Former President Barak Obama traveled to Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon, October 29, to campaign on behalf of another “funny-named Democrat”: Mandela BarnesWisconsin Democrat candidate for the US Senate. It was the opportunity for obama to strike at former President Donald Trump, who harassed him throughout his presidency with racist dog whistles that falsely cast doubt on his American citizenship. “Mandela, get ready to dig up that birth certificate,” Obama teased to massive applause.
“I know there are people, probably – maybe not in this auditorium, but somewhere else in Wisconsin – who think…just because Mandela’s name is Mandela, just because he’s a Democrat with a funny name, he must not be like you, he must not share your values,” Obama said from the stage of a high school gymnasium in Milwaukee. that Mandela is dangerous and different,” added the former president.
“I mean, we’ve seen that,” Obama said. “Sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it?”
Obama jokingly referred to Trump’s “birtherism” conspiracy as “the good old days,” a time when Trump’s only interactions with the White House were his demands that Obama Release his detailed birth certificate. “Do you remember that was the craziest thing he ever said?” Obama said, never mentioning Trump by name. “Now that’s not even in the Crazy Top 10.”
Obama visited Wisconsin ahead of a high-stakes midterm election in a state where President Joe Biden won by just 20,000 votes two years ago. Barnes faces incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), whom Obama lambasted for his alleged role in trying to supply then-Vice President Mike Pence with fake voters in an effort to undermine the results of the 2020 presidential election in Wisconsin. “If that doesn’t spark uniform outrage, what will?” said Obama. “What would it take?
Barnes’ parallelism with Obama goes beyond the “funny name.” Barnes forged his own political path in the mold of Obama, beginning his career as a community organizer in Milwaukee for the same national network that Obama served in Chicago’s Southside. Those related beginnings and Barnes’ accelerated rise through the political ranks of Wisconsin — a state legislator at 26, lieutenant governor at 32 — has invited comparisons to the former president’s meteoric rise to the most high office in America.
Wisconsin Democrats who took to the stage Saturday were eager to remind the crowd of those comparisons: A local Democratic organizer noted that the state had the opportunity to “elect our first black senator,” just as it did. the country’s first black president 14 years ago. . Barnes mentioned coming home from a summer job and hearing then-Senator Obama’s commencement speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. “It was literally a speech that changed my life,” did he declare.
Obama also campaigned on behalf of Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who faces a tough re-election fight against GOP nominee Tim Michels, who was endorsed by the longest serving former state governor, Tommy Thompson. Evers has “a bit more of a Clark Kent vibe than a Superman vibe,” Obama teased of the future 71-year-old (his birthday is in November) The Wheaties lure of Evers. “But,” he added, “he might be Wisconsin’s best hope for democracy.” That’s one more reason why it deserves your vote.
Obama also launched into criticism of “a breakdown in basic civility” in politics. “This habit of saying the worst in people,” Obama explained, “which creates a dangerous climate.” He denounced “the exaggerated and crazy rhetoric” and the “elected [who] do no more to reject it. Obama also called out right-wing efforts to undermine fair elections through voter intimidation and vigilante tactics. “If they tell their supporters to stand in front of the polls with guns and tactical gear,” Obama said, “that’s the kind of thing that ends up hurting people.” Obama opened his criticism with a prayer for Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Wisc.) who was seriously injured at the couple’s San Francisco home on Friday after an intruder with a hammer attacked him, allegedly looking for Nancy. His statements echoed similar points he made during an appearance in Detroit earlier on Saturday.
The former president’s appearance marked Obama’s third midterm stint in five states. His itinerary focuses on urban centers with high concentrations of black voters, in states where their participation could be decisive in the races for governors and the United States Senate. Of all her stops, Milwaukee looms especially large as a cautionary tale: Hillary Clinton notoriously skipped campaigning in Wisconsin during the 2016 general election, a tactical move blamed for health-boosting black voter erosion of Obama winner margins in 2008 and 2012. Although President Joe Biden defeated Trump, attendance in Milwaukee was not better than it was in 2016 – and, in fact, was slightly worse in majority black neighborhoods.
Obama’s return to Milwaukee was therefore an effort to pick up on those “Obama landslides,” as Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler told the crowd before Obama’s remarks. The crowd also seemed eager to take him back, as he burst into spontaneous call-and-response chants of “Fill up, ready to go!”, a feature of Obama rallies when the former president showed up. for the first time in 2008.
“The reason I’m here is simple,” Obama said at the start of his remarks. “I’m here to ask you to vote.”
But some Wisconsin Democrats were concerned about potential voters who weren’t in the crowd Saturday afternoon. North Division High School in Milwaukee’s ZIP Code 53206 is one of the poorest and most incarcerated in the city — and home to the black voters Democrats most hope to vote in November. But the crowd of thousands who gathered in the North Division gymnasium was far whiter than the surrounding neighborhood, a result that gave state legislator David Bowen pause. “I’m afraid people who need to hear his message won’t,” said Bowen, who attended Saturday’s rally. rolling stone.
Anecdotes from the crowd confirmed Bowen’s fears. Kim and Jermain Jordan, sisters who live in the same neighborhood as the school where Obama spoke, said they couldn’t convince their collective five children, all in their 20s and 30s, to come to the rally of Obama or to vote on election day, even if both occur in this very high school. “They say, ‘What’s the point? “”, says Kim Jordan rolling stone. However, they both promised to insist that their children accompany them to the polls on Tuesday 8 November.