Former President Barack Obama will reportedly resume a leadership role in the Democratic Party this coming fall. While he allegedly plans to help shepherd Democrats going into the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election, he will also attempt to keep a low-profile to avoid overshadowing future party leaders or draw backlash from President Donald Trump. An Obama ally described the plan as a "delicate dance."
On Aug. 11, several former Obama aides disclosed that they would meet with the former president later in the month to strategize his fall schedule. Obama reportedly will take a more active role in fundraising, stumping for Democratic candidates and advising the party on its electoral strategy heading into the 2018 midterms, The Hill reports.
One former aide noted that Obama would keep the majority of his work behind the scenes, concluding that his re-entry into national politics would be a "delicate dance."
The Obama allies explained that the former president wanted to avoid drawing the ire of Trump and serving as his "foil."
Professor of history Julian Zelizer of Princeton University concurred with this strategy, asserting that Trump could potentially use Obama as a public opponent to rally his base.
"[Obama] has to be careful," Zelizer said. "At a moment when President Trump's approval is falling so fast -- including with his base -- there is a risk for Obama taking center stage and triggering the energy that many Republicans currently lack."
Trump has repeatedly criticized Obama throughout his first six months in office, often blasting his predecessor's policies. Relations between the two became acrimonious after Trump accused Obama of personally ordering surveillance on his campaign during the 2016 presidential race, an assertion that has not been verified by any evidence.
"This President has a very unusual obsession with his predecessor and constantly comparing himself to President Obama," former Assistant Defense Secretary Derek Chollet of the Obama administration told CNN.
Professor of political science Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University concluded that Obama resuming a prominent national profile "would be the target against which Trump would direct his fury. From Trump's perspective nothing better could happen."
Jillson predicted that Obama would maintain a low profile "because he is not going to be the face of the party when it actually counts in 2020 and 2024 ... [Democrats] must find a standard-bearer for future elections, and I think [Obama] can at least in the short term suck up all the available oxygen."
A Democratic strategist who requested anonymity urged against Obama or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton resuming any leadership roles.
"We already lack a party leader, we lack a vision, we lack an identity," the strategist said. "We can't remain stuck in the past."
Meanwhile, Democratic strategist David Wade asserted that Obama's return to the national stage could only be beneficial for Democrats.
"Unlike many of his recent predecessors, he left office without scandal and with high approval ratings ... the truth is, there's little downside," Wade said. "He has unique convening powers to draw a crowd, energize Democrats, make a closing argument, and then it is up to candidates to close the deal."
In December 2016, Obama stated that he would focus on helping bolster the next generation of Democrats after he left office.
"With respect to my priorities when I leave, it is to build that next generation of leadership, organizers, journalists, politicians," Obama said during his final presidential press conference, according to USA Today. "I see them in America, I see them around the world, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds who are just full of talent, full of idealism. ... I want to use my presidential center as a mechanism for developing that next generation of talent."
Obama added that he would not be actively involved in day-to-day politics because he wanted to avoid stifling "those new voices."