As puzzled Democrats struggle to determine next steps, President Obama crafts a how-to manual for President-elect Trump.
COMPILED FROM STAFF REPORTS
WASHINGTON – Hillary Clinton had barely conceded the 2016 presidential race when Bernie Sanders’ liberal legions signaled a resumption of their campaign to take over the Democratic Party.
Less than an hour after Clinton called President-elect Donald Trump to concede, the Sanders political organization, Our Revolution, responded.
It said the result confirmed “the political elite of both parties, the economists and the media are completely out of touch with the American electorate” and vowed “to offer a real alternative vision to continue the work of the political revolution.”
Sanders endorsed one of his earliest and most fervent supporters, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, for the Democratic National Committee’s chairmanship. An African-American who is one of two Muslims in Congress and has one of its most liberal voting records, Ellison said on ABC’s “This Week,” “The most important criteria for DNC chair is going to be vision.”
Other potential candidates have also emerged, including former chairman Howard Dean, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, South Carolina Democratic chair Jaime Harrison and outgoing Labor Secretary Tom Perez, as well as other issues, notably whether the party needs a full-time chairman.
With Democrats in Congress frustrated over four straight election disappointments, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio is furiously dialing his colleagues during their Thanksgiving break to win support for his attempt to end the long reign of California’s Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader of the House.
A Huffington Post aggregation of polls found Pelosi’s national unfavorable rating at nearly 48 percent. She’s the favorite villain of Republicans. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wants Pelosi to keep her position because “I truly believe as long as she’s the leader we keep the majority.”
But Pelosi commands immense loyalty among House Democrats.
“She still has enormous energy, she is the most successful fundraiser that the Democrats have in the House and she’s been able to keep her caucus together through many tough votes,” said Cindy Rosenthal, co-author of “Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the New American Politics” and director of the University of Oklahoma’s Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center.
“As the Democratic caucus thinks about the future, (Ryan is) forcing them to think about who will lead the party in 2020 and beyond,” Rosenthal said. “That could be the most important outcome of this.”
Since Obama took office in 2009, Democrats have lost more than 900 seats in state legislatures.
This election gave Republicans control in both state legislative chambers in 32 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That’s the most in the history of the Republican Party and the largest number of seats since 1920.
“The problem is the Republicans are incredibly strategic and we aren’t,” said Marcel Groen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. “The Republicans look at the political arena 10 to 20 years out. We look at the next election. So they figured wisely that if they can control legislatures in most states, every 10 years you get to draw the lines.”
Staying in politics?
Obama said at a news conference last week that one of his post-presidential tasks will be to help Democrats.
“How we organize politically, I think is something that we should spend some time thinking about,” the president said. “I believe that we have better ideas, but I also believe that good ideas don’t matter if people don’t hear them, and one of the issues that Democrats have to be clear on is that given population distribution across the country, we have to compete everywhere.
“We have to show up everywhere. We have to work at a grass-roots level.”
Speaking to Trump
Just hours before Obama boarded Air Force One for his final trip abroad, Obama began his public tutorial in the White House briefing room by discussing his meeting with Trump two days after the election.
He told Trump that it would matter “how he reaches out to groups that may not have supported him, how he signals his interest in their issues or concerns.”
As Obama traveled to Greece, Germany and Peru last week, he gave Trump a how-to manual for the presidency.
“Once you’re in the Oval Office, once you begin interacting with world leaders, once you see the complexities of the issues, that has a way of shaping your thinking and, in some cases, modifying your thinking,” Obama said in Peru.
Governing is different
During the news conference, Obama tried to drive home a “simple point,” perhaps to Trump himself: “You can’t assume that the language of campaigning matches up with the specifics of governing, legislation, regulations and foreign policy.”
Obama suggested a change is almost inevitable when he said, “What I can guarantee is … that reality will force him to adjust how he approaches many of these issues – that’s just the way this office works.” (Though he acknowledged during his final stop in South America that he “can’t guarantee that the president-elect won’t pursue some of the positions that he’s taken.”)
In Berlin, the president advised Trump to be “willing to stand up to Russia,” reminding his successor that many foreign policy experts, as well as himself, believe Russian President Vladimir Putin possesses views and strategic goals “deviating from our values and international norms.”
Flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama advised Trump against taking a “realpolitik approach” to Russia by cutting deals that are merely “convenient at the time.”
Notably, Obama’s remarks have also taken up temperament – something Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton charged was his Achilles’ heel.
“I think what will happen with the president-elect is there are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well unless he recognizes them and corrects them,” Obama said during one of his final briefing room appearances.
“When you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial, it has less impact than it does when you’re president of the United States,” he said. “Everybody around the world is paying attention.”
“Markets move” when the U.S. president speaks, and “national security issues require a level of precision in order to make sure that you don’t make mistakes.”
John T. Bennett of CQ-Roll Call; Carl P. Leubsdorf of The Dallas Morning News; and David Goldstein, Sean Cockerham and William Douglas of the McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS) all contributed to this report.