Obama friend and former adviser David Axelrod sat down for a lengthy interview with President Obama earlier this month. This is a rare and important opportunity to hear the outgoing President reflect upon, and do a sort of post-mortem of, his rise to power, his overarching vision for the country, and the 2016 election.
The Chimps urge you to make time for the entire podcast. This is Barack Obama at this clinical and analytical best, and he doesn’t disappoint. Excerpted below is what we think is really the money section of the interview: President Obama discusses the political narrative – without actually using that term, of course. He describes, candidly, how his political vision was eclipsed by the GOP-driven narrative and how, despite making real policy gains, word of that progress never saw the light of day with middle America.
This is precisely the message the Chimps have been trying to convey, and that we’ll continue to push. The most progressive President the country has seen in generations, one with a mastery of politics unseen since the Clinton machine of the early- and mid-90s, was fought to a stalemate by a Republican party that figured out, long ago, how to control the political narrative. We ignore Obama’s insights at our peril.
OBAMA: You are then more subject to the filter. And this is — you know, I brought up Fox News, but it was Rush Limbaugh and the NRA and there are all these mediators who are interpreting what we do, and if we’re not actually out there like we are during campaigns, then folks in — in a lot of these communities, what they’re hearing is Obama wants to take away my guns…AXELROD: Right.OBAMA: Obamacare’s about transgender bathrooms and not my job, Obama is disrespecting my culture and is primarily concerned with coastal elites and minorities. And so — so part of what I’ve struggled with during my presidency and part of what I think I’ll be thinking a lot about after my presidency is how do we work around all these filters?And it becomes more complicated now that you’ve got social media, where people are getting news that reinforces their biases and — and separates people out instead of bringing them together. It is going to be a challenge, but look, you look at what we did in rural communities, for example…AXELROD: Yeah, yeah.OBAMA: Just from a policy perspective…AXELROD: Yeah, ask Tom Vilsack. He feels very strongly…OBAMA: Tom — Tom Vilsack, my agriculture secretary from Iowa. We — we devoted more attention, more focus, put more resources into rural America than has — has been the case probably for the last two, three decades.AXELROD: Right.OBAMA: And — and it paid great dividends, but you just wouldn’t know that, that’s not something that you would see on the nightly news. And so we’ve got to figure out how do we show people and communicate in a way that is visceral and — and makes an emotional connection as opposed to just the facts…