Obama calls midterm votes urgent in rebuke of Trump: 'Our democracy depends on it'

Former President Obama on Friday urged Americans to vote because “our democracy depends on it,” saying the stakes are higher than any other election in his lifetime.

“I’m here to deliver a simple message: You need to vote because our democracy depends on it,” Obama said at a speech at the University of Illinois, as he wades back into the political fray.

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"But just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different,” he said. “The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire."

Obama later in his speech turned directly to Trump, criticizing him for capitalizing on resentments between different Americans.

But Obama said Trump was a symptom of a larger problem, not the cause.

"It did not start with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE. He is a symptom, not the cause," the former president said. "He's just capitalizing on resentments politicians have been fanning for years."
 
Obama will head to his first midterm campaigning on Saturday for Democratic House candidates in California.

The speech Friday previews those arguments.

“I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for,” Obama said.