Barack Obama broke a months-long public silence on Thursday to offer the Democrat party a dose of tough love at a political fundraiser in Beverly Hills.
His bottom line? Stop looking back at his presidency wistfully and get out and vote instead.
While he told the Democratic National Committee (DNC) donors present that they are “right to be concerned,” according to Politico, he also warned that any chance of winning back power would be quashed if they continued to focus their energy on him.
“The executive summary,” he said, is “Vote. Participate. Get involved.”
“Do not wait for the perfect message,” he continued. “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.’ Because that’s part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much.”
Obama hammered in this point about voting, telling the audience that “if we don’t vote, then this democracy doesn’t work.”
He also warned against Democrats resting on their laurels, trusting the momentum of recent wins for the party. Highlighting the successes of the Republican party, Obama pointed out that the two parties rely on “different stories”: the Republicans on fear, and the Democrats on hope.
And while he believes that most Americans don’t want to continue to see this “dog-eat-dog world where everybody is angry all the time,” he added that “fear is powerful.” It would be a mistake, he argued, to “go back to business as usual” under the assumption that Democrats will win in November.
Nevertheless, his message was not entirely pessimistic. Referring to some of the Republican party’s political maneuvering (and possibly invoking his wife’s iconic ‘when they go low, we go high’ speech), Obama said that “reality has interesting way of coming up and biting you.”
“The other side has been peddling a lot of stuff that is so patently untrue that you can get away with it for awhile, but at a certain point, you confront reality,” he continued.
Ultimately, however, the most important message is that “if people participate and they vote, then this democracy works.”