Obama rallies Dems in California: 'If we don’t step up, things can get worse'

Obama rallies Dems in California: 'If we don’t step up, things can get worse'
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Former President Obama traveled to California on Saturday to issue another rebuke of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE while attempting to rally Democrats ahead of the November midterm elections.

Obama, speaking at a campaign rally in Anaheim for a handful of California House candidates, took several veiled shots at Trump while underscoring his call for people to show up to the polls this fall.

“It’s always tempting for politicians for their own gain and for people in power to try to see if they can divide people, scapegoat folks, turn them on each other, because when that happens you get gridlock and government doesn’t work and people get cynical and decide to not participate," he said.

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"That, unfortunately, has been a spiral we’ve been on for the last couple of years,” Obama continued. “If we don’t step up, things can get worse.” 

Obama called for voters of all ages, but particularly young people with historically low turnout rates in midterm elections, to put in the work to “restore some sanity in our politics” and flip the U.S. House. 

“The only way we reverse that cycle ... is when each of us as citizens step up and say, ‘We’re going to take it on ourselves to do things different. We’re going to fight for the things we believe in,’ ” Obama said.

“The biggest threat to our democracy ... is not one individual, is not one big super PAC billionaire. It’s apathy, it’s indifference. It’s us not doing what we’re supposed to do,” he added.

The former president expressed optimism that the seven Democrats he was campaigning for, some of whom are trying to flip their districts, would be able to advance liberal policies on education, health care, veteran care and other issues.

Democrats are looking to net at least 23 seats in November to take back the House, while Republicans are defending a 51-49 seat majority in the Senate.

"We’re in a challenging moment because when you look at the arc of American history, there has always been a push and pull between those who want to go forward and those who want to go back,” Obama said.

The speech marked Obama's continued reemergence on the political scene, after largely staying out of the political spotlight in the first year of Trump's presidency.

Obama issued a blistering rebuke of Trump during a speech at the University of Illinois on Friday, accusing him of "capitalizing on resentments politicians have been fanning for years."

"A fear, an anger that’s rooted in our past, but it's also born of the upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes," he said.

Obama will also hold a rally Sept. 13 for former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayNew polling shows Brown, DeWine with leads in Ohio Wealthiest Republican supporter in Ohio quits party Obama blasts GOP: They ‘put up with crazy’ MORE, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Ohio. 

Still, some Democrats have signaled that they do not want Obama to campaign in their states, fearing that the high-profile surrogate could distract from their strategies and fire up GOP voters.

On Saturday, Obama called on Democrats to look outside their base for support in November’s races.

“We’re not just reaching out to true-blue, die-hard Democrats. I want to talk to independents who may have felt cynical about politics generally, but now you have candidates here who, regardless of party affiliation, you can say, ‘That person’s going to fight for me,' " he said.

"I want to reach out to Republicans who harken back to the Republican values of a guy named Abraham Lincoln ... and say, ‘I don’t recognize what’s going on back in Washington.’ ”