Obama leads call for values to dictate votes
Democratic rally for top candidates emphasizes values lost under Trump — like truth
By Ted Cox
CHICAGO — President Barack Obama called on Illinois voters not to follow a party, but to reclaim their American values in a get-out-the-vote rally in Chicago Sunday, two days before the midterm elections.
“The character of our nation is on the ballot,” Obama said.
Celebrating the 10th anniversary of his election as president and, not coincidentally, “a small event in Grant Park” in Chicago, Obama called on voters to “stand up for the values that bind us to our fellow citizens.”
Before an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion, Obama said, “Goodness and decency is still out there. Kindness is still out there. Generosity is still out there. Hope is still out there. We just have to stand up and speak for it.”
Later, he added, “What kind of politics do we want? And what kind of demands do we put on people we elect?”
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and 6th District congressional candidate Sean Casten also hammered home those points, emphasizing that the election is about “values” as much as policies or candidates. Durbin, too, spoke on the divisiveness of politicians as they seek to chip off groups to vote against one another.
Obama picked up on that, talking of “repeated attempts to divide us, not bring us together — rhetoric designed to turn us on each other,” adding, “This is a very old playbook.
“When you vote, Illinois, you can reject that kind of politics,” he said. “When you participate in the political process, you can be a check on bad behavior. When you vote, you can choose hope over fear. You are part of the process of shifting the course of this country.”
U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth attacked Donald Trump as “an out-of-control, petulant, schoolyard bully of a president.” Both she and Obama had raspy voices from relentless campaigning, even though neither is on the ballot.
“We have a demagogue in the White House and a Congress that sits in silent complicity,” Casten said. He blamed Congressman Peter Roskam in large part for that, citing how he was instrumental in passing a tax cut benefitting the richest Americans, then turned around as the federal deficit rose and said it could be reduced “by taking a hard look at ‘entitled’ individuals,” Casten said, suggesting that Roskam was hinting at so-called entitlements like Social Security and Medicare.
“You know who I think is entitled?” Casten said. “Someone who hasn’t held an open town hall in 10 years and thinks he deserves your vote.”
Obama suggested he was taking a more aggressive political stance because political discourse had changed just since he left office.
“What we have not seen before, at least not in my lifetime, are politicians who are blatantly, repeatedly, falsely, shamelessly lying,” he said to huge cheers from the crowd.
Obama also struck at Republican hypocrisy, as reflected in their worries about the deficit under his administration, then not revisited until the tax cut was passed, while also restricting the vote in some states.
“Why is it that you have one party that is always trying to discourage people from voting?” Obama said. “It’s a very un-democratic idea,” he added, pointing out that politicians in a representative democracy ought to always call for all the people’s votes to be counted.
“They like to scare voters,” he added, pointing to the media hysteria over the so-called caravan of aspiring immigrants and asylum seekers 1,000 miles away in Mexico. He decried how President Trump was engaging in a “political stunt at the border,” by sending thousands of U.S. troops away from their families to defend it.
“The men and the women of our military deserve better than that,” he said.
He pointed to how Republicans are always promising one thing on the campaign trail, on taxes or pre-existing conditions, and delivering something else, and he pointed to the famous “Peanuts” series of comic strips from Charles Schulz in which Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown, about to kick it, and always pulls it away.
“Illinois, don’t be Charlie Brown with the football,” he said. “Don’t be hoodwinked. Don’t be bamboozled.
“When words stop meaning anything,” Obama added, “when people can tell untruths, in fact tell the opposite of truth, when there are no consequences, democracy’s at risk. In fact, society’s at risk.
“Democracy doesn’t work if there’s no check, no consequences for absence of truth. In Illinois, it turns out that the check on this behavior is you — you and your vote.”
Several speakers mentioned President Trump’s penchant for lying and his defense of racists and anti-Semites.
“Bigotry, hatred, and misogyny should have no place in America,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker. “And since when has that become a partisan belief?”
“This country only works when it works for everyone,” said his running mate for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Juliana Stratton.
At very times during Obama’s speech, in making reference to other politicians, people sometimes booed.
“Don’t boo,” Obama said. “Vote!”
From above: Voters make a demand, Comptroller Susana Mendoza rouses the crowd, and women dance to the rapper Common, who performed. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)