Obama, 57, has taken aim against Trump, 72, in the past but rarely mentioned him by name. But on Friday, in a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the former president directly accused Trump of “capitalizing on resentment that politicians have been fanning for years.”
Obama also had sharp words for the GOP, criticizing Republicans “who know better in Congress … bending over backwards to shield” Trump, and questioning, “What happened to the Republican party?”
The former president went on to say that the country is currently enduring a “backlash to progress,” but “it did not start with Donald Trump.
“He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama continued. “He is just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have fanning for years. A fear, an anger that is rooted in our past but is also borne in our enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”
Obama added that Republicans and Democrats should be united in denouncing discrimination, questioning, “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?
“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,” Obama said. “We are supposed to stand up to discrimination and we are sure as heck to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.”
Obama appeared to be referring to Trump’s apparent reluctance to single out white nationalists at a rally that turned fatal in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
Obama also addressed the bombshell New York Times op-ed claiming senior Trump officials are secretly working against the president.
“And by the way the idea that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders — that is not a check,” Obama said. “I am being serious here. That is not how our democracy is supposed to work.”
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In his first of multiple planned midterm campaign events, Obama also repeatedly urged Americans to vote Democrat this November.
“Even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you agree with more libertarian economic views, even if you are an evangelical and the position on social issues is a bridge too far,” he said. “I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.”
Obama is also scheduled to speak at a rally for several Democratic congressional candidates in California on Saturday, and at an event for Richard Cordray, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, next Thursday.