Former President Barack Obama told thousands of Nevadans on Monday that they can’t stay out of this election if they want changes in the White House and Congress.
“The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference,” Obama told 2,000 people at Cox Pavilion at UNLV. “The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism that says we’re just going to stay home because my voice doesn’t matter.”
The former president, who stopped in Las Vegas to stump for Nevada Democrats, said he won states and the presidency because 10 extra people in each precinct voted for him.
“Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count,” Obama said. “If you don’t like what’s going on right now — and you shouldn’t — don’t complain. Don’t get anxious. Don’t throw up your hands. Don’t boo. Vote.”
Obama campaigned for the entire Democratic ticket, with a strong focus on Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is vying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who faces a tight race for governor against Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.
Rather than be a check on “corrupt politics,” Obama said without naming names, Republicans in Congress have gone along with the president.
“The current senator, he doesn’t seem to be willing to stand up to this,” Obama said of Heller. “He just goes along even when you get a sense that he knows it’s not right.”
Obama said Republicans “are coming after health care again” if they keep Congress and that none of the GOP health care bills protect people with pre-existing conditions. Obama added that said Republicans take credit for today’s booming economy, but he turned the tide during his presidency.
“When I walked into office 10 years ago, we were in the middle of the worst economic crisis of our lifetime,” he said. “That’s the last time the other party was in charge of things.”
Donning a red “UR FIRED 2020” hat, Las Vegas resident Andrea Weinberger waited since 9 a.m. to see the former president.
“I’ve never felt so disconnected from the decisions that are being made by this president,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like the country I grew up in at all.”
Weinberger, who works in jewelry design, said she saw Obama in 2008 when he was running for president and said he stands for hope, change and equality. “I think he’s absolutely brilliant,” Weinberger said. “He stands for class, he’s well-spoken and charismatic.”
Obama focused his get-out-the-vote message Monday on young people who he said will shape the country’s future — including his two daughters.
“I have to tell them sometimes that your generation is the one that is going to determine the direction of America for the next 50, 60, 70 years,” Obama said. “And right now too many young people don’t vote.”
J Balvin, Salt-N-Pepa, featuring DJ Spinderella, DJ D-Miles and actress America Ferrera thrilled the crowd before Obama took the stage Monday.
Someone shouted, “We miss you!”
“I miss you too,” he said.
Salt-N-Peppa performed their hit “Whatta Man” — which they dedicated to Obama — before leading the crowd in a thumping rendition of “Push It.”
Other top Democrats at the rally include Rep. Dina Titus, who is seeking re-election, and congressional candidates Susie Lee and Steven Horsford, who are running for two open House seats.
And of course @BarackObama T-shirts were on sale outside the pavilion.
People leaving the rally say they were energized by Obama’s words. “He restored my hope,” one woman said.
State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, the Democratic nominee for attorney general, and Assemblyman William McCurdy II, who chairs the Nevada State Democratic Party, were also in attendance Monday.
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald was dismissive of Obama’s attempts to energize Democrats.
“Thanks to President Trump and our Republican Congress, though, we are seeing more jobs and more take-home pay and most importantly, we’re finally getting some of our confidence back,” McDonald said in a statement. “Obama has no business coming out here in support of candidates who will reverse all of that progress.”
Following the rally, Suynn Davis, 62, an Air Force veteran, said Obama has restored her hope.
“He has sparked us,” Davis said. “Barack won Nevada twice. This is the energy we needed to go back to being hopeful and positive.”
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will be in Reno and Las Vegas on Thursday as part of a nationwide tour to rally voters to cast ballots for Democrats.
Sanders will hold a rally with the state Democratic Party and U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Lowden Theatre at the Las Vegas Academy of Arts, 541 E. Clark Ave.
The event is free, but attendees must RSVP at https://act.berniesanders.com/event/rallies_attend/49
His event in Reno is at 11 a.m. at the University of Nevada, Reno.