Part of the Democrats’ predicament is Obama’s fault: he failed to resolve the great economic and strategic issues that brought him to office, and that kept him in office so long as the only alternative was the Massachusetts (and now Utah) Bush-substitute. Obama was and is a lot like Romney, just without the baggage of Romney’s party affiliation. Obama had a chance to exorcise the spirit of Clinton from his party: the spirit, that is, of terrible trade agreements and an interventionist foreign policy, including Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War. Instead he made Mrs. Clinton his secretary of state and brought regime change to Libya. Along with regime change, as usual, came Islamism and a refugee crisis, as well as a return to Libya of slavery. Economically, Obama’s biggest domestic initiative was a national version of Romney’s Massachusetts health-insurance scheme, while he pressed ahead with CAFTA, TPP, and T-TIP, free-trade deals with Central America, the Pacific, and Europe. Obama ran as the anti-Bush and non-Clinton, but in the practice he was more of the same.
There’s a warning here for President Trump and his party: the GOP will reap the whirlwind if Trump does not succeed in living up to voters’ expectations for change better than Obama did. Obama still won re-election in 2012, but his party suffered steep decline: losing first the House (2010), then the Senate (2014), then the White House (2016). Trump’s party will follow this same pattern, and faster, if the agenda that elected Trump gets dropped.