Oct 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Obama: Trump emboldens people to be "cruel and divisive and racist"

Barack Obama
Former President Barack Obama. Photo: ALEX EDELMAN / Getty Images

In his first campaign rally appearance on behalf of Joe Biden, former President Barack Obama urged Americans to vote, saying "we can't afford another four years" of a Trump presidency.

Why it matters via Axios' Hans Nichols: With less than two weeks until Election Day, Obama made his case for Biden in Pennsylvania, a state that Trump's campaign knows he needs to win.

The big picture: The Biden campaign is drawing on Obama's popularity with Democrats to drive turnout and motivate voters.

  • "We can’t be complacent. I don't care about the polls," the former president said.

The state of play: Obama addressed a socially distant crowd in South Philadelphia at a drive-in rally Wednesday evening. Before taking the stage, he met with a roundtable of Black male elected officials to talk about the issues impacting their communities and to stress the importance of voting.

What he's saying: Obama noted that Trump’s tweets and unwillingness to condemn groups such as QAnon have "consequence ... They embolden other people to be cruel and divisive and racist. And It frays the fabric of our society.”

  • “We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook,” Obama said at the rally. “They probably used it to ... prop up a wobbly table somewhere.”
  • ‘What we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come.”
  • “You guys delivered for me twice, and I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris,” Obama said.

Between the lines: Obama used both humor and blistering attacks to argue that Trump is unfit for office, referencing a recent New York Times story on Trump's alleged business dealings with China.

  • "Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for re-election?" Obama asked the rally crowd. "They would have called me Beijing Barry."

Of note: In his earlier appearance at the roundtable, Obama said Americans "can't afford another four years" of Trump, though he did not mention the president by name.

He also pushed a get-out-the-vote message. “It’s not that voting makes everything perfect, it’s that it makes things better,” he said.

  • “If you don’t vote, then you are not at the table and then stuff is done to you,” Obama said.
  • “Hope is not blind optimism, it’s not ignoring problems. Hope is believing in the face of difficulty that we can overcome and get a better world.
  • “And so, I’ve never lost hope over these last four years.
  • "I’ve been mad. I’ve been frustrated, but I haven’t lost hope, and the reason is because I never expected progress to move directly in a straight line."
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