WASHINGTON – In 2009, Barack Obama made history as the first black president of the United States.
Now, some are wondering if there might be another black president in America’s near future.
Since former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s loss in the November election, some Democrats have turned to former first lady Michelle Obama and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, hoping one or both will run in the 2020 presidential election. Others have mentioned California Sen. Kamala Harris and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Skeptics question the prospect of a future President Booker or a second President Obama, or the likelihood of any other black president any time soon.
A shift in the mood of the country, resurgent grievances among a bloc of white voters and different overall political conditions are working against the rise of a new black leader to the White House, according to some analysts.
“It’s difficult to see for the foreseeable future,” said Clarence Lusane, chairman of the political science department at Howard University in Washington.
A black president will happen “no time soon” and even a revival of the political left because of President Donald Trump “would not take seriously the resurgence of white nationalism,” said Melvin Rogers, chairman of UCLA’s social sciences department.
But Robert Koulish, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, is less pessimistic about the prospect of another black president: “There maybe a chance for one soon.”
“I think Trump is pushing the pendulum more toward the reactionary right, alt-right direction, which is invigorating and normalizing a lot of viewpoints that are bigoted and prejudiced against people of color,” Koulish explained.
However, pointing to the major protests and demonstrations like the January Women’s March on Washington, he said the conservative swing is “generating a movement in the other direction that probably wouldn’t have coalesced without the current administration.”
Nearly a month into the Trump presidency, it is obviously very early to speculate about possible 2020 Democratic candidates. But names are being floated and polls are being taken.
Democrats generally are looking for somebody new and younger than most recent candidates.
According to a December 2016 survey by Public Policy Polling, 57 percent of Democrats want a candidate under the age of 60, and 77 percent said under the age of 70.
Only one quarter of Democrats said they want a 2020 candidate who previously has campaigned for president.
A December USA Today/Suffolk University Poll found two-thirds of Democrats and independents said they wanted “someone entirely new.”
Michelle Obama and Booker fit into the younger and new candidate categories, but the two may need more than what the polls suggest to win in the future.
Lusane explained that Barack Obama won the election in 2008 when both Republican and Democratic voters wanted relief from the economic crisis under then-President George W. Bush and thus were open to change.
Obama’s campaign strategy of winning delegates in small states and his “presentation as a unifier” helped him win the presidency, Lusane said.
“Obama was perceived by many whites as basically not being a traditional African American politician,” he added. “He never denied being black, but he never highlighted it either.”
Trump’s recent election reflected white grievances, according to Lusane. He said a significant number of white people felt they had been left behind, while in their view people of color and women were privileged.
“I think it is really difficult now because there is such a resurgence of white nationalism,” he said. “(Barack) Obama was a unique personality, in a unique moment, and you can’t just duplicate that.”
Koulish added that even if Democrats don’t have a person of color on the 2020 ballot, another female candidate appears likely.
He mentioned New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand as one possible hopeful. Another name on some lists is Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Although Booker and Michelle Obama both have said they will not run for president, that is not deterring backers on social media.
Those in the Michelle Obama camp are using the Twitter hashtags “#DraftMichelle” and “#Michelle2020” to encourage the former first lady to seek the White House in her own right.
One Twitter user suggested a slogan for Michelle’s future campaign: “If you do decide to run for presidency, your slogan should be ‘Michelle 2020’ The perfect vision for America.”
In the days leading up to the Nov. 8 presidential election, Donald Garrett, 25, of Tysons Corner, Virginia, and four of his friends decided they were going to be displeased no matter the result.
They launched the Ready for Michelle PAC.
“The idea is to get her to at least compete,” Garrett said.
The PAC has raised about $1,000 and collected about 1,000 signatures on the petition encouraging Obama to run as of last month.
Obama would push fellow running mates to compete at a higher level, Garrett said. “She’s highly qualified. Just her poise, her swag,” he laughed. “She is the entire package.”
Garrett said if Michelle Obama and Booker were to face off in 2020, it would be a “good fight.”
Booker, the former mayor of Newark, N.J., made headlines when he broke Senate tradition and testified against the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general.
Booker fan clubs have been popping up on Facebook and Twitter in recent months, some pages gaining as many as 6,000 likes.
Booker told CNN at the Women’s March on Washington that “I am not open to being president,” adding, “I don’t even want to have the discussion right now.”
Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said there is potential for a future black commander-in-chief.
“There are a number of African-Americans qualified to hold the nation’s highest office. I believe it is only a matter of time before one of these individuals has an opportunity to serve in that capacity again,” he said in a statement to Capital News Service.
But UCLA’s Rogers, also associate professor of African American studies, said the chances that Harris could be a presidential candidate were “very slim almost to be improbable.”
Harris, the former California attorney general and the nation’s second black female senator, may not be able to translate her success in the most populous state to the national level, Rogers said.
“What one can do locally in California looks radically different when you’re on the national stage and dealing with senators from states that are radically different from California,” he said.
Instead, Rogers said someone like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2020.
“The only response to the radical pull to the right will be a radical pull to the left, and that does not include anyone who is on the current political scene today, if we exclude Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren,” Rogers said.