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The whole Democratic primary is an Obama lookalike contest (and everyone's losing)

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

The whole Democratic primary is an Obama lookalike contest (and everyone's losing)
Within the Democratic primary is the real contest of 2020: who can convince voters they’re most like former president Barack Obama, whom nostalgic alchemy has transformed into the closest thing the US has to a political saint?

Democratic candidates are jumping through hoops to grab a piece of the halo that has (however undeservedly) accrued to the 44th president, and they aren’t exactly being subtle about it. Whether by constantly bringing up their tenure in his administration, inflating their collaboration on political initiatives, blanketing the airwaves with deceptive commercials that imply his endorsement, or even recycling his mannerisms on stage, most of the 2020 candidates are hoping to channel the beloved ex-president all the way to the White House.

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With the party convulsed by an outbreak of Trump Derangement Syndrome that shows no signs of subsiding, even those constituents who had become disillusioned with Obama by the time he left in 2016 would gladly welcome him back into the White House - and their hearts. But how well are the current crop of candidates actually doing in convincing voters they’re the second coming of Saint Barack?

Pete Buttigieg:

Buttigieg may be white, but his young age, slight political background, and Midwest launching pad give an Obama-esque tenor to his campaign. Becoming the first openly gay US president would be as significant an achievement as Obama breaking the race barrier, and his minority status has allowed him to position himself as an underdog even when he’s pulling down massive donations from hedge funders and billionaire philanthropists. Buttigieg’s campaign patter echoes the uplifting blandness of Obama’s now-legendary “hope and change” slogan, and in some cases he’s copied the Democratic Idol verbatim.

Buttigieg’s coziness with Wall Street is straight out of Obama’s biography. Just as the young Illinois senator set an all-time record for the most contributions received from Wall Street when he ran in 2008, Buttigieg is blowing his rivals out of the water in contributions from the financial sector. However, Obama’s Wall Street minders - including the Citigroup executive who picked most of his cabinet - aren’t what typically comes to mind in the worshipful Democratic voter when they think of their hero, so this similarity is more of a hindrance than a help to “Wall Street Pete.” Still, it does make him and Obama two peas in a pod.

Obama points: 9.0. One-point penalty for plagiarism, but a few more sessions with the“black dialogue coach” and he should be able to get a perfect score!

Joe Biden:

Biden, of course, was Obama’s vice president for eight years, and should logically be able to stake a claim whatever piece of the Obama legacy he desires. But Obama has conspicuously avoided endorsing his former running mate, and Biden’s constant name-dropping of his former boss can reek of desperation, as when he retweeted an old photo of matching friendship bracelets from 2016. It didn’t help that Biden forgot Obama’s name while the cameras were rolling, or that he’s publicly pondered what his life might have been like if Obama had been assassinated.

Biden has ferociously defended Obama’s record from incoming facts, and loyalty has to count for something. As he has declined in the polls, Biden has only intensified his pandering to Obama fans, suggesting last month he’d name Michelle Obama as his vice president and appoint Barack to the Supreme Court. Still, Obama’s communication abilities were his primary selling point. It’s a testament to his oratorial skills that after eight years of unfulfilled promises, endless war, and economic stagnation, so many Democratic voters still love the man. Biden has none of that charisma.

Obama points: 5.0,on the off-chance his campaign is working on a time machine that will actually catapult America back into 2008 on Inauguration Day.

Mike Bloomberg:

Bloomberg may have been openly critical of Obama while the latter was president, but that hasn’t stopped him from making a concerted effort to present himself as the recipient of the Nostalgia President’s endorsement in 2020. The plutocrat Democrat spent upwards of $15 million to blast a commercial touting the duo’s work on gun control into every home, featuring a slideshow of old photos overlaid with a voiceover of Obama glowingly introducing the then-mayor of New York back in 2013. While the somewhat dishonest pandering has been mocked, it seems to be working - or at least, social media is full of secondhand reports that it’s working, including one from former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe himself. Obama, notably, has not publicly said he is _not_ supporting Bloomberg. Plausible deniability, engage!

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While Bloomberg, who infamously called for throwing black youth up against the wall to get guns off the streets while mayor of New York, might seem an odd match for the first black president, money heals most wounds, and the billionaire has succeeded in bringing a surprising number of black leaders into his camp through what some might call crass bribery.

The other candidates, threatened by Bloomberg’s bottomless pockets, have gone on the attack, not to criticize Bloomberg’s record - which has plenty to criticize, what with the mayor turning New York into a police state and presiding over an 83 percent rise in homelessness - but to debunk his efforts to link himself with Obama. Priorities!

Obama points: 7.0. Obama didn’t do much for black people, either.

Bernie Sanders:

Sanders has shied away from attempting to channel Obama, whether because his platform is considerably further left than the former president’s or because he realizes how ridiculous it would look for the septuagenarian Vermont Jew to adopt a black patois for pandering purposes. However, he did compliment Fidel Castro’s literacy programs in Cuba, which is - according to mainstream pundits, at least - equivalent to defending mass murder. Obama, too, praised Castro’s education and healthcare programs.While Biden accused Sanders earlier this week of having plotted a 2012 primary run against Obama, claiming then-Senate majority leader Harry Reid had to intervene to prevent this unspeakable catastrophe, Reid has denied this occurred.

While Obama has officially withheld his endorsement until after the primary, he allegedly told advisers privately that he was willing to “speak up to stop” Sanders from securing the nomination. Sanders has largely refrained from criticizing the former president, instead applauding his restraint in staying out of the nominating contest.

Obama points: 2.0. For Castro.

Trump-traumatized Democrats shouldn’t feel too bad that his successor hasn’t materialized, though. While they may cling to the Obama years in the hope of waking up from what they’ve convinced themselves is an orange nightmare, in reality, Obama brought very little change to go with his hope. Between presiding over the bank bailout and turning two unwinnable wars into seven, his record isn’t something a political candidate would normally reach for when looking to armor themselves against criticism. But nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and with some Democrats even looking to draft Michelle Obama, it’s not leaving the party any time soon.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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