On a Nov. 15 conference call with Democratic National Committee members, Barack Obama gave Democrats a prescription for post-election hope: 10 or so days of moping, followed by grass-roots organization across the US—likely with Obama himself eventually leading the charge.
“One of the challenges that I’ve discovered being president is I’d like to be Organizer-in-Chief,” said Obama. “But [after January] I’m going to be a private citizen. And I’m not going to stop, as a citizen, working on behalf of the things that I care about. And I’m hoping that I’m going to have the opportunity to work with a whole bunch of you in all kinds of different ways. Now is not the time to spell out how that might happen, but I am sure that we are going to be working shoulder-to-shoulder for many, many years to come.”
Obama also emphasized a focus on down-ballot elections, community outreach, and building trust across the country, including in areas that are currently “rock-solid Republican.” He reminded downtrodden supporters that when he arrived in Washington DC in 2005, it was a similarly dark time for Democrats.
“Two years later, Democrats were taking over the congress,” he said. “Four years later, I was the president of the United States.”
Here, some excerpts from Obama’s call with the DNC:
“You’re allowed to mope for a week and a half—maybe two if you really need it.”
I want to say how proud I am of Hillary Clinton on a history-making race. We did not get the result we wanted, but we took a step, in shattering a barrier that’s still there. And little girls and little boys are going to have a different sense of the possible thanks to her nomination and her candidacy.
That doesn’t mean we don’t hurt, for what was an unexpected loss. Expected losses are hard enough. Unexpected ones are just worse. And that’s okay. I was telling my team: You’re allowed to mope for a week and a half—maybe two if you really need it. But after that, we have to brush ourselves off and get back to work.
We’ve got to come together and focus on a way ahead. And it’s important that we do that in a way that’s consistent with who we are as Democrats. It means that we’re listening to each other, we’re reflecting, we’re asking tough questions. We’re respectful of different points of view. We’re basing our opinions on facts and careful analysis, and we’re taking the long view and we’re strategizing. And in the months ahead, my hope is that we’re convening democrats at every level from the DNC to local wards and towns and committees to assess where we’ve fallen short, and how we can build for elections, not just in presidential years but in every year, because I’ve been on this for a while—and I said this in my press conference—we have better ideas, but they have to be heard for us to actually translate those ideas into votes and ultimately into actions.
“I’d like to be Organizer-in-Chief.”
One of the challenges that I’ve discovered being president is I’d like to be Organizer-in-Chief, but it’s hard. You’ve got Syria, and you’ve got NATO, and you have summit meetings, and economic issues that you have to deal with on an ongoing basis. You try to get legislation done. That’s why the DNC is so important. That’s why our local state parties are so important…
And for the next two months my main job is to make sure that we finish up strong, so that when I turn over the keys, I can continue to say unequivocally and demonstrably, that the country is better off than when I found it. Part of that is also facilitating a decent transition so that the American people are as well served as they can be with the incoming administration.
But then I’m going to be a private citizen. And I’m not going to stop, as a citizen, working for the things I care about. And I’m hoping that I’m going to have the opportunity to work with you in a bunch of you in all kinds of different ways. Now is not the time to spell out how that might happen, but I am sure that we are going to be working shoulder-to-shoulder for many, many years to come.
“I’m still fired up and I’m still ready to go.”
We’re going to be in the position to make the case that the work we’ve done is good, and a lot of it needs to be preserved. And if it can be improved upon then we should be open-minded to improving it.
The bottom line is that, I don’t know about y’all but I’m still fired up and I’m still ready to go. Admittedly, I will take a vacation for a couple weeks after my presidency is over, but then we’re going to get back to work. And for any of you who doubt, by the way, how quickly things can change and how fast the clouds can part, you remember that speech I gave in Boston. It was a pretty good speech and I ended up winning the US Senate race, an unknown state senator up until that point. And when I arrived in Washington in 2005, and I was sworn in, I was really happy, and everybody was really proud. That was also the same time where John Kerry had lost a really close election. Tom Daschle had lost his seat, and was no longer a leader in the senate. I think Ken Salazar and I were the only two democrats in the country that had won. Republicans controlled the senate, and the house, and the presidency. Things were looking pretty bleak.
Two years later, Democrats were taking over the congress and four years later, I was the president of the United States. So I’ve seen it, and the reason that happened was because of all of you. That’s why I’m proud of you and that’s why I’m proud to be a Democrat. Let’s learn our lessons, lick our wounds, brush ourselves off. Then we’ll get back to work. Alright? Thank you, guys.