Obama’s response, however, demonstrates that he was as much a symptom as a cause of Democrats’ current predicament. The party’s leftward lurch—so-called “Great Awokening” driven by white progressives but growing among younger Democrats—can be seen across a range of issues during Obama’s second term and are by no means a product of one man.
Zack Goldberg, a Georgia State University PhD candidate studying the phenomenon, recently wrote for Tablet magazine: “There is no simple or single explanation for how this process got started. It appears to be driven by an interplay of factors: preexisting tendencies among white liberals; a series of polarizing events like the police shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent riots in Ferguson, and the migrant crisis; the rise of millenials as a political force, and the explosion of social media and ‘woke’ clickbait journalism.”
Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, taking a more explicitly generational perspective, point to parenting and education as well. A cohort coming into political age during the financial crisis and the ensuing great recession inclined more progressives to extreme movements, beginning with Occupy Wall Street, where intersectionality gained an early toehold in political discourse.