Obama: I’m the father of the Tea Party, you know
posted at 4:01 pm on January 11, 2017 by Ed Morrissey
Fact check: Mostly True — in a way, and only on that point. This moment comes from George Stephanopoulos’ interview with outgoing President Barack Obama, in which Obama professes his legacy as the revitalization of democracy. He was so good at it, he tells Stephanopoulos, he even reinvigorated the Republican grassroots, and claims to be the father of the Tea Party (via Matt Vespa and the Free Beacon):
(Thanks to Grabien for the working video.)
“As I reflect back on what’s worked for me in this office, it’s been that I’ve gotten people who maybe didn’t believe in the process to get engaged,” Obama said. “Ironically, I’ve even gotten the other side, that maybe didn’t believe in the process, to get engaged.”
“I gather I’m the father of the Tea Party,” Obama said. “I invigorated the grassroots in the Republican Party as well as the Democratic Party.”
Technically, Rick Santelli is the father of the Tea Party, and his rant on CNBC only partially involved Obama. Santelli was railing about the bailouts, which Obama extended but which began under George W. Bush, and his March 2009 declaration started the Tea Party grassroots movement. But even if Obama wasn’t quite the father, he certainly was its nursemaid and focal point of opposition ever since ObamaCare was first introduced three months later.
On the other point, though, it’s almost certainly not true that Obama has reinvigorated grassroots on his side of the aisle. We’ve featured this graph a number of times showing the impact that Obama’s presidency had on the Democratic Party, but it’s worth repeating in this context:
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) November 13, 2016
In my column at The Week, I remind readers that Obama is also one father of the Democratic collapse — but not the only one:
Obama, still a relatively young man, will have ample opportunities to earn millions from his memoirs and leverage his popularity in service of any agenda he chooses to pursue. However, he leaves behind a much different political legacy for his party than some of his recent predecessors did. When Reagan left office, the Republican Party won the White House — the first time since Martin Van Buren that a sitting vice president won the White House through an election without the death or resignation of the president. Democrats lost control of the House after a 40-year run during Clinton’s first term, but Democrats managed to win back control of the Senate as his term ran out — helped in part by Hillary Clinton’s successful Senate run in New York.
For Democrats at the end of the Obama era, the situation looks much more bleak. In fact, it’s so bad that Washington Post analyst Philip Bump referred to the precipitous decline in Democratic fortunes as the “Thelma and Louiseing” of the party. Democrats have lost 10 percent of their Senate seats from the 111th Congress, 19 percent of their House seats, and 20 percent of their seats in state legislatures during Obama’s time in office. On top of that, the party has lost more than a third of its gubernatorial seats. The Democratic Party finds itself in its worst shape since before the Great Depression — just a few short years after its ascendancy to dominance during the Great Recession. …
But Obama isn’t the only culprit. Despite having lost four elections in a row, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered this warning on her Twitter feed Monday to Republicans looking to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace ObamaCare. “How long will it take for @HouseGOP to acknowledge they don’t have the people’s support?” Republicans fought all four of the past elections on repealing ObamaCare, including Donald Trump’s pledge to make repeal his top legislative priority, and managed to beat Pelosi all four times — and win the White House in 2016 to finally accomplish it.
That kind of tone-deafness to voters’ concerns is precisely why Pelosi’s party finds itself retreating into coastal enclaves and academia. Democratic leadership won its majorities because Republicans stopped listening to voters, but at least Republicans figured that out in two election cycles. Obama and Pelosi have spent the last eight years ignoring the will of voters even when expressed in two successive midterm disasters for their party, and all but handed the GOP the keys to Washington as the party threw its weight behind Hillary Clinton and the promise of four more years of pandering to a narrow elite. And after voters put an exclamation point on their frustration, what did House Democrats do? Put Pelosi back in charge for another two years.
If it was a whodunit, it’s Murder on the Obama Express, and everyone on their train did it.