There are still around six months left in Barack Obama’s administration, but for all intents and purposes the Obama era came to an end in Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Both President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden appeared at the Democratic National Convention. Both offered full endorsements of Hillary Clinton, citing their personal experiences with her throughout their careers in government. Both spoke to big applause — it took several minutes for the applause for Obama to die down so that he could begin to deliver his speech, amid shouts of “Yes We Can,” recalling the president’s historic 2008 campaign.
The content of the speeches, though, made it clear that it is not 2008. Obama and Biden, who are both poised to fade into the background, listed their accomplishments to shore up their legacy and implored the nation to vote for Clinton as a way of helping to preserve that record. Obama repeatedly referred to his first DNC speech in 2004 — the one that catapulted him into the national conversation, inserting a bookend to his years at the forefront of the Democratic Party. That punctuation mark was made even more pronounced by the appearance of Hillary Clinton at the conclusion of Obama’s address.
Wednesday night also saw the acceptance speech of Tim Kaine, Clinton’s vice presidential running mate. Coming shortly after Biden’s speech, Kaine’s address seemed not only to serve as an official handoff of the keys to the vice presidency but also a passing of the baton of Biden’s role as America’s goofy uncle.
Wednesday also included signs of the division that has plagued the DNC since its beginning. While former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was speaking, chants of “no more wars” rang out from delegates who oppose the foreign policy of the Obama administration, which included a Hillary Clinton-led State Department. There were also a few anti-war protesters heard during Obama’s speech.
The legacy of the Obama administration won’t be decided this fall, no matter who wins. On Wednesday, though, the president and the Democratic Party started to lay the groundwork to protect it, by furthering the argument that a Clinton win in November is a prerequisite for that goal.