Hillary Clinton has a clear-cut answer about her relation to President Obama: She will be his political heir, consolidating and building on his legacy. Bernie Sanders has a more complicated relation to the current president. Running for the Democratic nomination, Sanders needs to get the support of those who twice elected Obama to the presidency, but the Sanders political revolution is predicated on the idea that Obama-style (and Clinton-style) transactional politics is radically insufficient. So Sanders has to argue that he is both going to hold on to what Democrats like about Obama but also take the country in a new, post-Obama direction.
The problem Sanders faces can be seen in a now controversial blurb he’s done for a forthcoming book, Bill Press’s Buyer’s Remorse: How Obama let Progressives Down. On the cover, there is an endorsement from Sanders reading: “Bill Press makes the case ... Read this book.” This blurb is truncated, and the full quote makes Sanders sound less hostile to Obama: “Bill Press makes the case why, long after taking the oath of office, the next president of the United States must keep rallying the people who elected him or her on behalf of progressive causes. That is the only way real change will happen. Read this book.” But between the long and short versions of the blurb, Sanders is threading a difficult needle.