After Trump’s election, President Obama tried to calm some of the dissent that had risen. He congratulated Trump the morning after his election, meeting with him the following day for the traditional discussion of the transition into the White House. On November 14, in Obama's first news conference after the election, despite mentioning the fact that he felt “certain aspects of [Trump's] temperament” would not “serve [Trump] well,” he was notable in his efforts at positivity, stating, “I think it is important for us to let him make his decisions,” encouraging Democrats to give the new president the benefit of the doubt.
Obama gave his farewell address in Chicago on January 10 of 2017, and held his final press conference on January 18, revealing that he would not be speaking out, at least this year, unless he felt our core values were at stake. Yet, he made his first post-White House public comments only three months later.
Out of the White House
After having spent the last few months vacationing, during which updates on his thoughts on the political developments came only from his advisers, on April 25 former-president Obama had a discussion with student leaders at the University of Chicago. While it may not have been the most politically loaded conversation — discussing the downfalls of social media and the need for civic engagement within communities — this marked a significant deviation from what was stated to be his plan for post-presidency life.
This was followed in June by an even bigger move on his part — his open criticism of the Obamacare repeal bill, only hours after it was first released. So far this has been one of the former president's most drastic moves away from his plans to stay out of the limelight, and his most blatant criticism of the current administration. He directly accuses the Republicans in Congress of not working in the people's best interests in passing this bill, calling it "a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America," and says they because of their strong partisanship, that they saw this bill as "simply undoing something that Democrats did."
On June 22, it was revealed that Obama had made a huge step back into politics: he was announced to have signed on to campaign for Democratic nominee for governor of Virginia, Ralph Northram. Beyond endorsing Macron in the French election, in the months since his step down from the presidency Obama has not made any direct contributions to any one political contender before this. In associating himself again with the DNC’s plans, Obama took one more step towards the political fight indicative of larger ones to come.
What This Could Mean
Former president Obama has shown a progressive escalation of behavior since the 2016 election. Going from congratulatory calls and "give him a chance," to “fundamentally disagreeing” with the idea of a travel ban and openly saying the new GOP health plan “will do you harm.” He is becoming less concerned with trying to appear impartial. Looking at all of this, what we can anticipate is increasing involvement in the political world. As Trump and the GOP keep pushing and working to dismantle Obama's legacy, we can expect to see him continue to push back.
In relation to college students, we once again now have someone in the political world with the power and will to vouch for us. Weeks into Obama's first term, congress passed a bill providing tens of billions of dollars for higher education. He prioritized the topic in his first major speech to Congress, and worked throughout his presidency to change it. Whether or not you agree with his attempts so far, Obama’s actions for higher education mean the issue is being paid attention to, something that allows for our voices to be heard in not just issues of college, but other political issues that influence us as well. As long as we are being talked about, we have a fair shot at talking back. And considering his first major foray back into public life was speaking with students at a university, I think it’s safe to say he hasn’t forgotten us since his vacation.
What it all comes down to is this: Obama is back, and chances are he is here to stay, and on our side.
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