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“You happen to be coming of age during one of those moments. It did not start with Donald Trump, he is a symptom, not the cause,” Obama said at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Friday. “He is just capitalizing on resentment that politicians have fanning for years. A fear, an anger that is rooted in our past but is also borne in our enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.”
Obama acknowledged that the Democratic Party have used similar tactics in the past: However, “the politics of resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party” within the last several decades.
The former president also referenced the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, in which a white supremacist killed a counter-protester. Obama alluded to the fact that his successor had cast the blame on both sides and described some of the neo-Nazis as “very fine people.”
“We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies, not follow them,” Obama said. “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.”
Obama went on to stress the importance of political involvement, urging U of I students to vote on the midterm elections this November.
“If you thought elections don't matter, I hope these last two years have corrected the impression,” he told the crowd. “You need to vote because our democracy depends on it.... Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you this moment really is different.”
You can watch Obama’s full speech, via ABC News, above.