Dual Executives: How Barack Obama Was Elected Head of State in 2016
Dual Executives: Head of Government, Head of State
In American politics, our president has a dual role. He or she serves as both the Head of Government and the Head of State. This may seem like petty semantics and a bit abstract; however, consider the politics of Great Britain, which features a split dual executive — executive power is split between the monarchy (largely symbolic political power) and the prime minister (largely legal political power).
The Head of State predominantly holds the symbolic political power over a nation-state (for example, the Queen).
The Head of Government predominately holds the legal political power over a nation-state (for example, the Prime Minister).
In a legal sense, it would seem that the Head of Government holds the most important power. However, human history often shows that symbolic power is a more potent political force. In politics, especially in the long term, having the hearts and minds of the people is way more important than having the law on your side. Laws can be changed; hearts and minds are resistant to change.
In Article II of the Constitution, our founders attempted to combine the Head of State and Head of Government into the single office of the President of the United States.
With the inauguration of Donald Trump, I argue that we will see a de facto(meaning not formal) dual presidency with Donald Trump as the formal Head of Government and Barack Obama as the very powerful informal Head of State.
How Barack Obama Won the 2016 Election
Every grade school kid in America knows that a president is limited to two terms. Barack Obama was in elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. How can I claim that Barack Obama won the 2016 election?
The 2016 Election was the end of a generational transfer of power within the Democratic Party. It had been a 16 year civil war between the old Clinton guard and the New European Style Social Democrats.
The Clinton Guard within the Democratic Party was born at the beginning of the baby boom and formed in the 1960s. They were pragmatic progressives that demanded and rewarded loyalty above all else. When Al Gore lost in 2000, they realized their days were numbered by demographics and they needed to expand and modernize the Democratic party. They had counted on Kerry losing in 2004 as they rebuilt the party, Clinton running in 2008, and handing the reins to Barack Obama in 2012 or 2016.
What they didn’t plan on was Barack Obama winning in 2008.
Obama changed the Democratic Party in 2008. It was what Bernie Sanders tapped into during the 2016 primary while the Clintons believed they were entitled to the loyalty of the Democratic Party.
They will play nice in public, yet there is still no love lost between the Obamas and Clintons. On November 8, 2016 the Clinton generation and their antiquated machine were purged from the Democratic Party.
On November 8, 2016, Barack Obama won the Democratic Party.
The old Obama crew will be brought back. From Jeremy Bird to David Axelrod to David Plouffe, the Democratic Party will bring back the old 2008 “dream team.” Organizing for America (OFA), left idle by the Clinton’s entitlement, will be re-fired up, and ready to go.
Welcome to the New European Style Social Democrats.
Unlike, past presidents, Barack Obama, supported by his very strong public approval numbers (see http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/politics/obama-approval-rating-cnn-orc-poll/index.html), now becomes the de facto king maker of the Democratic Party, and will be one of the most vocal and powerful post-presidency president in all of American Political History.
In contrast, Donald Trump lost the popular vote, by almost 3 million votes. Donald Trump only managed 46.1 percent of the popular vote. (In 2012, Mitt Romney even managed 47.2 percent of the popular vote.) Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the popular vote by a 2 percentage points. However, Donald Trump clobbered Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College vote.
This is not an argument for or against the Electoral College. The point is the unprecedented disparity between Trump’s Electoral College victory and his popular vote deficit. This presents a serious political challenge for Donald Trump — the majority of the public is not on his side.
Predicting the Future
At noon on January 20, 2017 the legal authority of the the executive branch of the Federal Government with be vested in Donald Trump for at least the next four years. However, his conduct and behavior since Election Day has certainly not moved public sentiment in his favor. Neither has it endeared him to very powerful institutions in our political discourse — in particular the news media.
Consider Donald Trump’s bizarre press conference on January 11, 2017 (already parodied by Saturday Night Live), in which Trump actually called CNN a fake news source. In direct contrast, consider President Obama’s farewell speech given in Chicago on January 10, 2017. Unlike previous former presidents, Obama made it clear he has every intention of remaining a powerful force in American politics.
With each misstep, Trump only pushes the media to their go-to, youthful, and very popular voice of loyal opposition in Barack Obama, which will only further institute Obama as the Head of State.
Sure, you can sit back and say that the news media is part of the liberal elite bent on destroying America; however you and your “news” from patriotsrus.com or notactuallynbcnews.com.co are not the majority and such a view is woefully ignorant of the power that the traditional news media holds. Just because you don’t like that the traditional news media holds such power does not change the reality that they do in fact wield that power.
Symbols have power, and symbolic power is, in the long term, more important than legal political power. Symbolic power is political capital, and political capital is the power of the people. As Trump makes his contrast with Obama more and more stark with each day, Obama becomes more and more powerful as the symbolic figurehead of a diverse new American majority.
My bold claim is this: we are headed for an era with two presidents. Trump as Head of Government, and Obama as Head of State.
It appears that conservatives, especially moral majority conservatives, are more interested in click-bait politics focused on short term demagoguery rather than any sort of leadership for the future. In contrast, Democrats are actually operating with a long term strategy. Unlike the sentiment expressed by many of my fellow conservatives when Obama took office, I genuinely hope Trump has a presidency that improves the lives of all Americans and their families; however, we only have to watch Twitter to realize that the Democratic party is set up quite nicely to gerrymander the Republican party out of existence after the 2020 elections (more CNN to back me up http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/14/politics/voting-wars-democrats-2020/index.html).
(Recall, the Obamacare reaction in 2010 midterms led to the Tea Party and Republican gerrymandering of Democrats out of power the State Legislatures and the U.S. House of Representatives.)
The ultimate win for Obama and Organizing for America (OFA) will be delivering what the Clintons could not … the first female president in Elizabeth Warren
(Note my ironic use of CNN, but check out: http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/19/politics/democrats-hearings-trump-nominations/ as well as http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/opinions/elizabeth-warren-trump-stand-up-for-workers/index.html)
The 8 years of Warren (starting in 2020) will be Obama’s second term, completing much of the legacy Obama began, including converting the remaining bits of Obamacare into a single payer system.
Because of conservatives’ short sighted politics, after 2020, Democrats will be gerrymandered into majorities in a record number of State Legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives thought at least 2030.
As President Obama stated on Election Night 2016: “The sun will, in fact, come out tomorrow.”