stop and frisk program in New York City, and has a history of opposing basic Democratic policies like healthcare expansion, minimum wages increases and basic social welfare. It would hardly be a good look for America’s first black President to traipse around the country stumping for and defending a racist oligarch, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Obama, it’s that he’s obsessed with his own image and legacy.
Given all of these factors, the only intelligent move for Obama would be to endorse Bernie Sanders and his people-powered movement. At this point, he can either continue waiting in the wings, only to campaign for Sanders anyway if he does win, or watch Bloomberg get just enough delegates to somehow try and steal the nomination at a brokered convention. Obama must know that that would be the worst possible outcome for the Democrats, and much like the Democratic electorate at large, Obama’s priority is most likely to get Trump out of office. As with Obama’s ascension in 2008, the completion of Bernie’s rise will require moderate voices to give “permission” to their supporters to get behind the Democratic Socialist. We’ve already seen this begin with current NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s endorsement of Sanders, and Obama’s support would totally complete the process.
In addition to being a part of the winning team and winning back the favor of America’s youth, Obama could even steal some credit for the popularity of Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, which Obama could spin as a “natural extension” of his own Affordable Care Act. He would once again be seen as an exciting and bold voice in politics, instead of the representation of the Establishment that he’s become, and it would return real influence to his voice at a pivotal moment in the primary.
Bernie and his supporters should not hold their breaths waiting for this to happen. It likely will not, because, as previously stated, Barack Obama is as much a creature of the Establishment as any swamp monster in D.C. What he has that they don’t? A degree of political savvy.