- The former president Barack Obama shook fellow Democrats by the shoulders at a party fundraiser this week, urging them to snap out of their funk ahead of the November midterm elections. Obama told attendees in Beverly Hills, California, on Thursday not to dwell on trying to find perfect candidates to run against Republicans.
- “Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15 to 20 minutes it takes for me to vote,'” Obama said.
- These were his first public comments in months. His apparent silence has frustrated some supporters who believe the former president should do more to challenge the Trump administration and the Republican Party.
The former president Barack Obama served up some tough love to fellow Democrats during a party fundraiser in California on Thursday, urging them to snap out of their funk ahead of the November midterm elections.
He seemed to vent some frustration w1ith Democrats over what he sees as lingering complacency within the party just four months out from the midterms, according to a Politico report documenting the event.
High-dollar donors and party luminaries gathered for the affair in Beverly Hills, California – one of a handful of fundraisers Obama attended this week.
Obama’s remarks on Thursday were his first overtly political public statements in months. His apparent silence has frustrated some supporters who believe the former president should do more to challenge the Trump administration and the Republican Party.
Obama responded to that criticism, offering a critique of President Donald Trump’s playbook, without saying his name.
“Fear is powerful. Telling people that somebody’s out to get you, or somebody took your job, or somebody has it out for you, or is going to change you, or your community, or your way of life – that’s an old story and it has shown itself to be powerful in societies all around the world,” Obama said.
He continued: “It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.”
In an interview with KTTV news anchor Elex Michaelson on Friday night, Dan Pfeiffer, the former senior adviser to Obama, said Obama plans to hit the campaign trail in support of Democrats closer to the midterm election.
Bracing for a fight
Former presidents typically refrain from publicly criticising the current commander-in-chief, but the strength of that tradition has been tested in the era of Trump. That’s partly because of Trump administration policies and practices that have upended some of the fundamental norms that have long defined American democracy.
Both Democratic and Republican critics have argued that Trump’s departures from those norms call for an equally aggressive counterpunch.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said this week: “America’s women need to speak out and stand up” to whomever Trump nominates for the Supreme Court.
Gillibrand’s comments follow concerns that Trump may nominate another conservative to the bench, potentially placing historic Supreme Court decisions like Roe v. Wade in jeopardy. Trump has reportedly said he won’t ask candidates about that 1973 ruling on abortion rights.
Some Republicans, in fits and starts, have also been vocal in their opposition to Trump. At the height of the administration’s move to punish people crossing the border illegally, which caused thousands of children to be separated from their families, Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said he disagreed with the practice.
Arizona Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain have offered muted criticisms of Trump, as well as the retiring GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Mark Sanford, the Republican representative from South Carolina who lost his primary earlier in June, had criticised Trump more aggressively.
Filmmaker Michael Moore, who is one of the president’s most-vocal opponents, said people like him “have to put our bodies on the line” to stop Trump.
Critics of all stripes have sounded alarms about Trump, who has been emboldened by a string of legislative victories and seemingly unfazed by his administration’s setbacks.
Looking for a saviour
As a result, Obama supporters – lamenting the loss of a moral authority in Washington – have looked to Obama to stand in the gap. And some have touted the former vice president Joe Biden as a top contender for president in 2020.
Obama cautioned against that type of thinking.
“Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15 to 20 minutes it takes for me to vote,'” Obama said.
“That’s part of what happened in the last election,” he added. “I heard that too much.”
Obama praised the Republican Party’s ability to set some things aside and get down to business. “They don’t worry about inspiration,” Obama said. “They worry about winning the seat and they are very systematic about work not just at the presidential level but at the congressional and state legislative levels.”
Critics argue that work says nothing of the GOP’s seeming inability to firmly hold Trump accountable in other ways, like in matters concerning the president’s business conflicts of interest.
Recent polling has shown Democrats may have a small opening to regain control of the House in November, but the chances of the much-touted “blue wave” might be less likely, according to a Washington Post analysis published earlier this month.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.