FORMER US President Barack Obama’s presence on the campaign trail in the final days before the midterm elections is being defended by State University of New York Chairman Carl McCall.
“Well, he knows what’s at stake, he realises how important it is,” McCall told the Jamaica Observer last Friday at the Regional Headquarters building of The University of the West Indies in St Andrew.
McCall, who served three terms as a New York State senator, said some people have argued that Obama, by campaigning, is trying to preserve his legacy.
However, McCall’s position is that the first black man to become US president is “trying to preserve the American legacy”.
“We’re a country of commitment to immigration, a country that’s committed to civil rights, committed to decency, and he sees that Donald Trump is trying to turn around all of those commitments, and Obama, thankfully, feels he’s got to go out and try to preserve that,” said McCall.
Obama has increased his campaign appearances in recent weeks, stumping for Democrats in Florida, Illinois, and Georgia, where Stacey Abrams is seeking to be the first black female governor of any US state.
He has been urging women, minorities and young people to cast ballots in tomorrow’s poll which will see Americans elect legislators for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate, 36 governors, and dozens of state legislatures.
Obama’s involvement in the campaign has been highlighted by some commentators who noted that while former President George W Bush quietly campaigned for Republican candidates this year, and former President Bill Clinton stumped for Democrats in 2012, most ex-presidents avoid going on the hustings in their first years of retirement.
Yesterday Obama was scheduled to campaign again in his adopted hometown of Chicago, as well as in Indiana, where the seat of Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly is in danger.
The midterms have become a referendum on Donald Trump’s unconventional presidency which has deepened political polarisation in the US.
His critics say his rhetoric has created an atmosphere of fear and loathing to the point where a week ago a gunman, who allegedly hated immigrants and Jews, killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, while one of Trump’s fanatical supporters was arrested in Florida on charges of mailing home-made bombs to more than a dozen of the president’s opponents, including Obama.
Trump, though, during his campaign speeches, has maintained his tough stance on illegal immigrants and has accused the Democrats of failing to protect the USA’s borders.
“Democrats are openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our sovereignty, overrun our borders and destroy our nation in so many ways,” Trump said at a rally in Pensacola, Florida last weekend.
Obama, however, has accused Trump of “constant fear-mongering” to distract from his (Trump’s) record.
He also told a rally in Georgia that “America is at a crossroads”, and that the character of the country is on the ballot.