At a campaign rally in Florida on Friday, Barack Obama cautioned a fired-up crowd about the dangers of divisive political rhetoric as hecklers interrupted his remarks. The repeated taunts—at times, curse words directed at the former president—prompted Obama to wonder aloud why his political opponents, who currently hold both houses of Congress and the White House, exhibit so much anger.
“Why is it that the folks who won the last election are so mad all the time?” he said. “When I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good.”
"Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?" former Pres. Obama asks at Miami rally.
"When I won the presidency, at least my side felt pretty good." https://t.co/7C4hl2rViA pic.twitter.com/drNOxRXbPt
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) November 2, 2018
Obama was in Miami on Friday afternoon to stump for Florida Democrats Andrew Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor who is running for governor against former GOP congressman Ron DeSantis, and Sen. Bill Nelson, who faces a tough reelection challenge from current Florida Gov. Rick Scott. His speech—focused primarily on a call for unity in the wake of pipe bomb attacks that targeted Trump’s critics and a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead—was met with barbs almost immediately.
At first, Obama shrugged the insults off, telling the crowd that’s “how you know you’re on the campaign trail.” But the attacks kept coming: When he spoke about the current administration’s attempts to exploit “racial, ethnic, and religious division” for political gain, a heckler shouted, “They are not the same people!”
“If you support the other candidates, then you should go support the other candidates—don’t be here,” the former president said with a hint of irritation. “One of the things I never understood was why you’re supporting the other guy, you come to my rally. Go to their rally.”
Once the taunts subsided, Obama warned voters of President Trump’s efforts to turn social and political issues into baseless “bogeymen” in an attempt to “scare folks” into voting for Republicans on Tuesday. Lately, Trump has been hammering the conspiracy theory that a caravan of asylum-seeking migrants making its way from Honduras to the US-Mexico border has been funded by shadowy leftist interests.
To make the point, Obama repeated a phrase former Vice President Joe Biden used on the campaign trail, reminding the crowd that “most of all, the character of our country is on the ballot.”
Later in his remarks, Obama turned to topics that Democrats have leaned on to galvanize voters this year, like health care, voting rights, and gun reform. He called out the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, for the way they’ve rallied young people around the topic of gun violence prevention following the shooting at their school that left 17 dead. “I don’t usually wear bracelets,” Obama said before he showed off one he was wearing to commemorate the victims.
Near the end of his almost hour-long speech, Obama also took a moment to defend members of the media, who Trump has lately blamed for fostering divisive rhetoric: “We don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say something we don’t like.”