- - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama is back at last from his new career of hanging out with the 1-percenters, eager to headline a big-dollar fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee at a private home in Washington. The Democratic Party has all but disappeared in many state capitols, but where’s there’s a pulse, there’s wan hope.

Mr. Obama has been recharging his batteries since he left his new $8 million home in Washington’s poshest neighborhood, where he cost his neighbors convenient access to their street, to party with the beautiful people on Marlon Brando’s private island, at a luxury resort in Bali, at a billionaire’s estate in Palm Springs, at Richard Branson’s hideaway in the British Virgin Islands, at a country club in Hawaii, at a medieval villa in Tuscany, and island-hopping in Tahiti aboard Hollywood mogul David Geffen’s $400 million yacht. All this recharging gave the former president ample time to be with the common people, the servants who tend the 1-percenters.

Mr. Obama’s holidays have been so lavish — mean-spirited critics might call them ostentatious — that there’s grumbling in some liberal precincts that people could get the wrong idea about the leader of “the party of the little guy.” But none of that was allowed to intrude on the festive air Thursday night when Mr. Obama keynoted the fundraiser aimed at helping pay for rebuilding the Democratic Party.

There’s lots to be rebuilt in the party that Mr. Obama left decimated, especially in flyover country between the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Democratic caucus in the House has fallen to a 70-year low, and Republicans hold two-thirds of the governorships. Democrats lost more than 900 state legislative seats across the country during the Obama years.

“Democrats,” The Washington Post glumly observes, “suffered a greater loss of power during Obama’s tenure than under any other two-term president since World War II.”

This poses a long-term disadvantage for Democrats because, as Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez observes, “tomorrow’s president is today’s state senator.” Indeed, it was a certain former state senator in Illinois who dug the hole the Democrats are in, with a bench that would leave a baseball team in the Three-Eye League bereft of hope. “When you lose 900 state legislative seats, those are people who could have been the next governors and senators and Cabinet positions,” Mr. Perez laments.

Party seniors have apparently concluded, however, that the path back to power doesn’t require heeding the plea of Democratic pollster Mark Penn, made in an op-ed in The New York Times, “to move to the center and reject the siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the party.”

Instead, many in the party apparently think the way back means that staying the curse will assure winning state legislative seats and governorships between now and 2020, when, if all goes improbably well, Democrats and not Republicans will be in charge of gerrymandering congressional districts after the 2020 national census.

Thus the dinner for high-dollar donors this week. Kelly Ward, the executive director of the Democratic redistricting committee, says that Mr. Obama still has “a microphone” and a “bully pulpit” and he can use them to persuade party fat cats to open their wallets in a bigly way.

Some frightened Democrats think turning to the man who put the party in a tight place is akin to sending an arsonist to put out a fire. But to continue the theme of fighting fire with more fire, another speaker recruited to speak was Eric H. Holder Jr., Mr. Obama’s attorney general. Mr. Holder is said to be considering a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination three years hence. If one arsonist can’t do it, maybe two can.

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