In response to my post yesterday about the tradition of truthtellers in Democratic primaries,1 a reader emails: “Offhand my guess would be that a lot of Bernie supporters think Obama proves that an outsider/rebel/truthteller can both win and end up a very successful president.” Another reader tweets the same sentiment:
.@kdrum Is Obama the one bold truthteller who actually succeeded?
— Over Koalified (@OverKoalified) April 18, 2016
Hmmm. I don’t think either of these is true. Obama didn’t run in the truthteller tradition. He ran more in the JFK/Clinton tradition: a young guy bringing the voice of a new generation to the White House. Obama was inspiring and wildly popular, but he didn’t spend his time explaining that we all had to face up to endemic corruption or tidal waves of money or demographic Armageddon. Just the opposite. He mostly sanded the rough edges off that kind of stuff. It was all hope and change and ending the partisan bickering in Washington.
As for Bernie supporters, I don’t think they view Obama as a rebel or a truthteller. Bernie himself is careful not to criticize Obama, but a lot of his supporters see Obama as basically a disappointment: just another squishy centrist who made some incremental progress and called it a day. In the end, we still don’t have universal health care; the banks are still running things; the Republican Party continues to obstruct; and rich people are still rich. That’s the very reason we need a guy like Bernie in the Oval Office.
This is certainly my impression, anyway. Am I wrong?
1A theme that Jamelle Bouie touches on in a much longer, more nuanced piece here about the Bernie insurgency. It’s well worth a read.