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Obama speaks at U of I: Trump is ‘capitalizing on resentment’

12 September 2018

"Some of you may think I am exaggerating when I say this election is more important than any I can remember in my lifetime", Obama said in a speech at the University of IL. Further the Democratic former president assailed Republicans as "unwilling to find the backbone" to challenge Trump head-on accusing them instead of answering "outrageous" actions with "vague statements of disappointment".

"The antidote to government by the powerful few is democracy by the organized many".

Mr Obama was eager to "remind" voters that the economic recovery - one of Mr Trump's favourite talking points - actually began "in 2015" under his presidency.

But Obama pointed to his own role in bringing the USA out of one of the worst economic recessions it has experienced, saying "let's just remember when this recovery started". I don't mean to pretend I'm channeling Lincoln now, but that's not what he had in mind, I don't think when he formed the Republican Party.

Obama's strong partisan rhetoric and critique of the Trump administration is at odds with the long-standing tradition that even he mentioned which has former presidents largely remaining silent about their successors.

"We're going to put on our marching shoes, we're going to start knocking on some doors, we're going to start making some calls", he said to cheers.

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Obama is speaking Friday at the University of IL, where he's receiving an award for ethics in government.

Former President Barack Obama makes a campaign stop at Caffe Paradiso in Urbana, Ill., Friday, Sept. 7, 2018, where he did a campaign stop with Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, left, following his speech at the University of Illinois.

"He's just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years", he said.

But he dropped that political reticence in IL, the state where he launched his own political career, saying a vote against Republicans could restore "honesty and decency and lawfulness" to government.

He said the consequences of sitting on the sidelines are "dire".

But, Obama added, when there is a vacuum in democracy, "other voices fill the void".

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Trump, meanwhile, claimed he fell asleep watching Obama's speech.

"There are people out there right now that are counting on us to make sure they still have health care after this election", Obama said.

Obama, who had frustrated some Democrats by keeping a relatively low profile since leaving office in January 2017, accused Republicans of being unwilling to safeguard democracy or offer a check on Trump's policies or worst instincts. "We've seen basic norms and principles that have served us well for decades increasingly violated", Obama said.

Trump aides were allegedly concerned about the effect Obama's speech would have on President Trump, with Politico reporting there are fears from the Trump camp that Obama would get inside the president's head ahead of midterm elections.

Obama will hit the campaign trail on Saturday to back Democrats in key races.

The speech was a preview of the argument that Mr Obama is likely to make until the U.S. midterm elections in November.

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Obama also criticized recent Republican policy moves such as the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that ballooned the nation's budget deficit, but which party leaders hoped would be a winning issue during midterm campaigns.

Obama speaks at U of I: Trump is ‘capitalizing on resentment’