Obama voices concern for U.S. on first campaign trip

"Our democracy is at stake," former President Barack Obama said.
By Sara Shayanian  |  Oct. 20, 2017 at 8:50 AM
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Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The two commanders in-chief who preceded President Donald Trump have each voiced concerns about aspects of the new U.S. administration -- breaking with tradition by vocally criticizing the efforts of a president who followed them.

Former President Barack Obama made his concern public Thursday night at a campaign rally for Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam -- one of two stops Thursday on his first campaigning trip since leaving the White House in January.

"We need you to take this seriously because our democracy is at stake," Obama told a crowd of hundreds in Richmond, Va. "Folks don't feel good right now about what they see."

Obama has previously expressed concern for the direction of the U.S. government, and like those prior occasions, he did not specifically mention Trump by name Thursday night.

"Instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way, we've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry -- to demonize folks who have different ideas to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage," Obama continued.

The 44th U.S. president said Northam's opponent, Republican Ed Gillespie, was "playing from that same old playbook -- if you scare enough voters, you might just score enough votes to win an election.

"If you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them. You won't be able to unite them later, if that's how you start."

Obama also warned against political complacency and encouraged young voters to participate in all elections -- particularly in key off-year elections when congressional seats come up for grabs and can tilt the balance of power in the House and Senate.

Earlier Thursday, Obama appeared in New Jersey to stump for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy.

Though a current president receiving criticism from former White House occupants is not unprecedented, it is unusual. Most have opted to keep policy concerns private.

Obama's comments came on the same day former President George W. Bush expressed similar concern at an event in New York City.

"Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication," Bush said. "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism ... People of every race, religion, ethnicity can be fully and equally American.

"It means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed."

Though he also didn't specifically mention Trump by name, Bush appeared to advocate for a number of ideas that run contrary to the president's policies -- including free trade and "global engagement."

"Free trade helped make America into a global economic power," he said.

When asked if he believed the White House would hear his message, Bush answered, "I think it will."

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