Where is Barack Obama?

Some Democrats fear that Obama reentering the picture would energize conservatives and move the party backwards in time—rather than encouraging new leaders to emerge with an eye toward 2020. But conservatives are energized, organized, and mobilized regardless of which Democrat stands in the public spotlight. This cautious logic replicates the same mistake that Obama made when he backed away as president from several tough fights with the GOP hoping his restraint would tone things down. It didn’t. And Obama can help promote new Democratic voices.

Indeed, Obama came to the forefront in 2004—when former President Bill Clinton was out on the hustings campaigning, and Obama was given a spot on the stage at the convention that nominated Senator John Kerry. Given that Obama ended his term with high approval ratings and remains an admired figure within much of the electorate, he could use his standing to build support to check Trump, the most unpopular president in recent history. A vibrant party is capable of handling many voices, new and old, at the same time. Frail and depleted parties are the ones that can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

The last time Obama was too timid, the Republicans roared. His party can’t afford to see Obama make that same mistake once again.