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Obama blasts ‘politics of division’ on return to campaign trail

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Former President Barack Obama, back on the campaign trail on Thursday for the first time since he left the White House, called on voters to reject a growing “politics of division” that he said was corroding American democracy.

Without mentioning Republican President Donald Trump by name, Obama told campaign rallies in New Jersey and Virginia that voters could send a powerful message about the type of politics they want by backing Democrats in Nov. 7 elections in the two states.

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“What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before, that dates back centuries,” Obama told a cheering crowd in Newark, New Jersey, that chanted: “Four more years.”

“Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That’s folks looking 50 years back,” Obama said. “It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”

At a later stop in Richmond, Virginia, Obama said modern politics increasingly did not reflect basic American values of inclusiveness and were driving people away from the process.

“We’ve got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have different ideas, to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage. Sometimes that feels frustrating,” Obama said.

Many of Obama’s comments appeared to be thinly veiled swipes at Trump, whose combative style and inflammatory rhetoric have led to frequent controversy and stoked political tensions.

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Obama made the remarks just hours after former President George W. Bush, a Republican, also took an indirect swing at Trump with a speech decrying “bullying and prejudice” while defending immigrants and trade.

Obama’s appearances were aimed at driving up Democratic turnout in New Jersey and Virginia, the only two states holding elections for governor this year. Democrats hope Obama can bring some of the young, minority and infrequent voters who powered his two elections to the White House out to the polls in off-year elections.

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The two contests will be closely watched to see if Democrats can convert the grassroots resistance to Trump into electoral wins after falling short earlier this year in four competitive special congressional elections.

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The governor’s races, and a special election in December for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, could offer clues to the national political mood ahead of next year’s congressional elections, when all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the Senate’s 100 seats will be up for grabs. Republicans currently control both chambers.

Since leaving the White House in January, Obama has frequently been forced to defend his record as Trump and Republicans have tried to gut his signature healthcare law and roll back his immigration and environmental policies.

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While he has rarely spoken out about politics in the past nine months, Obama said it was critical that supporters get their friends and families to vote.

In Newark, he said no one should assume victory just because opinion polls show Phil Murphy, a former investment banker and U.S. ambassador to Germany, has a comfortable lead on Republican opponent Kim Guadagno, the state’s lieutenant governor.

“I don’t know if you all noticed that, but you can’t take any election for granted,” he said in a reference to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s surprise loss last year in the presidential race.

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In the political battleground of Virginia, polls show a close contest between Democrat Ralph Northam, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Republican Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman who has been endorsed by Trump.

Obama carried Virginia in both 2008 and 2012, and Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state over Trump by 5 percentage points in 2016.

(Reporting by John Whitesides in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)


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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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Judge blocking release of Jeffrey Epstein records has ties to officials linked to Epstein: report

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On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that a judge who blocked the release of grand jury material in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse case has ties to three officials with a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuits surrounding the scandal.

"Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges," wrote Julie Brown, a reporter who has extensively covered the Epstein case.

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WATCH: Buffalo cops and firefighters cheer officers charged with assault as they leave the courthouse

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According to a report from both CNN and MSNBC, the two Buffalo police officers who were charged with second-degree assault after shoving a 75-year-old anti-police brutality protester to the ground where he sustained head injuries were greeted with applause after they were arraigned on Saturday morning.

MSNBC's Alex Witt noted that both officers were released without having to post bail.

According to ABC News, "Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault during their video arraignments on Saturday and were released on their own recognizance. They both entered no guilty pleas and are expected back in court on July 20."

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