President Obama’s Long-Term Strategy to Change Red to Blue

Pundits started noticing a change in President Obama’s speeches on the campaign trail back when he talked like this in Ohio a couple of weeks ago.

So Donald Trump may make most Republican politicians look a little bit better by comparison — I mean, it’s like the bar has gotten so low. But these are the same Republicans who tried to block us from rescuing the economy; did not offer a single vote when it came to the recovery package that made sure that we started growing again, long before any other advanced economy did. Same folks who didn’t vote for the auto industry assistance that resulted now in record-breaking auto sales. The same folks who tried to take away folks’ health insurance every chance they get; who refuse to allow votes on giving minimum wage workers a raise; refuse to support making sure women earn equal pay for equal work…

So don’t act like this started with Donald Trump. He did take it to a whole new level. I got to give him credit. But he didn’t come out of nowhere.

Here is how he put it in Nevada:

[T]here are a lot of politicians who knew better. There are a lot of senators who knew better. But they went along with these stories [i.e., birtherism] because they figured, you know what, this will help rile up the base, it will give us an excuse to obstruct what we’re trying to do, we won’t be able to appoint judges, we’ll gum up the works, we’ll create gridlock, it will give us a political advantage. So they just stood by and said nothing. And their base began to actually believe this crazy stuff.

So Donald Trump did not start this. Donald Trump didn’t start it. He just did what he always did, which is slap his name on it, take credit for it, and promote it. That’s what he does. And so now when suddenly it’s not working, and people are saying, wow, this guy is kind of out of line, all of a sudden, these Republican politicians who were okay with all this crazy stuff up to a point, suddenly they’re all walking away. “Oh, this is too much.” … Well, what took you so long? What the heck?

Those aren’t attempts to help Hillary Clinton win the presidency. They are meant to call out the Republicans in Congress for their gridlock and duplicity in paving the way for a Trump candidacy. In other words, Obama is making the case for voting for Democrats in down-ballot races.

That point was emphasized when the president did this:

President Barack Obama is endorsing 30 more House candidates Monday, expanding his effort to use his rising popularity to help Democrats looking to flip or hold swing districts across the country — and crush them under the association with Donald Trump.

Obama’s already taped ads and robocalls for several candidates, and more is expected in the final two weeks until Election Day.

One of those 30 candidates is Terri Bonoff – who Anne Kim wrote about here at the Washington Monthly in a article about how Trump’s candidacy could help Democrats reclaim the suburbs. She is running in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional district against incumbent Republican Erik Paulson. Here is the ad Obama cut in support of Bonoff:

But here’s where it gets even more interesting.

President Obama, who has endured gridlock in Washington as Republicans in the states took direct aim at his vision and legacy, is stepping in to assist more than 150 state legislative candidates, by far his biggest effort to bolster local Democrats since he took office.

“You are going to see a level of engagement down to the state representative level that I don’t think you’ve seen too many presidents engage in,” said David Simas, the director of the White House’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.

Those efforts certainly aren’t aimed at defeating Trump and getting Clinton elected to protect his legacy. Nor are they about who wins control of Congress in 2016. In addition to helping fight against things like voting restrictions that have been passed by Republican state legislatures, they are aimed at a longer term strategy…one we heard about a couple of weeks ago.

As Democrats aim to capitalize on this year’s Republican turmoil and start building back their own decimated bench, former Attorney General Eric Holder will chair a new umbrella group focused on redistricting reform — with the aim of taking on the gerrymandering that’s left the party behind in statehouses and made winning a House majority far more difficult.

The new group, called the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, was developed in close consultation with the White House. President Barack Obama himself has now identified the group — which will coordinate campaign strategy, direct fundraising, organize ballot initiatives and put together legal challenges to state redistricting maps — as the main focus of his political activity once he leaves office.

That is your Community Organizer-in-Chief at work laying the groundwork for a long-term strategy to change red to blue. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more about this once he becomes Former President Barack Obama.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .