Former President Obama has not known much since he took office. It was only a coincidence that the man who inspired the Democrats made one of his rare public appearances on Thursday night in Beverly Hills, during a week that was usually daunting for members of his party.
After Secretary of State Anthony Kennedy announced his resignation on Wednesday, Democrats must face the fact that President Trump will receive a second appeal to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the Supreme Court has ruled against unions this week and upheld Trump's ban on travelers from several countries, most of whom are Muslims. And the outcry over the separation of migrant families on the border was with no end in sight.
For a few hundred wealthy Democrats, Obama's visit to Southern California could not have been more topical. They gathered in the garden of two big democratic donors. There were really only two items on the agenda: absorbing the Obama inspiration and making an important contribution to the Democratic National Committee. The tickets started at $ 2,700 and went up to $ 1
It was a casual, interview-like performance that lasted a little over 45 minutes. Obama wore a dark jacket and an open shirt. He shared the stage with DNC chair Tom Perez. Almost every moment of their discussion focused on the hopes of the Democrats for the coming halves.
Perez propagated the victories that the Democrats already had in state and special elections. But Obama said, "I would warn against extrapolating too much of a series of special elections." It would be a mistake to believe that the momentum from a handful of victories in November would guarantee success, he added.
"We need to get organized," said the former community organizer. "We have to systematically register voters."
An important concern of the evening was to motivate people to attend the polls. Perez was particularly worried about producing young voters who were crucial to Obama's electoral victory, but who usually vote less than older ones.
"The most important thing we can do," Obama said, "invites and gives them strength, give them a voice," he said. Older people tend to think that they know best. But Obama advised, "Include young people and avoid them."
And not only young people have to choose. "If people attend and vote," Obama said, "then democracy will work."
The only real dark moment came at the beginning of the conversation when Obama and Perez confirmed the filming the day before in the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, which killed five people.
"What happened in Annapolis seems to happen every few weeks and months," Obama said. "Every time one of these tragedies strikes, we remember that this is avoidable, it is not inevitable." America is not the only country with troubled, violent people, he said, but "we are unique in the weapons that these people can use".
Regarding the wider political picture, Obama said: "This is a moment of great urgency, you are right to be worried, the progress we have made is not self-evident."
He told her not to sit back and wait for a candidate to sweep her off her feet. "Do not wait for the perfect message, do not wait to feel a tingling in your spine, because you expect politicians to be so inspiring, poetic, and moving."
The former president said it was more important to reach voters. "Concern for [if] we have organizers on the ground."
The candidates to whom these things are important, he said, are the ones who will win.