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Former President Barack Obama launched his most direct attack ever against President Donald Trump during his Democratic National Convention speech Wednesday night, spending the first several minutes of the speech criticizing Trump before even mentioning Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Obama’s speech carried a similar tone toward President Trump as his wife Michelle’s speech earlier in the week, taking a tone of disappointed acceptance that the president is not going to change for the better, and therefore it’s important for voters to show up for Biden in November.
I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously; that he might come to feel the weight of the office and discover some reverence for the democracy that had been placed in his care.
But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.
Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.
The speech highlights the consistent dynamic of the Democrats’ approach to this election — that it’s much more about opposing and eliminating President Trump than it is about Biden’s quality as a nominee.
Throughout the 2020 primary, Biden’s biggest strength and primary appeal to Democratic voters is his ability to win a general election against Trump, which allowed him to secure the nomination despite not being the strongest candidate in terms of progressive policies or the party’s desire for a female or minority nominee.
Even as voters rejected Biden in early primary elections, when it became clear that the alternative was a Bernie Sanders nomination, Democrats rallied around Biden with high-profile endorsements to resurrect Biden’s near-dead candidacy.
Obama and other top Democrats seem aware of the potential that Biden, as a relatively uninspiring candidate, could fail to generate the turnout needed to win in November, and many of their appeals to voters have focused on asking them not to stay home even if they’re discouraged about the current state of the nation’s politics.
“We can’t let that happen,” Obama said. “Do not let them take away your power. Don’t let them take away your democracy. Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote.”