Obama Slams Trump by Name for First Time Since Leaving Office as ‘Symptom’ of Divisive Trends in Politics

(Updated)

Former President Barack Obama mentioned his successor by name in public for the first time since leaving office on Friday, saying Donald Trump was the "symptom" of a trend of resistance to positive progress.

Returning to a familiar theme of speeches in his presidency, Obama said at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that the price of progress toward "our founding ideals" sometimes meant taking two steps back for every step forward.

"The status quo pushes back," he said. "Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often, it's manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege."

He told the audience they were coming of age at one of those moments.

"It did not start with Donald Trump," he said. "He is a symptom. Not the cause. He's just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years. A fear, an anger that's rooted in our past but also borne out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes."

Reporters noted it was the first time Obama had name-checked Trump since leaving office, although he's spoken with implicit criticism of Trump several times over the past year-and-a-half.

Obama's speech began with him making a strong push for Democratic turnout in the midterms. He said voters had a chance in November to restore "sanity to our politics."

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Ahrens said in a statement that more Obama wouldn't help the Democrats.

"In 2016, voters rejected President Obama's policies and his dismissiveness towards half the country. Doubling down on that strategy won't work in 2018 either," he said.

UPDATE 2:47 P.M.: This article was updated with a statement from the Republican National Committee.