“I don’t want to sugarcoat it. There are consequences to elections,” he said, hearkening back to the same words he told Republicans when he was elected.
He spoke to the problems that the Democratic Party faced in reaching working class voters, many of whom voted for Obama and then Donald Trump.
“That part of the critique of the Democratic Party is accurate. We spend a lot of time focused on international policy and national policy and less time being on the ground,” he said. “And when we’re on the ground, we do well. This is why I won Iowa.”
But he scoffed at the idea that it was a policy deficit that cost them those votes, saying, “The challenge we had is not that we’ve neglected these communities from a policy perspective.”
Instead, the problem was that the policies weren’t communicated well.
“Whatever policy prescriptions that we’ve been proposing don’t reach, are not heard, by the folks in these communities. And what they do hear is Obama or Hillary are trying to take away their guns or they disrespect you,” he explained.
He also expressed his private disappointment with the election results.
“Sometimes you lose an argument. Sometimes you lose an election,” he said. “We learn from our mistakes. We do some reflection. We lick our wounds. We brush ourselves off. We get back in the arena. We go at it. We try even harder the next time.”
He then added, “I’m disappointed, partly because I think Hillary Clinton would be a very fine president. As I said on the campaign trail, a lot of the work we’ve done is only partially complete. And we need some continuity in order for us to maximize its benefits.”
But despite his fears over what the Republican presidency and Congress will do to try and reverse the gains he made during his administration, he expressed his hope that he left a lasting, positive change in United States history.
“When I turn over the keys to the federal government to the next president of the United States, I can say without any equivocation that the country is a lot better off…And so I can take great pride in the work we’ve done. I can take great satisfaction in the people we’ve helped.”