Former President Barack Obama blew up President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his reaction to racial unrest and his fundamental unfitness for the job in his first personal campaign spot on Wednesday for Joe Biden, his former vice president.
With less than two weeks until Election Day, Obama delivered a sweeping condemnation of Trump while urging black men, progressives and other voters not to run in the Nov. 3 election.
“This election requires each and every one of us to do our part. What we do for the next 13 days means something in the coming decades, ”Obama said at a run-in meeting of about 300 cars. He later warned: “The fact that we are not getting 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote.”
Obama’s visit to Philadelphia underscores the importance of Pennsylvania, the swing state that Biden himself has visited most this campaign season. Trump has also prioritized the state, and his staff recognize that his path to victory would be narrowed significantly without the state’s 20 electoral votes. The president was Wednesday in Erie, one of a handful of Pennsylvania counties that Obama won twice before turning to Trump.
Specifically targeted at voters who may be disillusioned, Obama offered a defense of the nation’s decency and personal validation that Biden and his comrade, California Senator Kamala Harris, can live up to.
“America is a good and decent place, but we’ve just seen so much rubbish and noise that it’s sometimes hard to remember,” he said. “I ask you to remember what this country can be. … I ask you to believe in Joe’s ability and Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times and help us rebuild it better. ”
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During his speech and at a previous round table with black men, Biden spoke about the Democrats’ plans to confront the coronavirus while dealing with the country’s social and economic tensions, including differences deeply rooted in racism.
“I’m so sure that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris surround themselves with people who are serious, who know what they’re doing, and who are representative of all people – not just some people – and that we can then dig ourselves out. this hole, ”Obama said.
Four years ago, Obama delivered Hillary Clinton’s closing argument in Philadelphia – at a demonstration in thousands the night before Election Day at Independence Mall. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic in upward campaign, so far fewer voters the former president personally. But he used the spotlight, he had to remind voters of 2016 when Trump narrowly disrupted Clinton in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to create a majority at Electoral College despite losing the popular vote nationally.
“We can not be complacent,” Obama warned. “I do not care about the votes. There were a whole bunch of polls last time. It did not work because a whole bunch of people stayed home and became lazy and complacent. Not this time. Not this choice. ”
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The round table was a personal version of the same message in which the nation’s first black president urged black men not to give in to apathy. The host city, Philadelphia, is among the democratic bastions in key battlefield states, where black turnout fell four years ago from Obama’s 2012 re-election in large enough numbers to topple the election in Trump’s favor.
Obama, 59, said he understood young voters’ skepticism and disinterest, recalling his own stance decades ago. “I confess, when I was 20 years old, I was not so awake,” he said at the round table, adding that young black men are “not involved because they are young and they are distracted.”
But he said that not voting gives power away.
“The answer for young people when I talk to them is not that voting makes everything perfect,” Obama said. “It is that it makes things better”, because politicians react to and reflect the citizens who vote.
“One of the biggest tricks being committed on the American people is this idea that the government is separate from you,” Obama said. “The government is us. By, by and for the people. It was not always for all of us, but the way it is designed, it works based on who is at the table. ”
Despite the smaller scale, Democrats say Obama, as one of the men who knows Biden best, both as his former White House partner and personally, remains one of the party’s biggest assets in the final stretch of the campaign.
Obama has already been instrumental in the Biden campaign by adapting the shift to virtual events by focusing much of his work on getting younger Americans to vote. He has appeared on Twitch, the streaming platform for video games, pushed a voter registration announcement on Snapchat and recorded a video for Shade Room, a black-owned Instagram page and media company with 21 million followers.
Obama has appeared in two podcasts run by some of his former aides, and has lent his name to texts and emails encouraging supporters to sign up to vote and donate money to the campaign. Obama has also been a big draw for the campaign – he appeared in two virtual fundraisers with Harris this month and a handful prior to it. A virtual fundraiser that Obama began with Biden in June brought in $ 7.6 million.
Obama has also been active for Democrats during the vote, raising money for House Democrats and appearing in ads for some of the party’s top candidates, such as Sara Gideon, who is fighting for the Senate in Maine, and for vulnerable incumbents, such as Michigan Senator Gary Peters. . And he filmed a series of digital videos for the Democratic National Committee, stressing the need for voters to plan their vote.