Former President Barack Obama visited The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Friday to accept the school’s ethics in government award, and to offer his take on “the state of our democracy.”
And while Obama found plenty of time to denigrate Republicans for allegedly stoking fear during these “dangerous” and “extraordinary times,” he also dedicated a lot of his speech to patting himself on the back for everything from the improving economy to supposedly helping to heal the country’s racial divisions.
All told, the former president referred to himself – I, My, Me – more than 102 times in about 64 minutes, while simultaneously engaging in the type political pot shots he criticized Republicans for.
Obama’s favorite word seemed to be “I,” which he repeated at least 87 times, followed by more than a dozen references to “my” or “me.”
“By the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate had hit an all-time low, and wages were rising, and poverty rates were falling. I mention all this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started,” Obama told students.
“When you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on – when the job numbers come out … and suddenly Republicans are saying, ‘It’s a miracle!’ I have to kind of remind them: actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016,” he said.
The 44th president accused Trump and his supporters of exploiting the public’s fears to wrest control, power and money from everyday Americans, while seemingly stoking fears over what continued GOP control of government would mean for America.
The speech, designed to mark Obama’s return to politics and kickstart his midterm campaign for Democrats, touched on how congressional Republicans are allegedly “unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work,” while “bending over backwards to protect Trump.”
Obama suggested the rich and powerful are conspiring against the little people, and the only way to make it better is to vote for politicians like himself who gallantly fight for what’s right, and just.
“Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change,” Obama said. “More often it is manufactured by the powerful, the privileged, who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical. Because that helps them maintain the status quo, keep their power, keep their privilege.
“You happen to be coming of age during one of those moments. It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years,” Obama alleged.
He claimed “the policies of resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.”
“Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter,” Obama said, adding that voters are the “antidote” for Republican sickness allegedly infecting Washington, D.C. “And if you thought elections don’t matter, I hope these last two years have corrected the impression.”
“Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different, the stakes really are higher, the consequences of any of sitting on the sidelines are more dire,” Obama said.
The solution, of course, is to vote for Democrats, he said.
“This whole project of self-government only works if everyone’s doing their part,” he said. “So if you don’t like what’s going on right now, and you shouldn’t, do not complain, don’t hashtag, don’t get anxious, don’t retreat, don’t binge on whatever it is you’re binging on. Don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment, don’t put your head in the sand, don’t boo. Vote.”
“ … the best way to protest is to vote,” Obama said.
President Trump was quick to weigh in on his predecessor’s comments during a speaking event in North Dakota on Friday, The Huffington Post reports.
“I’m sorry, I watched it, but I fell asleep,” the president joked. “I found he’s very good, very good for sleeping.”