Many Democrats have reason to resist accepting such a horrifying hypothetical. Obama’s favorable rating trumps Trump’s. Obama has a proven track record of winning Rust Belt white working-class votes, while also sparking record rates of African-American turnout.
But to lean on those arguments risks overlooking the boiling political, economic and cultural forces that bubbled up in reaction to eight years of Obama, and splattered red all over the electoral map.
At minimum, Obama’s own case for why he would have won — made in a podcast interview by his former aide David Axelrod — is weak. Asked “what happened” to his 2004 and 2008 calls to “overcome these differences” among the races once he became president, Obama responded, “A lot of people suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy. What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open. … I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.”