Former President Barack Obama has made his first public comments in months, telling Democratic Party donors they are “right to be concerned” about the state of America.
While Obama stuck to his rule of not mentioning President Trump by name, his comments at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in California on Thursday made his thoughts very clear.
“Fear is powerful,” Obama said, according to Politico’s reporting from the closed event. “Telling people that somebody’s out to get you, or somebody took your job, or somebody has it out for you, or is going to change you, or your community, or your way of life—that’s an old story and it has shown itself to be powerful in societies all around the world. It is a deliberate, systematic effort to tap into that part of our brain that carries fear in it.”
Obama didn’t specifically discuss immigrant children being separated from their families, or the rulings from the Supreme Court this week. But he urged Democrats to focus on the November elections and to stop pining for a new political savior.
“Do not wait for the perfect message, don’t wait to feel a tingle in your spine because you’re expecting politicians to be so inspiring and poetic and moving that somehow, ‘OK, I’ll get off my couch after all and go spend the 15-20 minutes it takes for me to vote,’” Obama is reported to have said. “If we don’t vote, then this democracy doesn’t work.”
According to the reported remarks, Obama also appeared to take some blame for Democratic losses down-ballot during his presidency but framed them as a result of too much focus on him as an individual.
“I’ll be honest with you, if I have a regret during my presidency, it is that people were so focused on me and the battles we were having, particularly after we lost the House, that folks stopped paying attention up and down the ballot,” he reportedly said.
Throughout the Trump presidency, former president Obama has remained relatively silent—only occasionally weighing in with Facebook posts for the most hot-button issues. He did so in a semi-veiled way about the administration's family separation policy at the U.S-Mexico border, as well as when Trump decided to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and when congressional Republicans were in the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
The fundraiser marks the beginning of a process in which Obama is going to reportedly be more involved in politics, particularly as midterm congressional elections heat up.