Former President Barack Obama went after his successor by the name for the first time since leaving office, according to Business Insider, calling President Donald Trump “a symptom, not the cause” of today’s political climate.
“It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama told students at the University of Illinois on Friday. “He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years.”
Obama has historically avoided naming Trump directly, instead criticizing his tactics. While giving the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg earlier this year, Obama attacked the “politics of fear and resentment,” but never named Trump directly. “Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly,” said Obama at the time.
Throughout his speech on Friday, Obama continued his critique of today’s political environment, but maintained hope for change. He emphasized the need for the students to get out and vote in November, saying “stakes really are higher” in this year’s midterms.
“You need to vote because our democracy depends on it. … This moment really is different,” said Obama. “The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.”
“There’s a reason why progress hasn’t been easy – every two steps forward seems to produce a step back,” Obama continued. “Every time we pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals – that all of us are created equal … somebody somewhere is pushed back. The status quo pushes back.”
Friday’s speech launches Obama’s return to the campaign trail. He’ll be rallying for a number of Democratic candidates this fall, CNN reports, with events around the country.