As far as Barack Obama is concerned, supporting Donald Trump isn’t about being a Republican, and rejecting him doesn’t make you a Democrat.
This is about something much more foundational: Do you believe Nazis are bad?
“How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad,” Obama said during a fiery Illinois University speech Friday, in a comment clearly directed at President Trump’s seeming inability to explicitly condemn a white nationalist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
The speech, in which Obama explicitly condemned Trump and his administration’s conduct for the first time since leaving the White House, tried to present Trump as separate from the deep-rooted partisanship between Republicans and Democrats in the United States.
Obama flipped between an indictment of the Republican Party in general and an argument that even non-Democrats should reject the current brand of Republicanism currently in power in Washington.
“I am here to tell you that even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you believe in more libertarian economic theories, even if you are an evangelical and our position on certain social issues is a bridge too far, even if you think my assessment of immigration is mistaken and the Democrats aren’t serious enough about immigration enforcement, I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned with our current course and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government,” Obama said.
In the past year, Republicans have downplayed investigations into Trump’s campaign and presidency and excused Trump’s racism, xenophobia, and misconduct. They’ve watched Trump abandon conservative beliefs on trade and immigration and have been forced to spin the president’s often politically incoherent ideas. They’ve tolerated Trump sowing distrust among the key pillars of American democracy, from freedom of the press to the judiciary and intelligence agencies.
All of that, Obama argues, defies party allegiances, and even non-Democrats should join Democrats in rejecting it.
Here are the rest of Obama’s remarks on the topic:
It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents.
Or to explicitly call on the attorney general to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up. I’m not making that up. That’s not hypothetical. It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people. It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.
How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad.