From the Philadelphia ground where the American experiment was born, one former president — in a stunning prime-time address to the nation he once led — warned that his successor was on the cusp of destroying democracy itself.
The latest installment of the long duel between Barack Obama and Donald Trump perfectly exemplified the jarring contrasts in personal and political temperaments of the two defining White House residents of this age. And it took their rivalry to a level unprecedented in the modern history of the presidency.
Obama — serious and intellectual — delivered a complex constitutional lecture on primetime television during the virtual Democratic National Convention. He summoned historic sweep, encompassing the Founders, the Civil Rights Movement, America’s immigrant heritage and young Americans he called to action today to save their freedoms just as their ancestors had done every time the country’s promise was imperiled.
Obama’s address also amounted to a call to action to a weary and anxious nation, particularly younger Americans frustrated with a government that may often appear out of touch with their own interests. Democrats see Obama as a bridge to those voters in the 2020 race, someone who can speak both to Biden’s character and to the urgency of progressives pushing for more sweeping change to the nation’s economic and domestic policies.
“I am also asking you to believe in your own ability — to embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure,” Obama said. Obama forged a close personal relationship with Biden during their eight years together in the White House and has been a sounding board for him throughout the 2020 campaign. On Wednesday, Obama said that when he set out to pick a vice president, “I didn’t know I’d end up finding a brother.”
USA Today reports:
Though Obama has criticized Trump’s policies before, his remarks Wednesday were far more pointed – and personal – than he’s been in the past. Obama rarely mentions the current president by name – even as Trump has slammed his administration on a near-daily basis – but did so twice Wednesday night in his 19-minute speech.
“He has shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends,” Obama asserted in a live address delivered from Philadelphia.
“Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t,” Obama said. “And the consequences of that failure are severe.”