Americans who may have forgotten were reminded last week why they soured on Barack Obama after two terms when he turned the funeral of a civil rights stalwart into a political speech.
The former president, among other things, used the occasion of the funeral for the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis to call for the end of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate, automatic voter registration and making Election Day a national holiday. And while he was at it, he compared the current Trump administration to the late segregationist George Wallace.
Obama and the wretched excesses of his administration were why Americans four years ago voted for something completely different in their president.
One could spend thousands of words on the merits of that particular something completely different, but this concerns the president whose party lost the House after he was in office two years, lost the Senate after six, lost control of legislatures in 14 states, lost a net total of 13 governorships and 816 legislative seats, and was the first president to get fewer popular votes in a second-term win than in his first term.
Obama spent his first term and part of his second blaming anything wrong with the country on his predecessor, George W. Bush. And then he couldn't drag his hand-picked successor, Hillary Clinton, across the presidential finish line after polls said she was heading for a landslide victory.
The 44th president presided over an economic recovery from the Great Recession that was the weakest since World War II and called the tepid growth in gross national product "the new normal."
Under Obama, the Internal Revenue Service was weaponized to target conservatives, and he belittled the rise of an Islamic terrorist group — calling it the "JV team" — until it took over the better part of two Middle East countries. And he papered over the slaughter of diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, after reducing security at their compounds.
We mustn't forget the Affordable Care Act, a health care system Americans said they didn't want, a system he refused to build with bipartisan help and a bill he repeatedly lied about to get it passed. And now what his administration did to sabotage the incoming Trump administration is being examined closely by the Department of Justice.
This was the Obama who sought to lecture the country last week on what it ought to do. This was the former president who could have used — at least — the first two years of his first term to get any of what he sought last week passed. He had a House majority and a filibuster-proof Senate to do so.
Eighteen years ago, at the funeral of another member of Congress, Democrats tried to do something similar. Instead of honoring the memory of Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minnesota, who had died in a plane crash, they used it as a pep rally. They told Vice President Dick Cheney he wouldn't be welcome, booed the presence of Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, cheered Democrats and urged those in attendance to "win this election for Paul Wellstone."
After the fact, even Democrats were horrified at what had transpired. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry called Lott to apologize. Voters in liberal Minnesota, whose independent governor walked out of the funeral in disgust, were equally sickened. After the fact, they elected a Republican in Wellstone's place, eschewing former liberal champion and 1984 Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale.
Democrats are not ashamed and contrite these days. Having desperately tried to take out Trump through a special prosecutor and an impeachment, they've politicized a global pandemic and protests over excessive force by local law enforcement to try to turn the trick.
Now, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, Obama's vice president, Joe Biden, is none too popular with black voters. He needs the nation's first black president to assure them and energize them, and pretending that voting rights are being threatened by suggesting automatic voter registration and an Election Day national holiday is one way to do that. And misrepresenting the Trump administration by using the name of George Wallace is a tactic of which Wallace would be proud.
Worse, though, is the suggestion of getting rid of the Senate filibuster. Though Trump himself has floated the idea, it would be the end of the Senate as the world's greatest deliberative body. Currently, legislation there must have 60 votes to close out debate on an issue that has delayed or blocked a vote. Rather than forcing bipartisanship, it would usher in a parade of legislation that would be voted in when one party controlled Congress and voted out when the other party got in.
Four years ago, Obama, personally, was popular when he left office because of his historic first. His governance was not. Voters, when they go to the polls in November, should remember that.