The Obamas offer stark warnings about a second Trump term

In this screenshot from the DNCC’s livestream of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, actress and activist Eva Longoria (L) introduces Former First Lady Michelle Obama to address the virtual convention on Aug. 17, 2020. Photo: Handout/DNCC

Thousands of words have already been uttered in this week at the Democratic Convention, but none more sobering than those delivered by Michelle and Barack Obama.

Take former First Lady Michelle Obama’s comments on the opening night of the convention. It was a terrific speech, with a big takeaway: “If you think things cannot possibly get worse” under the leadership of Donald Trump, she said, “trust me — they can, and they will, if we don’t make a change in this election.”

Those who dismiss her statement as little more than a naked partisan attack ignore the truth at their own peril. The former first lady didn’t elaborate on exactly what she meant by things getting worse, but I can think of at least one major example.

Already more than 170,000 people in the U.S. are dead from COVID-19. Think about that: That’s 170,000 people with families, friends and coworkers whose lives have been erased.

How much worse could it get? Today, about 1,000 people a day are dying of the virus, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the death toll to climb to 200,000 people by Labor Day. Experts say another there could be 300,000 COVID-19 deaths by year’s end.

Considering the president’s track record, whether Trump wins or loses on Nov. 3, we can assume his non-approach approach to the health crisis will stay the same, meaning thousands more will die before a vaccine can be widely distributed.

So, when Michelle Obama says people need to vote “like our lives depend on it,” that’s because they very well might.

Former President Obama offered an equally ominous message to the nation on Tuesday night. If Michelle Obama thinks our lives might be at stake, Barack Obama argues that nothing less than the future of our democracy may be on the line.

In his speech, Obama gave a damning assessment of the current president’s performance in office, calling on the American people to “embrace your own responsibility as citizens — to make sure that the basic tenets of our democracy endure, because that’s what’s at stake right now: our democracy.”

Obama’s warning that our system of government and our very way of life is facing a dire threat from within the Oval Office is hardly far-fetched. Think about what has happened under the current administration just since the beginning of the year. 

  • In January, Trump was impeached for trying to bribe the president of Ukraine to get him to fabricate politically damaging information about his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden.
  • In June, Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton revealed that President Trump asked Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019 to help him win the 2020 U.S. election.
  • According to several major news organizations, Trump ignored information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies for months that Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying cash bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to kill American troops. Since the news broke, Trump has admitted he has never raised the issue during repeated phone calls with Putin.
  • Trump now claims on an almost daily basis, with absolutely no evidence, that voting by mail will lead to massive fraud, and the president will not say if he’ll leave office if he loses the election.
  • As if to guarantee public doubts about the presidential election results, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and a major campaign donor to the president, has ordered changes in the U.S. Postal Service that have led to massive slowdowns in mail delivery.

As President Obama’s speech on Tuesday night correctly suggests, Trump behaves more like an authoritarian leader than someone who believes in core principles of democracy.

Given the stark warnings from the Obamas, you not only have to wonder if we’ll live long enough to vote on Nov. 3, but if Trump gets re-elected, whether American democracy itself can survive.

James E. Garcia
James E. Garcia is a Phoenix-based journalist, playwright and communications consultant. He is the editor and publisher of Vanguardia Arizona, which covers Latino news statewide, and the weekly newsletter Vanguardia America. As a journalist, he has worked as a reporter, columnist, editor and foreign correspondent. He was the first Latino Affairs correspondent for KJZZ, and the first Latino editor of major progressive news weekly in the U.S., The San Antonio Current. James has taught writing, ethnic studies, theater and Latino politics at ASU. He is the producing artistic director of New Carpa Theater Co. and the author of more than 30 plays.