This is the sunny side of the multicultural identity politics that defines the Democratic Party more thoroughly with each electoral cycle. The darker side of the same trend can be seen when each group attempts to elbow past the others, battling over who’s the bigger victim of straight, white, male oppression, while failing to offer a compelling and hopeful vision of the country’s future. The Obamaian approach has the distinctive political advantage of acknowledging obstacles to equality and justice while also demonstrating that progress continues — that underneath or alongside the ugliness of the Trump era, there can be hope for better days.
Paired with that love of overcoming adversity is the thrill of the party’s standard-bearer positioning himself as Beyond Politics. Obama was a master of this, even when (especially in his first term) it left him ill-equipped to defend himself and his party against a Republican Party hellbent on absolute opposition. Buttigieg shows signs of mastering it, too, as when he speaks about Trump voters in terms of understanding and sympathy, suggesting it’s “not accidental that some areas that have seen the most disruption in our social and economic life are those that are most likely to produce a lot of domestic extremists.”
The Democratic love of presidential candidates who position themselves at least partially above the partisan fray is an expression of what the polls tell us.