An article in The Atlantic opens: “Barack Obama is literally more popular than Jesus among Democrats. Unfortunately, neither the former president nor any of the party’s 23 candidates currently seeking the 2020 nomination know quite what to do with that information.”
In their furor to undermine the lead of former Vice President Joe Biden, some Democratic presidential candidates are attacking the former president’s record. They are likely to face growing criticism for doing so as they foster further divisions in the party and among independents the party’s nominee will need to defeat President Donald Trump.
During Wednesday night’s second Democratic debate, the contenders decided Obama’s popularity and the legacy of his administration had to be cast aside in the name of pursuing the presidential nomination in 2020.
Aiming at Obama’s vice president, Biden, they attacked his position on health care. Biden is advocating changes and improvements in Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. A number of his opponents want to throw out the ACA in favor of “Medicare for All.”
Biden was attacked on immigration, with a primary focus being the number of deportations during the Obama years.
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Attacking the Obama legacy doesn’t sit well with many. On the morning after the debate, host Joe Scarborough on Democratic bastion MSNBC was quite vocal in his assessment:
"It is insanity, my friends," Scarborough said. "... We were sort of in a Never Never Land last night in that debate. It was bizarre."
"There are a lot of Democrats that are pretty pissed off” at candidates for "trashing Barack Obama's legacy.”
"Give me a break!" Scarborough said. "What's wrong with you people? You're going up against Donald Trump and you're talking about defending Obamacare as Republican talking points? Who is advising you?"
The Wednesday night attacks on Biden went beyond his Obama ties, with California Sen. Kamala Harris returning again to the Biden position on busing in the 1970s. Plus there were references to Biden’s role in passing get-tough crime legislation in 1994 that many blame for filling jails disproportionately with minorities.
No one said presidential politics was a clean business. But those using the Obama legacy to attack Biden may find themselves marginalizing their candidacies. The Democratic nomination could become a ticket to losing to Trump if moderate Democrats and independents do not support the nominee.
The words of presidential candidate and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet during Wednesday night’s debate should be digested by the Democratic field if, as nearly all say, the ultimate goal is to defeat Trump.
"This is the fourth debate that we have had and the second time that we are debating what people did 50 years ago with busing," Bennet said, noting schools today are as segregated as they were then. "We need a conversation about what's happening now."