Nov 5, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Obama warns against violating "spirit of our democracy"

Former President Obama attends a rally in support of Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 5, 2022. Photo: Rebecca Droke/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Obama warned against violating "the basic spirit of our democracy" Saturday while campaigning for U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania.

Driving the news: "This habit we have of demonizing political opponents, of saying crazy stuff, it creates a dangerous climate," Obama said, referencing the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi.

  • "When you have people who are in leadership positions, who promote or ignore over-the-top rhetoric, and then when there's an attack like this they make light of it, they joke about it, then more people are gonna get hurt," he continued.
  • "And more than that, we violate the basic spirit of our democracy, the spirit of who we are as Americans."

What he's saying: "By the way, it's not just politicians," Obama went on to say. "Whether it's out of malice or ignorance, we've seen recently big celebrities reposting vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online."

Between the lines: Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, and NBA player Kyrie Irving have faced backlash recently for making antisemitic remarks.

  • "You don't have to be a student of history to understand how dangerous that is and how unacceptable it is," Obama said.

Of note: Obama traveled to Pittsburgh days before the midterm elections to rally for Fetterman in a U.S. Senate race that could potentially decide which political party gains control of the upper chamber.

In his lengthy speech to rally attendees, Obama brought up Fetterman's opponent in the race, Republican Mehmet Oz.

  • "John's opponent, he has answers. They're just the wrong ones," the former president said.
  • "It's easy to joke about Dr. Oz and all these quack remedies he's pushed on TV, but it matters. It says something about his character," Obama said. "If somebody's willing to peddle snake oil to make a buck, then he's probably willing to sell snake oil to get elected."
  • Obama also took aim at Republicans, saying that the GOP likes to talk about inflation but "what's their answer? What's their economic policy?" Obama then said Republicans want to gut Social Security and Medicare and give more tax cuts to the wealthy and to big corporations.
  • "It should come as no surprise that Republicans want to cut taxes for the wealthy and big corporations because that's their solution to everything. When inflation's low, they say let's cut taxes for the wealthy. If unemployment's high, let's cut taxes."
  • "If there was an asteroid headed towards Earth, they'd all get in a room and say, you know what we need? Tax cuts for the rich." 

Where it stands: "Somebody mentioned earlier, we're setting our clocks back tomorrow by an hour," Obama said. "On Tuesday, let's make sure our country doesn't get set back fifty years."

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