Barack Obama Warns Democrats: "This Is a Moment of Great Urgency"

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Barack Obama

The former president urged his party not to be complacent during a Beverly Hills fundraiser on Thursday.

"This is a moment of great urgency and you are right to be concerned."

That is the tough-love message former President Barack Obama has for Democrats ahead of midterms.

Speaking during a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Beverly Hills on Thursday, Obama warned against waiting for a miracle candidate — "the next Barack Obama" — and shouldered some blame for the state of the party.

"Do not wait for the perfect message, 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 to 20 minutes it takes for me to vote,'" Obama said, according to Politico, who attended the event. "Because that's part of what happened in the last election. I heard that too much."

Adding, "If we don't vote, then this democracy doesn't work."

Of himself, Obama said, "If I have a regret during my presidency, it is that people were so focused on me and the battles we were having, particularly after we lost the House, that folks stopped paying attention up and down the ballot."

The public statements, to a crowd of about 200, were Obama's first in months; no cameras were allowed inside the fundraiser.

During his address, Obama did not mention President Trump by name, but he targeted issues with the Trump presidency. He told Democrats not to assume they are in good shape to win. "Fear is powerful," he said of the Trump administration rhetoric. 

According to Politico, Obama did not address mounting issues such as family separation and child detention centers, the travel ban or the retirement news of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Of the #MeToo movement, he said the current Republican leadership believes in "women staying in their place in all kinds of ways."

He did, however, say Thursday's attack on Maryland newspaper the Capital Gazette left him heartbroken but also hopeful that the event would be a turning point on taking action on gun laws, according to Politico.

Mainly, according to the reporter in attendance, Obama addressed the divide in the country.

"There's a fundamental contrast of how we view the world," Obama said of Republicans and Democrats. "We are seeing the consequences of when one vision is realized, or in charge."

The fundraiser was the first of three for Obama this week, who is visiting California. He has two events scheduled for Friday in San Francisco. 

Commenting on the difference between the fundraising efforts of the DNC and the GOP, he continued to warn: "[Republicans] don't worry about inspiration. They worry about winning the seat and they are very systematic about work not just at the presidential level but at the congressional and state legislative levels."

Christina Aguilera performed Aretha Franklin's "Freedom" and gift bags included stickers that read: "Stay Energized for November," but Obama pressed that politics should not always be entertaining and instead require action.

"All these people that are out here kvetching and wringing their hands and stressed and anxious and constantly watching cable TV and howling at the moon, 'What are we going to do?,' their hair's falling out, they can’t sleep," Obama said. "The majority of the American people prefer a story of hope. A majority of the American people prefer a country that comes together rather than being divided. The majority of the country doesn't want to see a dog-eat-dog world where everybody is angry all the time."

Of Trump and his administration, Obama said: "They're mad even when they win."

Continuing, "Reality has an interesting way of coming up and biting you, and the other side has been peddling a lot of stuff that is so patently untrue that you can get away with it for a while, but at a certain point, you confront reality. The Democrats' job is not to exaggerate; the Democrats' job is not to simply mimic the tactics of the other side. All we have to do is work hard on behalf of that truth. And if we do, we'll get better outcomes."