After almost two years of keeping a relatively low profile in American politics, Barack Obama has jumped back into the ring.
The former US president has made a number of appearances in support of Democrat candidates for the crucial upcoming midterm elections.
On September 8, Obama appeared in front of Democrats in Anaheim, slamming the state of politics in the US and urging citizens to get out and vote in November.
“It is always tempting for politicians, for their own gain, and for people in power, to try to see if they can divide people, scapegoat folks, turn them on each other because when that happens, you get gridlock and government doesn’t work and people get cynical and they decide not to participate,” he said.
“That unfortunately has been a spiral that we have been on for the last couple of years.”
Curiously, Obama opened his speech with a hilarious anecdote about the time he got booted from Disneyland during his stint at Occidental College, an incident which occurred after he and his friends went to see Kool & the Gang.
Obama revealed that the group stopped to smoke (specifying they were cigarettes, nothing illegal for the future president) and was promptly kicked out by a security guard, who was nice enough to say they’d be welcome to come back any time. Mixed messages, right?
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 8, 2018
Just a day before his speech in Anaheim, Obama appeared in front of more than a thousand students at the University of Illinois, where he made his first official foray into the midterm election season by delivering a scathing critique on Donald Trump’s division tactics.
“You need to vote, because our democracy depends on it,” he declared in an eloquent one-hour speech which contrasted heavily with the current president’s continuous scapegoating and erratic behaviour.
Obama spent a great deal of his speech slamming Republicans in Congress for turning a blind eye to the current “crazy” state of affairs.
“The politics of resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party,” he said, arguing that some of the policies that conservative leaders are pushing right now are not really conservative, but opportunistic.
“It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t target groups of people because of what they look like or how they pray […] we are supposed to stand up to discrimination and we are sure as heck to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.
Obama’s comments seem a clear rebuttal to a statement Trump made in August 2017 after the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia: “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
The Republican National Committee responded to Obama’s appearances, especially to the remarks of his first speech.
“2016 is over, but President Obama is still dismissing the millions of voters across the country who rejected a continuation of his policies in favor of President Trump’s plan for historic tax cuts, new jobs and economic growth,” RNC spokesperson Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement.
“Democrats may have a new resistor-in-chief on the campaign trail, but they’ll need more than a message of resist and obstruct to win this November.”
Vice President Pence also blasted Obama’s appearance in an interview with Fox News.
“It was very disappointing to see President Obama break with the tradition of former presidents, and become so political, and roll out the same tired arguments that he and liberals have made over the last eight years,” Pence said to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.