On Friday, former President Barack Obama urged voters to get to the polls in order to “restore some semblance of sanity to our politics” while appearing before the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The speech marked Obama’s reemergence onto the political stage after having largely remained on the sidelines following his exit from office two years prior. With the upcoming midterm elections, the former president has taken to the campaign trail to promote his fellow Democratic candidates in what he has labeled one of the most important elections in recent history.

Throughout the speech, Obama focused on the importance of maintaining a healthy democracy despite “the enormous upheavals that have taken place in” recent years. When speaking as to what has held the American people back from pursuing “their small piece of the American Dream,” he attributed the pushback to a rigged status quo “manufactured by the powerful and the privileged.” It is this group of people, he argues, that have capitalized on the underground resentment and fear present in our nation to divide the American people and maintain their power. 

“It did not start with [president] Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause.”

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With this statement, it is clear that the campaign trail will be personal for the president, as it marks one of the very few times Obama has directly referenced the president publicly. He has traditionally refrained from using Trump’s name in his speeches as a manner of courtesy.

Obama then went on to further criticize a number of the current administration’s recent actions.
“This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outsized influence over our politics; systemically attacked voting rights… Slashed the safety net wherever it could… Cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans [and] embraced wild conspiracy theories.”

The former president also didn’t hesitate to chastise the Republican party for failing to provide any form of “checks and balances on this kind of behavior” given their house majorities.

When asked about the speech, Trump later commented, ”I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping.”

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