The Other Message Obama Delivered in Richmond

Thursday night I watched as Democrats gathered in Richmond where former President Barack Obama had traveled to rally their troops for Virginia’s election day on November 7.

With less than three weeks to go, campaigns are going all out to energize voters and, though this isn’t my team, for historical purposes I found it interesting to watch what was going on in my hometown. Obama was doing his job with a crowd that was reminiscent of his original 2008 campaign.

What I wasn’t expecting was commentary during his remarks as he made references to the current political upheaval and divisiveness in the country or, as he noted, “so divided and so angry and so nasty.”

Obama, echoing concerns of many, warned, “What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries. Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century.”

It was remarkable because earlier in the day former Republican President George W. Bush had struck a similar although more pointed tone in remarks made during a Bush Institute event in New York. Not mentioning Trump by name, he emphasized, “Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed.”

Bush added, “Our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone.”

Two days before that U.S. Senator John McCain, in remarks during his acceptance of the Liberty Medal, said in an apparent rebuke of the rise of alt-right and Nazi sentiments, “We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil.”

That was a reference to the tiki-torch carriers in Charlottesville who chanted “blood and soil” during their march to the University of Virginia rotunda. It is a key slogan of Nazi ideology, referring to a “racially defined national body (‘blood’) united with a settlement area (‘soil’).”

Obama’s appearance in Richmond was a campaign rally but he spoke in unison with Bush and McCain. Even though they represent opposing sides of the political aisle, and we can disagree with the policy issues of each, their concerns about what is in the best interest of our country spurred them all to speak out in defense of America.