Friday, Barack Obama is returning to the state that gave rise to his political career, accepting an ethics in government award at the the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. While there, an adviser has shared with the Associated Press that he will offer “pointed” criticism of the present national political environment, drawing him further into the ongoing national struggle against the onslaught of Donald Trump’s ideas.
Although he’s made himself publicly available plenty of times already since leaving office last year, anonymous Obama advisers sought to paint a picture of his Friday address as “the moment he will re-engage in politics after spending most of his post-presidency on the partisan sidelines.”
There’s certainly a tangible support for their claim, because he will soon take to the campaign trial following his Friday Illinois appearance. He’ll appear at an event on behalf of California Democratic U.S. House candidates on Saturday. Following that stop, he will travel to Ohio on behalf of Democratic candidate for governor Richard Cordray — who doubles as a former official in Obama’s own administration — and Pennsylvania, likely supporting Democratic candidates including incumbent U.S. Senator Bob Casey. He will also go back to Illinois at some point soon to stump for Democratic candidates there, according to reports.
He’s stepping into the chaotic political arena with his party currently widely projected to take control of the U.S. House in the midterm elections later this year; FiveThirtyEight currently has them with an around 7 in 9 chance of pulling it off.
The Democrats’ immediate future in the U.S. Senate is less certain. An unnamed Obama adviser explaining the situation to the AP cast the former president’s priorities, in the outlet’s description, as:
- To help Democrats take back control of the House
- To help his party win seats in the Senate
- To support state-level candidates in order to influence the redistricting process for future congressional races
He’s not planning on being a daily presence on the campaign trail, according to private adviser testimony, having previously been reported to be conscious of the way his support can be turned into Republican ammo against candidates he’s trying to bolster.
In the meantime, though, his occasional public appearances since leaving office have provided him an opportunity to praise the democratic ideals the nation is built upon — and in so doing, open himself up to allegations of directly taking on President Trump. It’s telling as to the nature of the current presidential administration that a speech that never uses the president’s name can end up as a rebuke of his policies and behavior.
For instance, while speaking at the National Cathedral service for the fallen U.S. Senator John McCain — who, as a Republican, was his general election challenger in the race for the presidency — Obama said:
‘So much of our politics, our public life, our public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast and insults and phony controversies and manufactured outrage… John called us to be bigger and better than that.’
What form his Friday “pointed” criticism of the present national political situation takes remains to be seen, as Democrats at large and the Obamas in particular continue to prepare to face the midterms.
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