Pittsburgh: Only Three Days Left Until Election Day

“Vote for leaders who are going to fight for that big, inclusive, hopeful, forward-looking America that we believe in.”

Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Remarks as Delivered at Rally in Support of Pennsylvania Democratic Candidates

Hello, Pittsburgh. Oh, it’s good to be back in Pennsylvania. It’s great to be in Steelers country, even if — like the Bears — we’re both doing a little rebuilding right now. It’s okay, you know, these things kind of go in waves. Pittsburgh, I am here to ask you to vote!

For your next members of Congress, Chris Deluzio and Summer Lee. Vote for them! For your next governor, Josh Shapiro. And for your next great senator, John Fetterman.

In case you don’t know, you can vote at your polling place on November 8th, from 7am to 8pm, and if you need more information, just go to IWillVote.com, find out where to go, make a plan.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I love you back, but you’ve got to vote!

If you have a ballot in your hand, get it to a dropbox or your county clerk’s office as soon as possible before 8pm on election day. And then you need to get your friends and family to vote.

Because we all have, you know, Cousin Pookie. We all have Uncle Joe. They’re sitting on their couch. Right now, as we speak, they’re watching college football, and that’s okay, except they’ve forgotten they were supposed to vote.

So you’ve got to remind them. Take them with you when you go. 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 whole country has gone through some tough times these past few years. We’ve been through some stuff. We’re just now coming out of a historic pandemic
that wreaked havoc on families and schools, businesses and communities. Everybody was impacted, some were impacted more.

We had a new phrase, “essential workers.” That means workers who actually work. And then some folks lost people they love, probably some people in this crowd lost somebody they loved.

And the pandemic also highlighted, and in some cases made worse, problems we’ve been struggling with for years, an economy that works for folks at the very top, but not so much for ordinary people. Communities where too many kids are out of school and out of work, and out of hope, and that sometimes leads them to violence and despair.

And then just an erosion of civility and basic democratic norms. And you’ve got politicians who work not to bring people together but to serve division, and to make us angry and afraid of one another just for their own advantage so they can take power.

And all of this gets hyped up and amped up, 24/7, by social media that has decided it’s more profitable to promote controversy, conflict and conspiracies, rather than facts and truth.

You know, it was just a few days ago that a friend of mine, Paul Pelosi, was attacked in his own home. Somebody breaks into his house looking for his wife, Nancy, the Speaker of the House.
And thankfully, he’s back home now. And we’re going to let investigators do their jobs, but here’s what’s clear Pittsburgh, this habit we that we have of demonizing political opponents, of saying crazy stuff, it creates a dangerous climate.

And when you have people who are in leadership positions, who promote or ignore over the top rhetoric, and then when there’s an attack like this, they make light of it, they joke about it, then more people are going to get hurt. And more than that, we violate the basic spirit of our democracy, the spirit of who we are as Americans.

And by the way, it’s not just politicians. Whether it’s out of malice or ignorance, we’ve seen recently big celebrities reposting vile antisemitic conspiracy theories online. And you don’t have to be a student of history to understand how dangerous that is, and how unacceptable it is.

And I don’t know when we decided that we were just going to believe everything we read on the internet. Here’s a tip for you. If you read or see something online, that has some grand theory about how some particular group, whether it’s black folks or white, or Jews, or Catholics or immigrants or gays, if you read or see someone says they’re the cause all your problems, then it’s safe to say it is garbage. It is a lie. It is a dangerous poison. We’ve got to call it out and put an end to that kind of mindset.

But unfortunately, it seems as if this kind of poison gets more and more attention. So I understand why people would feel anxious. I get why you might be worried about the course of our country. I get worried, too.

I understand why sometimes it may be tempting, just to tune out, just to watch football, or HGTV, or the Great British Baking Show, what — you know, whatever floats your boat, but I’m here to tell you, Pittsburgh, that tuning out is not an option!

Sulking and moping, that’s not an option. The only way to make this economy fair is if we — all of us — fight for it. The only way to save democracy is if we together fight for it. And it starts with electing people who know you, who see you, who care about you, who stood in your shoes. You did that two years ago, when you sent Joe Biden to the White House!

He’s fighting for you every day, and he’s got your back, doing everything he can to put more money in your pockets, to make our streets safer, to bring more good-paying jobs here to Pennsylvania. Now you need to do it again.

Because while there may be a lot of issues at stake in this election, there is one basic question that you should be asking yourself right now, and that 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 their bills? Listen, inflation is a real problem right now. It’s not just here in America, it’s worldwide. And it has to do with the legacy of the pandemic. It wrecked supply chains, disrupted the economy, and then you’ve got a war in Ukraine that sent energy prices through the roof.

So you know, folks see grocery prices going up, gas prices going up. It takes a real bite out of their paychecks. It hurts. I get that. But the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, who’s actually going to do something about it?

The Republicans like to talk about it, but what’s their answer? What’s their economic policy? They want to gut Social Security. They want to gut Medicare. They want to give rich folks in big corporations more tax cuts.

(Booing.)

By the way, don’t boo. Vote! They can’t hear you boo, but they’ll hear you vote.

Now, it should come as no surprise that Republicans want to cut taxes for the wealthy and big corporations because that’s their solution to everything. When inflation is low, they say, “Let’s cut taxes for the wealthy.” If unemployment is higher, “Let’s cut taxes.” When it’s the reverse, they’d want to cut taxes on the wealthy.

If there was an asteroid headed towards Earth, they’d all get in a room and say, “You know what we need? Tax cuts for the rich!”

I mean, it’s nice if you got one answer to every economic problem. We’ve got some students here.

Do you remember when — maybe you were more responsible than me. There were times when I was in school where I did not study. And you’d go in, and let’s say there’s a math test you didn’t study for, it’d be nice if you could just write down the same answer for every question, just write down, eight, and then you’d get an A, and you — but you know what? That doesn’t work in math, and it doesn’t work in economics.

And that’s why Democrats have an actual plan to take on the drug companies to lower prices, to pass laws to make housing more affordable, to make sure big corporations create jobs here in Pennsylvania instead of overseas. That’s the choice in this election. That’s what this is all about.

There’s a lot of talk about crime right now. You know, violent crime has gone up. But you know, it went up over the last seven years, not just the last two. They don’t talk about the previous guy. It’s gone up in conservative rural places, not just cities.

But the question is, who will fight to keep you and your family safe? Is it Republican politicians who want to flood our streets with more guns, who actually voted against more resources for police departments? Or is it the Democratic leaders who worked with President Biden to pass the first major gun safety legislation in 30 years?

That’s the choice in this election.

Fight for your freedoms. Is it Republican politicians and judicial appointees who think they should get to decide when you start a family and how many children you have, or who you marry and who you love? Or is it Democratic leaders who believe that the freedom to make these most personal of decisions belong to you, to every American, and not politicians in Washington?

That’s the choice in this election.

And Pittsburgh, who’s going to fight to make our democracy actually work for you?

Republican politicians have promised if they get to control the Congress, they’re going to spend the next two years investigating their political opponents. They’ve said it, and some of them have said they’re going to impeach President Biden. They’re not sure what for, but apparently that’s beside the point.

How is that going to help you pay your bills?

Or do you think you maybe stand a better chance of getting out and things improving if you’ve got President Biden and Democratic leaders who’ve worked together and sometimes have gotten Republicans to pass an infrastructure bill that creates new jobs, who are making health care and prescription drugs cheaper, who have made unions stronger, who have made the single-largest investment — ever — in the fight against climate change.

That’s the choice in this election.

Pennsylvania, you’ve got a choice between politicians who seem willing to say anything and do anything to get power, and people who see you and know you, and care about you, and share in your values, who want to make your lives better and move this country forward and bring people together.

And let me be clear about this. This hasn’t always been a partisan thing. One of the tough things about campaigning, it makes it sound as if, “Oh, it’s a blue team versus red team, and that’s all I care about.”

Listen, my favorite president — ever — was a guy named Abe Lincoln. He helped found the Republican Party. There used to be GOP members who championed progress and civil rights and rule of law, but you know, I’ve got to look at the facts. And the facts are, these days, just about every GOP politician seems obsessed with two things. They want to own the libs. Let’s get the libs. And let’s get Donald Trump’s approval. We need Donald to really –

(Booing.)

Hey, what did we say about — vote! Don’t boo, now.

But that’s their agenda. They’re not interested in actually solving problems. What they want to do is make you angry, and then find somebody to blame, because that way, you may not notice they’ve got no answers of their own.

John’s opponent, he has answers, but they’re just the wrong ones! You want to lose weight? Take raspberry ketones. You’ve got leg cramps? Try lavender soap. Want to prevent dementia? Palm oil, a miracle solution!

I mean, never mind that none of these things have been proven to work, and in some cases, they might be harmful, but you’ve just got to believe and then hand over your credit card information!

Snake oil — listen, it’s easy to joke about Dr. Oz and all these quack remedies he’s pushing on TV, but it matters. It says something about his character. If somebody is willing to pedal snake oil to make a buck, then he’s probably willing to sell snake oil to get elected.

You deserve better than somebody who’s just trying to make a quick buck, somebody who’s willing to say anything to get attention. You deserve somebody who knows you. You deserve somebody who stood side by side with you, somebody who will work every day and fight for you. Somebody who’s actually from Pennsylvania. You deserve somebody like John Fetterman.

John has been fighting for other people his whole life. Here’s a guy who found his calling as a mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters, somebody who joined AmeriCorps to teach GED classes for young parents, who ran for mayor of a small town to create jobs and reduce gun violence.

John doesn’t just talk the talk; he’s walked the walk, alongside you. So you know then that he means what he says. John will help build an economy that works for everybody. And you know that because he’s worked for everybody, not just folks who write big checks, not just for special interests and those in power.

He’ll stand up for unions. He’ll improve the criminal justice system. He’ll lower the cost of prescription drugs. Do you think Dr. Oz is going to do all that?

AUDIENCE: No!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Right answer. And you also know that John is tough, and not just because he wears shorts in the middle of winter. Like a lot of Pennsylvanians, like a lot of working people, he knows what it’s like to get knocked down, and then get back up.

John’s stroke did not change who he is, it didn’t change what he cares about. It didn’t change his values, his heart, his fight. It doesn’t change who he will represent when he gets to the United States Senate. He’ll represent you, and that’s what you deserve.

That’s why the choice is pretty simple, Pennsylvania.

You don’t want a leader who’s just looking out for himself. You don’t need slick talk. You want a leader who’s going to work hard for you, and who knows enough about hardship, that when you get knocked down, you know he’s going to be there to help you back up.

That’s what this election is about, and it applies to your congressional races as well. Are you going to vote for Republicans who oppose common sense gun safety measures, who want to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, or are you going to vote for folks like Chris Deluzio– an Iraq War veteran, who’s going to work to bring back manufacturing jobs to Pennsylvania, or Summer Lee, who’s got a history of standing up for working people?

That’s what you have to decide.

And while you’re at it, you’re going to have to decide whether you want leaders who are going to stand up for women, for women having the right to make their own healthcare decisions.

Abortion is controversial in this country. It always has been. I genuinely believe there are good people of conscience who may differ with me on this issue, but I believe strongly, and I think you do, too, that women everywhere should be able to control what happens with their own bodies. It shouldn’t be controversial to say that the most personal healthcare choices should be made by a woman and her doctor and not a bunch of mostly male politicians.

That’s why when the Supreme Court struck down Roe, it was a wake up for a lot of young people, especially young women, who may have taken Roe for granted. And it was a reminder that a politicized court, they can reinterpret what we thought were well-settled Constitutional rights.

We can go backwards. If Republicans take back the House and Senate, we could be one presidential election away from a nationwide ban on access to abortion, and that might just be the beginning.

I taught constitutional law for a decade; I can tell you this. If a court does not believe in a zone of privacy that allows each of us to make our own decisions without government interference, then other freedoms we take for granted could be at risk. Clarence Thomas has 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 already voted against guaranteeing a right to use contraception. That’s not in the Constitution. That’s interpreted as a part of the right to privacy. If we don’t have that, and they tack back power, there’s no guarantee birth control won’t be next.

Think about that. You’ve got to vote!

Here in Pennsylvania… I’m sorry, what was that?

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Here in Pennsylvania, John’s opponent — go ahead, go ahead.

AUDIENCE: Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Here in Pennsylvania, John’s opponent said the decision about whether to have an abortion should be made, I’m quoting here, by women, doctors and local political leaders. Really? The mayor gets to decide what you do with your body? Which school board member, the County Sheriff, who exactly are you talking about should tell you about when to start a family?

John Fetterman believes women should be able to make their own healthcare decisions. And if you send them to Washington, he’ll make sure women in Pennsylvania always have access to the care that they need.

I think somebody mentioned earlier, we’re setting our clocks back tomorrow by an hour. On Tuesday, let’s make sure our country doesn’t get set back 50 years.

And let me just say, that’s got to be worth 15 minutes of your time. We got some young people out here. Most of you have voted, maybe not all of you. Maybe some of your roommates or whatnot, are still not sure what it’s worth. If that’s not worth 15 minutes, what is?

Well, maybe if you need another reason to vote, let me tell you consider the fact that our democracy is also on the ballot.

I’ve been traveling through the country, and I’ve got to admit, going out on the campaign trail feels a little harder than it used to be. And it’s not just because I’m grayer and stiffer.

Part of it is back when I was first running for office, I remember when I first started campaigning here in Pennsylvania. I’d go to various towns, and people didn’t always agree with me on everything. But I could go into a small town, maybe mostly Republican town. Not a lot of folks look like me.

And I’d go to a VFW hall, or I go to a diner, maybe if it was a rural area, I’d go to a county fair. And I’d sit down, and I’d have a piece of pie and coffee, because I like pie. And you’d have a conversation with somebody. And you talk about your kids, you’d talk about your parents. Maybe somebody got sick in your family, and what that was like. You talked about the hopes you have for the future.

And you might not agree on everything, but at least you suddenly felt some connection. You saw, okay, even though we come from different places, we have a tie that binds. And maybe we might persuade each other about some things. And I’d learn something, and they’d learn something about each other’s lives. And that was one of the joys, one of the glories of campaigning, was seeing this incredible diversity of the country, but also understanding that there was this thread that ties us together.

And by the way, that’s why I ended up getting a bunch of Republican votes. Hard to believe, but it was true.

And then after I won, my Republican opponent, John McCain, graciously conceded, and he wished me luck for the sake of the country. And we still had arguments. He was still in the Senate, and he’d give me a tough time. He could be cranky sometimes, but we all agreed on the basic foundation of our democracy, and that then even if we were competing, we were still basically on the same team. And that’s what’s at risk right now.

Democrats may not be perfect. I’m the first one to admit it. I’m not perfect. No politician is. We’re just like all of you; we can make mistakes. But right now, with a few notable exceptions, most Republican politicians aren’t even pretending that the rules apply to them. They just make stuff up.

I mean, John’s opponents still refuses to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. He says he needs more information to determine if the results were legitimate. What information are you talking about? He won’t say, just more. He’s hired people who marched to the Capitol on January 6. They’re on his campaign.

Donald Trump says he needs Dr. Oz in the Senate in case there’s a close election again. Think about that. He’s basically saying, look, if I lose again, I need him to see if he can put his thumbs on the scale. That is not what this country is supposed to be about.

And I understand democracy might not seem like a top priority right now, when gas prices are high, and grocery prices are high. Sometimes, it feels like government isn’t making enough progress on the issues that matter to you and your family. I get that because sometimes, progress is slow. This is a big, complicated country with a lot of different interests. And it’s hard to get stuff done sometimes.

But let me tell you something, Pennsylvania. We’ve seen throughout history, we’ve seen around the world what happens when you give up on democracy. We can see it in other countries where government tells you what books you can read, and what books you can, countries that own all the media, and just pump out propaganda, and put dissidents and reporters in jail, countries where it really doesn’t matter who you vote for, because the fix really is in and people in power, do whatever they want, and where corruption is rampant because there’s no accountability.

When that happens, people get hurt. That has real life consequences, and that’s why generations of Americans fought and died for the idea of self-government. That’s why suffragists marched so women could be part of “We, the People.” That’s why the civil rights movement marched, to make sure that all of us were included. And that’s why we set up rules to make our democracy work.

And by the way, these aren’t really that complicated, these rules. We teach them to our kids when they’re in the sandbox. Be honest, be fair. If you’re in a group, everybody gets a say, everybody gets a turn. If you don’t get your way, don’t throw a tantrum. Don’t pick up your ball and go home.

When I ran for Congress the first time in a primary, I got whooped. Lost by 30 points. I did not feel good about that. You know what I didn’t do, though? I didn’t say it was rigged. I didn’t start an insurrection. I went back, and did some soul searching, and figured out what I had done wrong and tried to do better the next time. And that’s what we teach our kids when things don’t work out exactly as they want. Okay, think about it, figure it out, do better the next time.

These are basic rules that we teach our kids. They undergird our democracy, and that is at stake in this election because right now we’ve got folks who don’t tell the truth and are willing to play around with the rules, so they get their way, no matter what.

And that’s why it’s not enough to elect Democrats like Chris Deluzio, and Summer Lee, and Josh Shapiro, and John Fetterman. You’ve got to elect good people up and down the ballot. State legislatures, local seats, you’ve got to elect people who believe every vote should count, full stop. And that’s not a radical idea. It didn’t used to be. You’ve got to vote for people who will protect the integrity of our elections, because that could make a difference if this thing gets close.

Now, here’s the good news. I’m going to give you some good news right now. The good news is you have the power in your hands to steer this country in a better direction, but it only happens if you vote. It only happens if you participate.

We joke in my house sometimes that between Michelle and me, Michelle can be a little bit glass half empty. I, on the other hand, am the hope and change guy. I’m usually a little more optimistic. When she’s reading the papers or watching the news, and she gets a little down on the state of the country or the state of the world, I tell her, “Hon, everything’s going to be okay.”

And I believe it will, but it won’t be okay on its own. It’ll be okay because we’ve worked for it. It’ll be okay because we fought for it, not just on Election Day, but every day in between.

These are tough times Pennsylvania, but we’ve been through tougher times before. The important thing is we don’t give in to the temptation to give up, to get cynical. The important thing is we don’t turn inward. The important thing is we don’t see politics as a zero-sum game where anything goes, and rules are made to be broken, and the only way for us to win, people like us, is for people like them to lose.

That kind of division in our minds, we’ve got to get out of that mindset, because even in our darker moments, and there have been darker moments before, we’ve always had more in common than our politics suggest.

Even when times are tough, what unites us has always been stronger than what divides us. There have always been certain rules that bind us together as citizens, no matter where we come from, no matter what we look like, what our last names are, how we worship, who we love! That’s the promise of America! That’s who we are! (Applause.) We may not fix all our problems overnight. But we can make things better, and better is worth fighting for.

So if you’re anxious, if you’re frustrated right now, don’t complain. Don’t boo. Don’t tune out. Vote!

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Get off your couch and what?

AUDIENCE: Vote!

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

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Vote for leaders like Chris Deluzio! Vote for folks like Summer Lee!

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Vote for Josh Shapiro!

AUDIENCE: Vote!

PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Vote for John Fetterman! Vote for leaders who are going to fight for that big, inclusive, hopeful, forward-looking America that we believe in.

Vote for a country that is more fair, and more equal, and more just and more free. It is in your hands. Let’s get to work!

I love you, Pittsburgh! Thank you, Pennsylvania! Come on!

Photo by Chuck Kennedy

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