Obama’s “tough love” sounds very tone deaf

A short foray back into politics from former President Barack Obama seems to indicate that he is entrenched in the old monied interests of the Democratic Party and about as far away as possible from a new Blue Wave characterized by newcomers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As the party needs to connect with more young people and others who have been disaffected, he chose to chastise Democrats for moping too much.

“If you are one of these folks who is watching cable news at your cocktail parties with your friends and you are saying ‘civilization is collapsing’ and you are nervous and worried, but that is not where you are putting all your time, energy and money, then either you don’t actually think civilization is collapsing … or you are not pushing yourself hard enough and I would push harder.”

The problem is, he said this and more at a cocktail party, a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills. He said it with 200 donors in attendance where the evening was “highlighted” by a performance by Christina Aguilera.

Two clear problems. First, there is way too much money in politics and Obama is just reinforcing that. It might do him well to remember that Ocasio-Cortez’s victory came over an entrenched incumbent who spent ten times as much money as she did. More and more Democrats are realizing that can be a turn-off.

That leads to the second point. The voters that Democrats need are not the ones who can go to fund-raisers, and in many ways, fund-raisers are the last place they would want to be.

It is indeed ironic how Obama came to power on a wave largely propelled by inexpensive social media. He carried with him a reputation as a “man of the people” who before he was knocking on doors for votes was knocking on doors to ask people what he could do for them and their community. That’s what community organizers do and it’s also how politicians connect with the electorate. How many of the people at the Beverly Hills shindig live in homes where anyone can get to the door and knock?

Imagine what it would do to the actual and potential Democratic electorate if Obama was going door-to-door with the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and other young progressive candidates who were not relying on money from big donors to propel them into power?

Imagine if he spent one or two days a month knocking on doors in the projects of Chicago and elsewhere to learn of their current concerns and to offer to use his skills as an attorney to help them have their rights properly recognized and respected?

The former president is spending much of his current time working on a book about his White House years. It might help him put his actions and inactions in a better perspective if he spent more time asking questions of the people who are most impacted by government action rather than those who survive no matter what.

Nothing could be more helpful to the Democratic Party and the nation than a freshly energized Barack Obama who combined his experience and wisdom with the dream and hopes that remain with his constituency. The fund-raisers deepen the coffers of fat-cats. If they mope because he doesn’t pander to them, so be it. What is needed is to get grass-roots voters out of their funk and into action.