A leftover from yesterday via the Daily Rushbo. “Unrest” and “disunity” are merely synonyms here for “opposition,” unless you think Ex-President Spock is going to embrace the radical within during his retirement and start calling for anti-Trump riots. But the larger point, that Obama will continue to be a political player, is true enough. The Times already reported last month, in fact, that Obama plans to “remain part of the political debate” once he leaves office. How enthusiastically he participates will probably depend on how far Trump goes to overturn O’s policies. For the moment, Obama’s trying to make nice with Trump to influence him rather than declare war on him; if that proves fruitful, he’ll have an incentive to keep a lower public profile to stay on Trump’s good side. If it doesn’t, he’ll attack. But a gracious Bush-style post-presidency probably isn’t in the cards, unless Trump proves far more susceptible to private persuasion by Obama than anyone on the right expects.
Obama’s not operating in a vacuum, though. He’ll have two pressures weighing on him to keep quiet, even if Trump ends up freezing him out. One is Trump’s relationship with congressional Democrats. If he and Schumer are working on a blockbuster trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, a speech by O attacking Trump on something unrelated like ObamaCare could shatter the negotiations. The more Obama agitates for the left to resist Trumpism, the more politically difficult it’ll be for Schumer and Pelosi to make a deal. He’ll have to pick his spots. The second pressure has to do with how thin the Democrats’ bench is. The more media oxygen Obama sucks up by taking the lead in attacking Trump, the less there is for Dems looking to establish themselves for 2020 and beyond. O is sensitive to that problem too, per his comment recently about wanting to “coach” the next generation of party leaders. The coach’s role is on the sidelines, not on the field. And let’s be real: After the first six months or so of Trump’s presidency, it’ll seem pathetic if Obama is still out there attacking his policies. The public might indulge him a few moments like that early on as he adjusts to retirement, especially since he’s leaving office relatively popular, but the longer it goes on, the more it’ll seem less like heartfelt activism and more like a celebrity trying to cling to a spotlight that no longer belongs to him. Instead of encouraging “unrest,” a sustained anti-Trump media campaign by Obama is likely to encourage a lot of “go play some f***ing golf already” grumbling, and not just from the right.
Still, Democrats are going to need someone out there on TV regularly acting as lead anti-Trump spokesman. Who’s that going to be if not O? The reigning nominee would seem like a logical candidate in the abstract but Hillary may be more unpopular now than Trump is and she reeks of loserdom after having suffered one of the biggest upsets in American history. The party’s best bet is probably Bernie Sanders, since he’s the one figure on the left who can challenge Trump right now in terms of blue-collar populist credibility, but having a 75-year-old as the “new face of the party” doesn’t help much with that thin-bench problem. I assume that Elizabeth Warren, another populist (from the Ivory Tower), will end up getting the most face time since she’s viable in 2020. But if Obama does end up with a surprisingly high public profile next year, this might explain why — Democrats simply don’t have many good alternatives as mouthpieces right now.