For Democrats, it was flashback Friday.
Former President Barack Obama, at the end of a tumultuous week in a tumultuous year, signaling that he is back on the scene, was ready to point out the differences between the two major parties in an effort to mobilize the Democratic base, and he said, “restore checks and balances.”
Speaking to an audience at the University of Illinois, Obama urged them to engage in the political process — specifically because the country appears to be so divided.
“It did not start with Donald Trump; he is a symptom, not the cause,” said Obama. “When there is a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing … a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold and demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. They’ll promise to fight for the little guy, even though they cater to the most wealthy and powerful. They’ll promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away.”
The former president, who has faced criticism for his relative silence during the current political upheaval, chose to focus Friday on the Republican Party, which controls both houses of the Legislature but is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming midterms.
“Got a lot of good Republican friends here in Illinois, but over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party,” said Obama. “Republicans who know better in Congress – and they’re there – they are quoted saying, ‘we know this is kind of crazy,’ are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny, or accountability or consequence. Seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work. And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check — I’m being serious here — that’s not how our democracy is supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They are not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that is coming out of this White House and then saying, ‘don’t worry, we are preventing the other 10 percent.’”
The current president, meanwhile, asked about the Obama speech Friday? He was not impressed.
“I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep. I found he’s very good, very good, for sleeping,” said Trump.
Obama will be campaigning in California this weekend and will crisscross the country stumping for Democrats in House races this fall.
This week, Vice President Joe Biden was in Jersey on Wednesday, where several Republican House seats are in jeopardy. There’s no word yet on whether we’ll see Obama in the Garden State in the fall.