Declaring this “the most important election of our lives,” Obama stressed the importance of the vote and urged Americans to develop a plan to vote. “What we do now for the next 13 days will matter for decades to come,” he said.
Obama, who came to the White House with an optimistic message of “hope and change,” acknowledged that progress is not always a straight line. “The fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote,” he pleaded.
His visit to Pennsylvania, one of the three traditionally democratic Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016, underscored his importance in this cycle. The two candidates lavished frequent visits and an advertising campaign on the state. Biden holds a narrow lead in Pennsylvania, according to a RealClearPolitics average of state polls.
Seizing a comment Trump made at a rally in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday, when he told his supporters it wouldn’t have been if his campaign hadn’t lagged behind, Obama smirked, “Poor guy. I don’t feel that way. I love coming to Pennsylvania. ”
Ignoring polls and experts that have shown Biden widening his lead in recent weeks, Obama has urged black men and young progressives not to stay out of this cycle.
“I don’t care about the polls. There was a whole series of polls last time around, ”he said. “It didn’t work because a whole bunch of people stayed at home. “
Democrats believe black voter turnout could be decisive in states like Pennsylvania, where Hillary Clinton lost less than 45,000 votes in 2016. That year, African-American voter turnout plummeted across the country.
Obama visited Philadelphia in August, when he gave a thought-provoking speech at the Virtual Democratic National Convention, in which he warned that the future of American democracy was at stake in this election. Although similar in theme, the tone of his remarks on Wednesday was much more encouraging. Amidst a constant stream of car horns, he asked the crowd to “remember what this country can be”.
The former president praised Biden – a “rambling scranton kid” – who he said had the experience and temperament to lead a nation struggling with multiple crises. Contrasting the Democratic ticket with the current administration, Obama said Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris would not ignore public health experts, amplify conspiracy theories, or stoke nativist fears.
“With Joe and Kamala at the helm, you won’t have to think about the crazy things they said every day,” Obama said. “And it’s worth a lot.”
Obama’s long-awaited return to the election campaign, delayed by the coronavirus, was the first of several public events he is expected to host on behalf of Biden and Harris in the twilight of the presidential campaign. After keeping a relatively low profile for much of his presidency – and frustrating his supporters with reluctance to denounce his successor – Obama has spared no criticism.
Poking fun at Trump’s obsession with his own television audiences, Obama accused the former Apprentice star of treating the presidency as a “reality show.”
“But the point is, it’s not a reality show. This is the reality, ”he said. “And the rest of us had to live with the consequences of his inability to take the job seriously.”
He also assaulted the president after revealing by The New York Times that he paid only $ 750 in federal income tax in 2017 and that he had a bank account in China.
“Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account when I ran for re-election?” Obama asked, his voice strained. “Do you think Fox News was maybe a little worried about this?” They would have called me Beijing Barry!
He joked that he probably paid more federal taxes in his first job at Baskin-Robbins than Trump paid in the first year of his presidency.
Ahead of the rally, Obama hosted a roundtable discussion with black elected officials and community organizers at a North Philadelphia recreation center, where he urged locals, especially African-American men, to make their voices heard. urns this cycle. The former president said he understands the tendency of young people to apathy when progress is slow and change is gradual, especially on issues as pressing as racial injustice.
“I’m very proud of my presidency, but I didn’t immediately address the systemic racism of being president,” he told the 14 men gathered at the social distancing event.
Comparing voting to training, Obama said no one should expect to leave the gym after a workout with a physique like The Rock. Likewise, he said, voting in an election will not suddenly make “everything perfect”, but it will make “things better”.
When asked during the discussion if he still had hope after the past four years, Obama said yes.
“I was crazy. I was frustrated, ”Obama told him. “But I haven’t lost hope.”