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President Barack Obama waves after former President Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (David Goldman/AP)
President Barack Obama waves after former President Bill Clinton addressed the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (David Goldman/AP)

Obama doesn’t do politics the way Clinton did Add to ...

Considering the acrimony of the 2008 presidential nomination campaign, there was considerable symbolic value in Bill Clinton's lengthy defence of Barack Obama's record, and the embrace both men shared on stage.

Even so, one can't help but get the impression that there are two different crowds here in Charlotte - Obama Democrats, and Clinton Democrats.

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On Wednesday night, when Mr. Clinton was the headliner, there was a noticeable demographic difference in the arena's stands from the other two nights; to put it bluntly, it was considerably white, along with a little bit older.

On the streets, it's all Obama - vendors doing a brisk business selling anything with the President's likeness, supporters singing the praises of him and his wife. Meanwhile, among the party elites making the rounds, it's not hard to find people who speak more enthusiastically about Mr. Clinton than about Mr. Obama.

That's partly a reflection of the fact that many of them made their marks working on Mr. Clinton's campaigns or for his administration, and the convention serves as a reunion of sorts - a chance to catch up with old friends and reminisce about the glory days. But it also has something to do with a sense that Mr. Obama doesn't do politics the way Mr. Clinton did.

It's well-documented that back-slapping isn't really the President's forte. And there are complaints that he doesn't pay enough attention to the internal party stuff - to forging relationships with senators and congressmen, to engaging party elders in decision-making, and so on.

While there are people in his adminstration who also worked for Mr. Clinton, not least chief-of-staff Jack Lew, there's a sense that Mr. Obama leans most heavily on a small, Chicago-heavy circle of advisors and confidantes who were around him during his rise to power - the likes of David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett, who weren't big players in Washington previously.

The phrase "cult of personality" has come up at least once; in general, there seems to be some sense that this is currently less the Democratic Party than the Obama Party.

That raises an interesting question of whose imprint will be left more heavily on the Democrats, once Mr. Obama has joined Mr. Clinton as an ex-president.

If Mr. Obama wins another term, he will get more chance to shape the party going forward; if he loses, he may just be seen as a temporary phenomenon. And either way, if Hillary Clinton decides to run in 2016 and wins, the next-generation folks who have surrounded Mr. Obama may be back on the outside.

On Wednesday night, it felt like there was a lot of unity. If the Democrats are to maximize both their own resources and their potential support base in the years ahead, they may have to work hard to build more bridges.

Follow on Twitter: @aradwanski

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