July 2, 2018
Speaking at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on June 28 in Beverly Hills, California—the first of three at which he has committed to appear—former President Barack Obama said that, although the political situation is dire, the party should not resort to magical thinking about a hero such as himself coming back to save the day.
He warned of a country and a world on the brink — “you are right to be concerned,” he told the crowd — but said they’d flub their chance to change that if they kept pining for a savior, according to a report by Politico.
Instead, he focused on getting out the vote for the midterm elections in support of Democrat candidates—charismatic or not.
“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 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote,’” Obama said in his first public comments in months, Politico noted, adding, “because that’s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much.”
He pointed out that “[The Republicans] don’t worry about inspiration. 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.”
As usual, Obama refrained from referring to President Donald Trump by name in public, but he spoke at length about the problems he perceives in the current administration — and why he thinks Democrats would be foolish to assume that they have mounted the opposition to beat him just because they’ve been doing well in winning recent elections.
“Fear is powerful,” Obama said, referring to the POTUS’s tactics to undermine the American ethos. “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. It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.”
The former president did not get into specifics about immigration, the Supreme Court vacancy, world trade, or foreign affairs. His only direct comments on current events were about the newspaper office shooting in Maryland earlier Thursday; which he said left him heartbroken but hopeful that people would see this one as the turning point to take action on gun laws, Politico reported.
Instead, he talked mostly in general terms about how the Republicans and Democrats tell “different stories.”
“There’s a fundamental contrast of how we view the world,” Obama said. “We are seeing the consequences of when one vision is realized, or in charge.”
A new national message will come, Obama argued, as the 2020 field of presidential candidates emerges. The people who are looking for one now are being ridiculous, he said, but if they needed something to hold them over, he said his own old slogan still works.
“All these people [who] are out here kvetching and wringing their hands and stressed and anxious and constantly watching cable TV and howling at the moon, ‘What are we going to do?,’ their hair’s falling out, they can’t sleep,” Obama said. “The majority of the American people prefer a story of hope. A majority of the American people prefer a country that comes together rather than being divided. The majority of the country doesn’t want to see a dog-eat-dog world where everybody is angry all the time.”
The former president characterized the Republican effort to torpedo Obamacare as an opportunity for Democrats.
“Reality has an interesting way of coming up and biting you, and the other side has been peddling a lot of stuff that is so patently untrue that you can get away with it for a while, but at a certain point, you confront reality,” he said. “The Democrats’ job is not to exaggerate; the Democrats’ job is not to simply mimic the tactics of the other side. All we have to do is work hard on behalf of that truth. And if we do, we’ll get better outcomes.”
Research contact: @IsaacDovere