Obama rallies with Michigan Democratic ticket, speaks out against political division

Democrats decry GOP lawsuits challenging voting in Detroit, Flint

By: - October 30, 2022 5:58 am

Former President Barack Obama speaks at a rally with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Michigan Democrats in Detroit on Oct. 29, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

In the packed gymnasium of Detroit’s Renaissance High School, the Michigan Democratic ticket rallied alongside former president Barack Obama on Saturday, asking supporters to bring their friends, family and neighbors to the polls. 

With 10 days until the election, the candidates and officials emphasized the importance of voting rights, abortion and other key policy issues. 

“Public education is on this ballot, our economic future is on this ballot, our democracy is on this ballot and the right to choose is on this ballot,” Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

Obama also joined Attorney General Dana Nessel; Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit); U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, (D-Southfield); U.S. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing); Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein, Supreme Court nominee state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield), National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle; and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

On Nov. 8, Whitmer is facing Republican Tudor Dixon; Nessel is against Republican Matt DePerno; Benson is facing Republican Kristina Karamo; Tlaib is squaring off against Steven Elliott; and Bernstein and Bolden are running against GOP-nominated Justice Brian Zahra and Paul Hudson.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at a rally with former President Barack Obama in Detroit on Oct. 29, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

Whitmer, Benson and Nessel focused on their in-office accomplishments, while targeting their opponents’ opposition to abortion rights and their denial of the legitimacy of the 2020 election that former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden. 

Instead of celebrating a record 5.5 million voters in the 2020 election, Michigan has served as ground zero for an organized attack on democracy, Benson said.

“We’re running against election deniers and we call them election deniers for one simple reason: They deny the truth about who won the election,” Benson said.

Nessel blasted DePerno for supporting a ban on abortion and opposing to contraception, having compared Plan B, known as the morning after pill, to the deadly narcotic fentanyl. 

Multiple speakers criticized Karamo’s recent lawsuit which would require in-person voting in Detroit, as well as a similar lawsuit filed in Flint filed by the Michigan GOP and Republican National Committee alleging the city didn’t hire a sufficient number of Republican election officials.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a rally with former President Barack Obama in Detroit on Oct. 29, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

That would appear to violate Michigan’s Constitution, as no-reason absentee voting is guaranteed under Proposal 3 of 2018.

“The new strategy is to cancel the votes of people who don’t agree with you,” Duggan said. 

“Let’s make Kristina Karamo really mad. Get out, vote early,” Duggan added. 

In his speech, Obama praised Whitmer’s performance as governor and reflected on differences in the political landscape during his 2008 presidential campaign and the polarization of the Democratic and Republican parties today. 

“People did not agree with me, but I could go into communities, mostly Republican, mostly conservative, and I could have a conversation,” Obama said.

“If [Republicans] get control of Congress, they’ll spend the next two years investigating their political opponents,” Obama said. “How is that going to help you and your family?”

Obama also discussed the danger and divisiveness of political conspiracies pointing to the recent violent attack on Paul Pelosi, part of an attempt to target U.S. House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

 

“We’ve got politicians who work to stir up division to try to make us angry and afraid of one another for their own advantage,” Obama said. “Sometimes it can turn dangerous.”

Obama was heckled during this point and the man was removed from the audience.

“This is what I mean,” Obama said. “… You wouldn’t do that a workplace. It’s not how we do things. This is part of the point I want to make. Just basic civility and courtesy works.”

The former president also referenced a conspiracy theory shared by Dixon on her former right-wing talk show that Democrats have been working to topple the United States as retaliation for losing the Civil War as reported by CNN.

If your plumber was trying to tell you about the latest conspiracy, you’d find another plumber, Obama said. 

“When you’ve got a good plumber, you keep the plumber. When you’ve got somebody who knows how to do their job, you keep them doing that job,” Obama said. 

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson is a reporting intern for the Michigan Advance. A recent MSU graduate, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He has reported on community events, breaking news, state policy, and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.

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