Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, former President Barack Obama in a speech at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Illinois, on Friday, came out hard against President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, saying to the students in attendance that they “need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.”
“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are – just what it is that we stand for,” said Obama. “And as a fellow citizen, not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen, I’m here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.”
Echoing prior remarks, Obama said that “the biggest threat to our democracy is indifference.”
“So if you don’t like what’s going on right now, and you shouldn’t, do not complain, don’t hashtag, don’t get anxious, don’t retreat… vote,” he said.
Obama slammed the GOP as “bigots and fear-mongers,” saying that “the politics of division and resentment and paranoia” have “found a home” in the party.
“Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security would be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us, who don’t sound like us, or who don’t pray like we do. That’s an old play book. It’s old as time. And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in and people of good will from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear-mongers and work to compromise to get things done,” he said.
He uttered President Trump’s name for the first time since Trump’s inauguration, saying that the politics of division “did not start” with him, but that he’s “capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
"Each time we've gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back. The status quo pushes back. You happen to be coming of age during one of those moments," he told the students.
“It did not start with Donald Trump,” Obama said. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past, but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”
He described the Trump administration as “a government that divides,” vacant of “honesty and decency and lawfulness."
“I am here to tell you that even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy… you should still be concerned with our current course and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government,” he said.
He called Trump a bully and criticized his handling of the violence in Charlottesville.
“We are Americans, we’re supposed to stand up to bullies, not follow them,” said Obama, drawing a round of applause.
He also said that the U.S. “can’t just put walls up all around America.”
“Walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease,” said Obama.
President Trump on Friday delivered remarks at a Joint Fundraising Committee reception in Fargo, N.D. He must’ve heard what Obama had said because he said that he was “so looking forward” to running against his Democratic opponents in 2020.