“If we don’t have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket, we can’t win elections.” --Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), quoted in the Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2016.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump and the GOP will control the executive branch and both houses of Congress, and soon after that will have a right-wing majority on the Supreme Court. The grass roots activism and advocacy that have already begun in opposition to Trump and his agenda are crucial, but protests and lawsuits are not going to be enough to stop Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Sam Alito, and company from rolling back decades of progress virtually overnight, particularly if rank-and-file Republicans feel no pressure to dissent from Trump's party line.
What can be done?
Though it may seem a long shot given the GOP congressional gerrymander and Democrats' recent difficulties in midterm elections, we desperately need to take back Congress in 2018. That probably means picking up 24 seats to win the House and 3 to win the Senate.
To do that, we will need a powerful national message tying every Republican member of Congress to Trump's bigotry and misogyny, to his trampling of cherished freedoms and democratic norms, to his dangerous foreign policy, and to his plans to privatize Medicare, cut taxes for the rich, take away 20 million Americans' health insurance, abolish workers' right to organize and women's right to choose, and allow climate change to continue unabated.
We need a leader to keep Democrats united and organized, to recruit the strongest possible candidates for every seat, to keep all those candidates on message, and to help them raise the money and mobilize the resources they need to compete and win -- and in the meantime to keep enough heat on GOP incumbents to pressure enough of them to stop or delay Trump and Ryan's most dangerous plans.
There is only one person who can credibly lead such an effort.
Barack Obama is leaving the White House with his standing nearly as high as it's ever been. He is by far the most popular politician in the country. In 2008 he beat John McCain in 237 congressional districts (as currently drawn), and today he's certainly more popular than Trump in a majority of the 435 districts. Once Trump is saddled with Paul Ryan's dystopian legislative agenda, Obama's relative public standing will be even greater.
It's entirely unfair to ask President Obama to step back into the arena. No doubt he deserves a vacation. But all he accomplished in his two terms as president, and the very character of our country, are at this moment in serious peril. President Obama has recognized this in recent statements indicating his willingness to actively take part in the opposition to the Trump administration.
Leading the Democratic Party in the 2018 elections as Speaker-in-waiting is certainly much more involved a role than President Obama has in mind. But the truth is that we need the President's leadership for four more years. We need his face and voice in ads in every competitive seat in Congress. We need voters to recognize their vote for Congress as, quite simply, a choice between Trump and Obama.
If you agree, please respectfully ask Bobby Rush to step aside for his old rival and friend. Ask Nancy Pelosi to invite the President to lead her caucus. And ask Barack Obama to start planning a massive rally in Chicago -- maybe February 10, 2017, ten years to the day after that audacious speech in Springfield -- where he can announce that in 2018 he will be running for office just one more time, asking the South Side to send him to Congress, and asking all Americans to put an end to the Trump disaster by electing the 44th President of the United States to a two-year term as the 63rd Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Draft President Obama for Speaker of the House in 2018
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