In 2016 it was Republicans Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina. For 2020 it’s Democrats Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Juliàn Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer. They all have one thing in common, they either refuse to accept, misunderstand or just don’t realize that they are not Barack Obama!
Barack Obama burst on to the national scene in 2004 when he first won a landslide victory in the March 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate Democratic primary, and the then Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry invited him to deliver the keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention. After the well-received keynote address Barack Obama when on to win the general election and become the 2nd American Black to be elected to serve as a U.S. Senator from the state of Illinois. After serving just 4 years as a U.S. Senator, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008.
This unprecedented election as President by a politician with the African name of Barack Obama and who had only been known by the American public for 4 years, set the false notion in the mind of many other politicians and successful people that anyone with any type of national profile can be elected president.
For the last 74 years every man elected president, with 2 exceptions Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, was not just a politician with high name recognition, was not just a rich person, and was not just a successful private sector individual. The white male elected was a person who was a well known quantity to the voting public. Any person who assumes that Barack Obama was able to be elected President by giving a great convention speech and serving 4 years in the U.S. Senate, is deluding themselves with a false narrative and ignoring a circumstance that was only unique to him.
First, they are overlooking his above average intelligence, character and dynamic charisma. Second like Jimmy Carter he ran in an election cycle that followed a national tragedy, for Jimmy Carter it was Watergate and the impeachment of President Nixon followed by his resignation from office. For Barack Obama, it was the failed Iraq War and the total collapse of America’s economic system which was second only to the 1930’s Great Depression.
Third and most important was the X-factor circumstance that was unique only to Barack Obama. It gave him the one thing that Jimmy Carter did not have and none of the current presidential candidates has, MAKING HISTORY. While there was a tragic chapter of history made with President Nixon’s resignation prior to Jimmy Carter’s run for the presidency, there was nothing historical about Jimmy Carter’s campaign or election. Both the campaign and the election of Barack Obama as President made red, white and blue American history. The idea that America could take a historic election step that would nullify the historic stain of American racism and bigotry, dominated the mind and emotions of the voting public.
Although Jimmy Carter was largely unknown to the voting public, he could at least make the claim that he had the experience of being a mini-president by having served as a Governor of a state. Barack Obama could not make a claim anywhere near that. But the potential history of electing America’s first black President allowed any questions about the logic of electing Barack Obama as President, when his only claim to fame was being a “community organizer” with just 4 years of national political experience, to be pushed to the back of the mind of the voting public.
Unfortunately, as was the case for Hillary Clinton in 2016, for Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Tulsi Gabbard the potential history either of these women could make as the first elected female president, does not seem to strike the same historical and emotional chord with the American voting public that the historic campaign of Barack Obama did.
There are some who would say that first time candidate Donald Trump like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama was the 3rd exception, they would be wrong. Even though Donald Trump never held any public office before being elected President, he was a well known quantity in the public’s mind before he was elected in 2016. He first appeared in the early 1980s as a thirty-something year old exaggerating self-promoting developer of the landmark skyscraper Trump Tower in New York City. In 1987 he wrote the national best seller book Trump: The Art of the Deal.
He owned the popular Miss Universe and Miss USA beauty pageants from 1996 to 2015 and produced and hosted the highly rated The Apprentice, a reality television show, from 2003 to 2015. Political pundits had mentioned the possibly of Trump running for President for the last 30 years. So even though he had never run for or held political office before his successful 2016 campaign for President, the voting public felt they knew, some would say mistakenly so, Donald Trump very well as America’s rich successful can-do fix-it powerhouse.
Those who doubt the power of being a known quantity in the minds of the voting public need look no further than former U.S. Senator turned former Vice President Joe Biden. Since his April 2019 announcement of his campaign to become President, he has been first labeled by President Trump as “Sleepy Joe” and had his mental fitness questioned by both the media and political opponents.
Yet he consistently remains at the top of the polls against all others running to be president. Because after 40 plus years of public service he very much is a known quantity in the minds of the voting public, regardless of his verbal gaffes and questions about his mental fitness the voting public feels they know him best. The known quantity effect applies to 4 other presidential candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders well-known political quantities who both consistently poll in the top tier of candidates, and Steve Bullock and Joe Sestak unknown political quantities who both announced this week that they are dropping out of the race to become president.
Last week was filled with stories about the fizzling campaign of Kamala Harris, who prior to last week was exaggeratingly touted as a female Barack Obama. This week she has wisely decided to withdraw from the race. The stories last week accused Harris of having an incoherent message and an incompetent campaign structure, but her real problem was the same as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, and Ben Carson had in 2016. The same problem Cory Booker, Juliàn Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer are having now, NOBODY KNOWS THESE PEOPLE! Knowing a politician means more than recognizing their name although for most of these candidates their names are barely recognized by the voting public, and in the case of 2 or 3 of them, their names are not recognized at all.
Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio all thought they could be like Barack Obama, by getting elected to the U.S. Senate and running for president before completing their first 6 year term as a Senator. Booker, Cruz, and Rubio all served longer than Obama’s 4 year tenure and have sponsored or co-sponsored major pieces of legislation, Harris has only served in the Senate for a little over 2 years and has no legislative accomplishments. Unlike Obama, none of them have captured the imagination of the voting public to overcome the fact that they have not served long enough to become a known political quantity to the voting public.
Even though the voting public had barely heard of Juliàn Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Pete Buttigieg, and never heard of Andrew Yang they all thought they could be like Barack Obama and run as new future change agents. They all have overlooked the fact that when Obama ran in 2008 Democratic primary voters were looking for the new future untried and untested change, now in 2020 Democratic primary voters are looking for the old back to normal tried and tested change.
Tom Steyer thinks, like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson thought, that he can win the voting public’s comfort and approval by converting his private sector success into the charismatic phenomenon like Barack Obama was able to do with his unique life story. Steyer like Fiorina and Carson will find out that he cannot.
Kamala Harris thought and Cory Booker, Juliàn Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg, and Tom Steyer are still thinking now like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina thought in 2016, that they can do what Barack Obama did in 2008. These 2020 Democrats are just as wrong now as those 2016 Republicans were. Because like the unsuccessful Republicans of 2016 these 2020 Democrats don’t have the X-factor Barack Obama had to overcome being a politically unknown quantity in 2008. In 2008 Barack Obama had the X-factor of being red, white, and blue living American history being made right before our very eyes!!!
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at https://isaacnewtonfarris.com on December 3, 2019.