President Obama’s nostalgic speech in Springfield has local Democrats wondering what he has planned after leaving the White House.
“I miss you guys,” Obama said during his address in the Illinois statehouse on the anniversary of his Presidential campaign announcement. He returned to his frequent theme of bringing civility and compromise to politics.
Next year I’ll still hold the most important title of all, and that’s the title of citizen. And as an American citizen, I understand that our progress is not inevitable — our progress has never been inevitable. It must be fought for, and won by all of us, with the kind of patriotism that our fellow Illinoisan, Adlai Stevenson, once described not as a “short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Obama will only be 55 when he leaves office next year and may want to do more than paint self portraits.
His visit included a trip down memory lane to his old Senate office and a campaign-style stop to a popular lunch spot, The Feed Store. Obama has previously said Bentoh’s was his favorite during legislative sessions, but like many local businesses, they were forced to leave downtown as attacks on the state workforce damage Springfield’s economy.
Current Governor Bruce Rauner’s failure to attempt anything that remotely resembles governing has Illinois residents eagerly looking forward to replacing him in 2018. That’s just enough time for Obama to get settled in a new house and open his Presidential Library before running for Governor.
Rauner’s unpopular budget hostage taking makes him unlikely to win a second term but you can’t dismiss anyone willing to spend millions of his own dollars to fund a campaign. Perhaps only a former President can raise enough to match Rauner’s spending.
One challenge facing Illinois Democrats is that nearly everyone in state government has been involved in the dysfunction of recent years. Former Governor Pat Quinn lost the support of many Democrats with his attack on public employee pensions and his attempt to launch fracking. Members of the legislature who supported those actions will face similar wrath from some primary voters.
Democrats are better off looking for a candidate outside state government, like popular Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has been taking shots at Rauner, or the perennially rumored potential candidate Chris Kennedy. Or, of course, President Barack Obama.
He wouldn’t be the first former President to continue their political career. Andrew Johnson returned to the U.S. Senate. John Quincy Addams served in Congress and William H. Taft was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Obama said he learned in Springfield that it’s possible to understand and work with people of the opposing party. Maybe the best way for Obama to show a better kind of politics is possible is to come back to Illinois and prove it.