My remarks about Obama seem to have been misunderstood, so let me explain. I am not suggesting that Obama should set the agenda for progressives. I am not suggesting that he run for a third term after a four year interim [unconstitutional]. I am not suggesting that Michelle Obama run for office. Here is what concerns me: The only realistic way to stop the horrible things the Republicans are doing and plan to do, while also beginning the long-term progressive transformation of the country, is to take back the House. This cannot be done merely by organizing and motivating the politically active segment of the left. There are just not enough votes.
Let me give you some figures. These are rough estimates only, but that is sufficient. In 2016, there were more or less 220 million eligible voters. Roughly 134 million, or 60%, voted. In 2018, if the customary behavior of American voters continues, only 88-90 million votes will be cast. Of the 44-46 million people who voted in 2016 but will not vote in 2018, fewer than half are Democrats, which is to say maybe 20 million [Republicans, who are on average older and Whiter and richer, are more likely to vote.] The secret to taking back the House is somehow to motivate enough of those 20 million to stop Tweeting or Yelping, get up off their Barcaloungers, and schlep on over to the local voting site to cast their ballots.
Now it is, I think, a pretty safe bet that not many of those who are marching and demonstrating and protesting and contacting their Representatives are among those 20 million low-energy voters. And since the American electoral system is ordinal, not cardinal, there is no way for the intensity of their preference to be recorded. The vote of an airhead who never gives a moment’s thought to politics counts for exactly as much as the vote of a dedicated marcher, blogger, donater, and protester. So somehow we need to get a significant number of millions of men and women to do what they are not ordinarily inclined to do and vote in an off-year election.
This is where Obama comes in. He has an unparalleled ability to fire up Democratic voters and get them to the polls. If, as I suspect, large numbers of Trump voters will be bummed out by his behavior as President by the time 2018 rolls around and hence not inclined to drag themselves to the polls, we might have a really good shot at pulling off what is called a Wave Election.
That, and only that, is what I had in mind when I speculated about the possibility that Obama might throw his weight into the struggle. Suppose all of this happens. How much will it actually accomplish? That depends in large measure in the character and political leaning of the candidates who are recruited to run for House seats [and also State Legislative seats], and this is where the energy and commitment of progressives plays a major role. If we recruit and get nominated genuine progressives, then in a wave election they will transform the House. Will Obama work to find and motivate genuine progressives? No, that is not where his heart lies. But we can!