Nevada: We’re Less than One Week Away from Election Day

Photo by David Lienemann

Remarks as Delivered at Rally in Support of Nevada Democratic Candidates

Oh, it is good to be back in Nevada! Do not worry. I will not try to sing like John Legend. I can’t do that. No, no, no, I can sing, but not like John Legend.

Now, let me say, first of all, whenever I come to Vegas, the hardest part is getting my team to leave. Somebody is always late for the ride to the airport. They’re looking a little ragged, a little bleary eyed. Sometimes, they’re always a little late.

But the reason I’m here is simple. I am here to ask you to vote. I’m here to ask you to vote for your members of Congress, Dina Titus, Susan Lee, and my good friend, Steven Horsford. I need you to vote for your next Secretary of State, Cisco Aguilar; for your Attorney General, Aaron Ford; for your outstanding Governor, Steve Sisolak; and to send Catherine Cortez Masto back to the United States Senate.

And here in Nevada, you don’t have to wait for November 8th to cast your ballot. You can vote early in person through November 4th at any early-vote location in your county. You can drop your mail ballot off there or you can just drop it in the mail. And you can vote at any polling place in your county on November 8th. There is no excuse, people.

And if you have any confusion, if you’re not quite clear, you can just go to iwillvote.com/nv. Find out where you need to go, and then make a plan. And then after you’ve made your plan, you’ve got to help your family and friends make a plan to vote, because they may want to vote, but Cousin Pookie — your nephew, like, baby, they’re planning. They tell you they’re going to vote, but they’re on their couch playing a video game.

You’ve got to talk to them. Don’t just let them say, yeah, yeah, I’m going to vote. You’ve got to take them with you, if you vote early; or if you vote in person on Election Day, take them with you because this election requires every single one of us to do our part. It’s that important.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that this country has gone through some tough times these past few years. We have been through some stuff. We’re just now coming off a historic pandemic that wreaked havoc on families, on schools, businesses, communities. Everybody was impacted, some more than others. A lot of folks lost people that they loved. Maybe some people in this room lost some people that they loved.

And the pandemic also highlighted, in some cases, made worse, problems we’ve been struggling with for years, an economy works real well for folks right at the top, but not so well for ordinary people.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I love you, too, but I’m going to make this point.

Housing prices that are out of reach for too many people. Here in Nevada, you know that better than most; communities where too many kids are out of school, and then they’re out of work, and then they’re out of hope. And sometimes, that leads them to violence or despair.

And then you’ve got this erosion of just basic civility and democratic norms. You’ve got politicians who, instead of wanting to bring people together, do their best to stir up division and make us angry and afraid of one another, all for their own advantage. And all of this gets amped up. It gets hyped up 24/7 on social media because they find it more profitable to stir up controversy and conflict than to lift up the truth and facts.

And we’ve been seeing recent examples of this. Look, a friend of mine, Mr. Paul Pelosi, was attacked viciously. Somebody broke into his home looking for his wife, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. And thankfully, I spoke to Paul a couple of days ago, and he’s going to be okay.

But even as investigators do their job, find out what exactly motivated this person, one thing is clear. This increasing habit of demonizing political opponents creates a dangerous climate. And elected officials who do not explicitly reject or participate in over-the-top rhetoric, if that’s what they’re doing instead, or if they just ignore or make light of that kind of violence, or if they encourage their supporters to stand outside voting places, armed with guns and dressed in tactical gear, if that’s the environment that we create, more people are going to get hurt. And we will be violating the basic spirit of who we are as a people.

And by the way, let me just say, it is not just politicians now. I mean, we’ve seen just in the last few weeks, whether it’s out of malice or ignorance, celebrities just posting up vile, anti-Semitic statements on the internet. And it gets disseminated, and millions of people log on to that.

I want to give you a tip, Nevada. I want to give you a tip. If you see or read something on the internet that says some people, certain kinds of people, whether it’s white or black or immigrant or gay or Jew or Muslim, when you see something on the internet that says those people are the cause of your problems, that is a dangerous lie. That is a path that will tear this country apart.

And so, we have to reject that kind of thinking and that kind of rhetoric. And by the way, stop believing everything you read on the internet.

I get why people are anxious. Sometimes, there’s a mean spirit out there floating in cyberspace. And I get why you might be worried about the course of our country. I understand why sometimes, it’s tempting just to tune out, just go watch football or HGTV or the Great British Baking Show, whatever you like, or Real Housewives. I don’t know what you all watch.

But I’m here to tell you, Nevada, that tuning out is not an option. Moping and feeling cynical is not an option. The only way to make this economy fairer is if we, all of us, fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we, together, fight for it. And that starts with electing people who know you, and see you, and care about you and believe in you!

And that’s what you did two years ago when you sent Joe Biden to the White House. He’s fighting for you every day. He’s got your back. He’s doing everything he can to put more money in your pockets, to make your streets safer and to bring more good paying jobs here to Nevada.

That’s what you did when you elected Steve Sisolak governor and made Catherine Cortez Masto the first Latina elected to the United States Senate.

So now, you need to do it again. Now you need to do it again, because there may be a lot of issues at stake in this election. But the basic question that you should be asking yourself is who will fight for you. That’s the choice in this election. Who will fight for you? Who will fight for working people who are struggling to pay the bills?

Listen, inflation’s a real problem right now. And by the way, it’s not just here in the United States, worldwide. It’s one of the legacies of the pandemic. It wreaked havoc on supply and demand, and supply chains. And then you have a war in Ukraine that sent energy prices through the roof. You see gas prices going up, grocery prices going up. That takes a bite out of your paycheck. It’s no joke. It hurts.

The question, though, you should be asking is who’s going to actually try to do something about it, because if you watch these ads, Republicans, they talk about it a lot. But what’s their answer exactly? What is their economic policy?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: They don’t have one!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: No, no, they’ve got one. They want to gut Social Security and Medicare, and then give their wealthy friends and big corporations more tax cuts, because that’s their answer to everything. I’m not joking. Literally, it does not matter what’s going on. When inflation is low and unemployment is high, they want tax cuts. When it’s the reverse, tax cuts.

I was telling some folks in Michigan, if there was an asteroid headed towards Earth right now, they’d all get in the room. You know what we need? We’ve got to cut taxes for the wealthy. That’s going to solve it.

Really? I mean, I guess it’s simple to just have one answer to every economic problem. It’s like I remember, when I had a test in math, and sometimes I didn’t study hard enough, might have stayed up too late the night before. And it’d be nice if you could just write down “8” for every answer. You’d just have the same answer over and over again, except you know what? That’s the wrong answer.

And the Republican policies, they’re not going to help you. But that’s why Democrats actually have plans to take on drug companies to lower prices, to get the oil industry to clean up its act, to pass laws to make housing more affordable, to make sure big corporations are creating jobs in Nevada instead of overseas. They’ve got a plan.

That’s the choice in this election. That’s what this is about.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Obama!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I love you back, but we’ve got to focus right now. We’ve got to focus. We’ve got to focus.

There’s a lot of talk right now about crime. Now, violent crime has gone up over the last seven, eight years. By the way, it hasn’t just been the last two. They never talk about when it went up under the other guy. You notice that? Funny how that works.

And by the way, it’s going up not just in so-called liberal states, it’s gone up in conservative rural areas, too.

But who will fight to keep you and your family safe? Is it going to be the Republican politicians, who want to flood our streets with more guns, who actually voted against more resources for police departments, or is it the leaders like Steven Horsford, and Dina Titus, and Susie Lee, and Catherine Cortez Masto, who worked with President Biden to pass the first major gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years?

That’s the choice in this election. That’s what’s at stake.

Who will fight for your freedoms? Is it some of these Republican politicians and judges who think they should decide when you start a family or how many children you have or who you marry or who you love, or is it Democratic leaders who believe that the freedom to make these intimate, personal decisions belong to every American, not politicians in Washington? You should be making those decisions.

That’s the choice in this election. That’s what you have to decide.

And finally, who is going to fight to make our democracy actually work for you? Republican politicians, they promised — I’m not making this up; they’re quoted — if they get control of Congress, their big priority, their number one priority, they’re going to spend the next two years investigating their political opponents. Some of them have said they’re going to impeach President Biden. Now, they’re not sure why. They’re not sure what for yet. But apparently, that’s beside the point.

Now, let me ask you a question. How is that going to help you pay your bills? How is that going to build more affordable housing in Nevada? How’s that going to lower gas prices? Is that going to help you or do you stand a better chance with President Biden and Democratic leaders who’ve worked together, sometimes with Republicans, to pass an infrastructure bill that creates new jobs for making healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable, who made the single largest investment ever in fighting against climate change? That is the choice in this election!

On the one hand, you’ve got politicians who seem like they will do anything and say anything to get power, and leaders who share our values, who want to make your life better, who want to move the country forward.

And let me say this, Nevada. One of the difficult things about these kinds of rallies these days is sometimes, this seems so partisan as if it’s just a Democrat/Republican thing. My favorite president is a guy named Abe Lincoln, who helped found the Republican Party. It used to be that there were GOP members who championed progress in civil rights and rule of law.

But these days, just about every Republican politician seems obsessed with two things: Owning the libs, and getting Donald Trump’s approval. That’s their agenda. They’re not interested in actually solving problems. They’re interested in making you angry and finding somebody to blame, because they’re hoping that way, you don’t notice they don’t have an agenda, they don’t have answers.

I can tell you what Steve Sisolak is obsessed with, but he may be too modest to talk about himself. Here’s somebody, comes from a blue collar family, raised two daughters as a single dad, started his own small business from scratch, and if that wasn’t enough, also cares for his 96-year-old mother. Steve makes the rest of us look like slackers.

But you know what that tells you? It tells you that Steve knows what Nevadans are going through. It’s why, as your governor, he expanded childcare. That’s why he worked to lower the healthcare costs and to give teachers their first raise in over a decade. He knows what it’s like to struggle. He cares about folks who are trying to make ends meet. He wants to make a difference.

Over the last few years, Steve has made a difference. It’s why Nevada’s had one of the fastest economic recoveries in the country. But he knows we’re not out of the woods yet, which is why he’s investing in things like affordable housing. That’s why you know, you’ve seen him fight for you.

Now, see his opponent? I don’t know who he’s fighting for. He claims he’s not a politician. But let me tell you, he sure acts like the worst kind. He says different things to different audiences, trying to play both sides. Somebody asked him, “Was the election rigged?” He says, “Well, there was a modicum of fraud, but not enough to change the outcome.” All right, “Well, was Donald Trump a great president?” He’s in a debate –

Wait, wait, wait. Don’t boo, vote! They can’t hear you booing out there, but they’ll hear your vote.

In a debate, this guy says, “Oh, I wouldn’t say great,” but then after the MAGA crowd got mad at him, puts out a statement saying, “Yes, by all measures, Trump was a great president.” He says he would repeal Steve’s executive order protecting women who come to Nevada to get an abortion, but then he changed his mind. As sheriff, he called for restricting high capacity magazines; sensible. But then, as a candidate for governor, he thinks that the gun industry should decide.

Now, here’s something you need to know about anybody you’re thinking about voting for. I’m a White Sox fan. No matter where I go, in good times or bad, I’m a White Sox fan. And they’ve been bad lately. But you know what? If Steve’s opponent lived in Chicago, he’d be wearing a Sox cap on the South Side. Then he’d wear a Cubs cap on the North Side. Then maybe at a fund raiser, he’d wear a Yankees cap.

Nevada, you don’t need a governor who goes whichever way the wind blows. You need a leader like Steve, who will tell you exactly what he thinks, what he believes, because he understands the point of politics is not just to say whatever’s going to get you elected, but to actually do what is right. That’s the kind of person you need to support!

Same thing with Catherine Cortez Masto. Third generation Nevadan, grew up here in Vegas. Dad started out parking cars at the Dunes. She and her sister were the first in their family to graduate from college. She knows what it’s like to struggle and work hard.

In the Senate, she succeeded my dear friend and her mentor, Harry Reid — (applause) — who also, by the way, never forgot where he came from. She hasn’t forgotten where she came from, which is why she’s gone after big oil for high gas prices, why she takes on pharmaceutical companies to lower prescription drug costs. She’s fought harder than just about anybody in Congress to make housing more affordable, because she wants to give every family the same opportunities that her family had.

Now, Catherine’s opponent, different story.

What did I say about booing? Vote, don’t boo.

Catherine’s opponent, he moved to Nevada right before he ran for elected office; as a lobbyist, has made millions of dollars working for a firm that defended big oil companies; as attorney general, fought to end investigations into big oil companies. Those are his peeps. That’s who he listens to. I think it’s fair to say he might be more interested in keeping them happy than he is fighting for you.

And by the way, you don’t have to take my word for it. A few weeks ago, 14 members of Adam Laxalt‘s family announced they were supporting Catherine Cortez Masto, 14! Think about that. Think about that.

Now, let me say this. We all might have a crazy uncle that kind of goes off the rails. (Laughter.) But if you’ve got a full Thanksgiving dinner table, and they’re all saying, you don’t belong in the U.S. Senate, when the people who know you best think your opponent would do a better job, that says something about you. And it says something about Catherine and the work that she’s doing right now for the people in Nevada.

And you deserve somebody who’s going to stand up for a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body and her healthcare.

Listen, abortion’s controversial in this country, has been for a long time. And I genuinely believe there are good people of conscience who may differ from me on the issue. But we should all agree that women everywhere should be able to control what happens to their own bodies.

It shouldn’t be controversial to say that the most personal of healthcare choices should be made by a woman and her doctor, not by a bunch of mostly male politicians, which is why when the Supreme Court struck down Roe versus Wade, it was a wakeup call, especially for a lot of young people, especially a lot of young women who maybe took Roe for granted. And it was a reminder that a politicized court can reinterpret what we thought was well-settled Constitutional rights.

We can go backwards. If Republicans take back the House and the Senate, we could be one presidential election away from a nationwide ban on access to abortion. And that might just be the beginning, because I taught constitutional law for 10 years.

And I can tell you this: If a court does not believe that there is the zone of privacy that the government can’t intrude in, that allows us to make certain decisions without government interference, then other freedoms that we take for granted may be at risk. And Justice Clarence Thomas already said as much. If there’s no right to privacy, then same sex marriage could be at risk.

Almost every Republican in the House of Representatives voted against guaranteeing a right to use contraception. Think about that. If they take back power, there’s no guarantee birth control couldn’t be at risk.

And so, when you hear Catherine’s opponent call Roe versus Wade a joke, and the Supreme Court’s decision overturned Roe, a historic victory, that may not be how most women in Nevada saw it.

Catherine has been a champion of women’s health. If you send her back to Washington, she’ll fight to make sure women here in Nevada always have access to the care that they need. That’s what’s at stake in this election!

All right, I know it’s getting late. It’s a school night. Let me bring this on home for you.

If all these things are talked about aren’t worth 15 minutes of your time, I don’t know what it is. But just in case you do need one more reason to go vote, consider the fact that democracy is on the ballot.

I’ve got to admit sometimes, going out on the campaign trail feels harder than it used to, not just because I’m older and a little grayer. But back when I was first running for office, and that wasn’t that long ago, people did not always agree with me on everything. But we could at least talk to each other.

I’d travel. Here in Nevada, I’d go to up north. I’d go not just to Reno. I’d be going to, like, Elko, and I talked to people and I’d sit in diners. You’d go to a VFW hall, go to a county fair around the country, different places, and you talk to folks. And maybe you’d have a piece of pie. I like pie, a cup of coffee. And you’d listen.

And they might not always agree with me, and they might not vote for me. But we sometimes found we had some things in common, talk about our kids, talk about sort of bad jobs we used to have, talk about a parent who got sick and it was tough getting healthcare. And we’d see each other in our shared humanity. And sometimes, we’d persuade each other, and that’s why I ended up getting the whole bunch of Republican votes.

And after I won, my opponent, John McCain, graciously conceded. And he wished me luck for the sake of the country, because we understood that, yeah, we’re competing, but we’re also part of the same team, the same American team. That was the basic foundation of our democracy, and that’s at risk right now.

Democrats, let me tell you, are not perfect. I’m the first one to admit I wasn’t perfect. Politicians, just like all of us, make mistakes. But right now, with a few notable exceptions who deserve credit, most Republican politicians, they’re not even pretending that the rules apply to them. They seem to be willing to just make stuff up.

And that’s true here in Nevada, just like it is across the country. As the co-chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in Nevada, Catherine’s opponent helped to lead efforts to overturn the results of the last election.

Don’t boo. What are we going to do? We’re going to vote.

But he filed bogus lawsuits, pushed phony claims of voter fraud. I think it’s fair to say that if he loses this race, he’s going to do it again. He has no actual evidence of election fraud because there’s actually no widespread election fraud. But he’s not going to let that stop him. He’s going to look under every rock in the desert to try to find an excuse, although if he wins, I’m guessing he’ll be less concerned. All those votes will be legit. Funny how that works.

Listen, I lost my first congressional race by 30 points. I got whooped. (Laughter.) You know what I did not do? I didn’t say, this was rigged. I didn’t claim fraud. I certainly didn’t instigate a riot on the Capitol. Instead, I asked myself, how can I be better? How can I connect with voters better, because that’s how it’s supposed to work?

That’s the stuff we teach our kids, right? You’re in the sandbox, things don’t go your way. You don’t throw a tantrum, throw something at the other kid. If you see your kid do that, you pull them aside. It’s kind of hard, too. It’s like, listen, don’t do that. We teach our kids to be fair, to be honest.

Well, we should expect the same from our politicians, because, listen, I understand that democracy might not seem like a top priority right now, especially when it doesn’t always feel like the results work for you. You don’t see enough progress on issues that matter to you and your family. Sometimes, progress is slow. But we have seen throughout history, and we see right now around the world, what happens when you give up on democracy.

You can see it in countries where the government tells you what books you can and cannot read, countries where if you dissent, you get put in a jail, countries where reporters are silenced, countries where it doesn’t matter who you vote for, because the same folks are going to win every time. And they’ll do whatever they want.

And where corruption is rampant because there’s no accountability, when true democracy goes away, people get hurt. And it’s hard to recover. It has real life consequences. And that’s why generations of Americans fought and died for the idea of self-government. That’s what this flag is supposed to stand for.

That’s why we believe and set up rules and democratic norms that work, rules we teach our kids when they’re little about being honest and being fair, about how groups are supposed to make decisions. And everybody gets a say and everybody gets a turn. And if you don’t get your way, you don’t take your ball and go home or have a tantrum. You get over it and try to do better the next time.

Democracy is at stake in this election, Nevada. And that’s why it’s not enough to elect Democrats like Steve Sisolak and Catherine Cortez Masto. We also have to elect good people up and down the ballot, like Cisco Aguilar, who’s running to be your secretary of state. (Applause.)

Nevada makes it easier to vote than many other states. You’ve got early voting. You’ve got universal mail in voting, same-day voter registration. They don’t just help Democrats. They make it easier for everybody to cast their ballot, no matter who you’re voting for. (Applause.)

Cisco’s opponent wants to make it harder to vote. He’s trying to one up all the Republicans peddling lies about the 2020 election by saying that all elections in Nevada for the last 15 years have been fake. Really, the last 15 years, all of them? (Laughter.) He’s going around rural Nevada, spreading lies about how you can’t trust electronic voting machines. But apparently, you can trust an election denier to oversee volunteers hand-counting ballots.

That’s not somebody you want in charge of your elections. It’d be like if the Raiders were playing the Chiefs, and you noticed that instead of the refs who’ve been calling games for 20 years, somebody said, hey, how about that guy over there wearing the Chiefs gear who’s been tailgating for the last three hours, drinking some brews and ranting about how the Chiefs actually beat the Bucs in the Super Bowl last year. They look impartial. Let’s put them in charge. If you wouldn’t do that for a football game, why would you do it for an election?

Instead, what you need to do is vote for somebody like Cisco who believes that every vote should count, full stop. (Applause.) Shouldn’t be a radical idea. It didn’t used to be a radical idea. That’s why you’ve got to send Cisco into the Secretary of State’s office to protect the integrity of our elections. Make sure your vote is counted.

Right now, you get a chance to make a difference so long as you vote. And we joke in my house, between me and Michelle, Michelle can sometimes be the glass half empty. She can get a little down. I’m hope and change guy, so I’m usually a little more optimistic. And sometimes, when she gets down about the state of the country, state of the world, she’s been reading too much, watching too much stuff and hearing crazy stuff, I’ll say, “Hey, honey, it’s going to be okay,” because I believe it will be.

But you know what? It won’t be okay on his own. The reason I believe it’ll be okay is because I believe in you. (Applause.) It’ll be okay if we fight for it and work for it, not just on Election Day, but every day in between. That’s why this election matters, Nevada!

These may be tough times, but we’ve been through tough times before. We just have to resist the temptation to give up, to turn inward, to see politics is a zero sum game where everything goes, and rules are broken, and the only way people like, quote/unquote, us win is if people like them lose. Remember what I said at the beginning? That is how we lose, when we turn on each other and make up stuff about each other.

But if we come together, then I’m optimistic because even in our darkest moments, and there have been darker moments in this country before, we’ve always had more in common than our politics and sometimes our politicians suggest. Even when times are tough, what unites us, family, community, respect, dignity, hard work, honesty, what unites us has always been stronger than what divides us.

There have been certain values that bind us together as citizens, no matter who we are, no matter where we come from, no matter what we look like, no matter who we love. That’s the promise of America. That’s what this stands for. That’s who we are. (Applause.)

And in this election, you have a chance to vote for leaders like Steven Horsford, and Dina Titus, and Susie Lee, and Aaron Ford, and Cisco Aguilar, and Steve Sisolak, and Catherine Cortez Masto, who believe in that flag, and believe in those values and will fight for the big, inclusive, hopeful, forward looking America that we all believe in! (Applause.) We may not fix all our problems overnight, but we can make things better. And that is worth fighting for!

So, if you’re anxious or frustrated right now, don’t complain. Don’t tune out. Don’t get bamboozled. Don’t fall for the okey-doke. Get off your couch and do what?

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Put down your phones and do what?

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Vote for this incredible Nevada Democratic ticket. (Applause.) Make sure other folks do the same. If enough of us make our voices heard, we will build a country that is more fair, and more just, and more equal and more free. I believe in you. Let’s go do it. (Applause.)

Thank you, Las Vegas! Thank you, Nevada! I love you!

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