In April 2016, just months before he was due to leave the White House, then-U.S. President Barack Obama travelled to London, England to engage in a far shadier attempt at “foreign intervention” in another country’s election process than Donald Trump was ever party to.
Arriving in London, he told an audience that Britain would find herself “at the back of the queue” for a trade deal with the United States if the public insisted on voting to leave the European Union.
At that point in the campaign, the “Remain” or anti-Brexit side had a 10 point lead in the polls, according to Ipsos Mori. Thanks to Mr. Obama, that lead would soon be transformed into an unprecedented victory for team Brexit, who capitalized on the former President’s remarks to highlight the elitist, globalist ambitions of the European Union.
Obama was still a relatively popular figure back then, even in Britain. But if there’s one thing Britons share with our cousins in the Commonwealth of Virginia: it’s that we loathe being patronized, and lament being told what to do by someone so far removed from ordinary people’s lives and experiences.
Brexit, much like the gubernatorial vote in Virginia this week, was not just an expression of rebellion, it was one of revolution.
After the June 23rd vote in 2016, critics suddenly became less bullish about candidate Clinton’s chances against the new bruiser on the block, Donald J. Trump.
“Brexit and Trump are inextricably linked,” former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon was oft-heard to remark. His linking of these two, world-changing, populist sentiments were echoed by the fact that Donald Trump himself welcomed Brexit leader Nigel Farage onto multiple campaign stages as November 2016 drew closer.
Instead of learning from Obama’s mistake, Clinton took Farage’s own foreign intervention – which he has described as “payback” – personally, and lashed out:
“Farage has called for a ban on the children of legal immigrants from public schools and health services… has said women are quote ‘worth less’ than men, and supports scrapping laws that prevent employers from discriminating based on race – that’s who Trump wants by his side.”
None of those things were true, of course. And all the attack from a stage in Nevada did was serve to underscore how fundamentally unpopular and increasingly desperate the Clinton campaign had become.
Instead of shifting her tone from Obama’s usual sneering, she adopted it. And that brings us to Virginia, 2021.
For all intents and purposes, Glenn Youngkin is scarcely a Trumpian figure.
For sure, he broke bad on the issues facing Virginians in their schools, their families, and on “critical race theory” (I prefer to call it communism). But he’s still a zip-up-fleece wearing, Carlyle Group operative who finds more friends in the political center than on the so-called “far right”.
As a result, Obama couldn’t outflank him with moderates and independents. And no right winger in their right mind was going to be swayed by the former President’s rhetoric when he took to the stump with cringe-dancer McAuliffe last week.
Obama, quite simply, has boxed himself in as an elitist.
Public polling will likely still show the 44th President of the United States as “popular” or “likeable” but with his bosom buddy Joe Biden’s bungled approach to governance, Obama burns political capital by the day.
Democratic Party candidates should (and will) think twice before deploying figures like him, Biden, Harris, and anyone affiliated.
When Joe Biden called himself a “transitionary” candidate, Barack Obama likely wasn’t intending to be impacted by said “transition”. But he is. And it’s a great, great thing to observe.