US PRESIDENT Barack Obama speaks during a Hillary for America campaign event at Florida International University in Miami.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The world’s oldest democratic republic faces an existential threat on Tuesday in the form of Donald Trump, US President Barack Obama warned this week, sounding the alarm with an acute sense of urgency amid fears in the White House that Democrats may stay home on election day.
The president’s ominous charge comes as Trump warned of a constitutional crisis should his rival, Hillary Clinton, win the presidency, while facing the possibility of a new probe related to a private email server system she operated during her tenure at the State Department.
Crisscrossing the state of Florida – considered the single most important battleground in the presidential race – Obama argued that Americans have “something to vote for” in Clinton.
But his greater message was one of palpable fear: That Trump, the Republican nominee, poses an unprecedented risk to the republic, given his apparent disregard for electoral institutions, the structure of the US armed forces, tthe country’s checks and balances system and its constitutional law.
It’s an unusual argument – one altogether new in modern American politics, but that Obama administration officials say is motivating the president, who genuinely fears that Trump would unduly test the country’s basic governing structure.
“This election is about more than just plans, policies.
There’s something more fundamental at stake. What’s at stake is the character of our nation,” Obama said in Miami.
“We’ve got to work like our future depends on it, because it actually depends on it.”
On Wednesday, campaigning in North Carolina, he put it more bluntly: “The fate of the republic rests on your shoulders,” he said. “The fate of the world is teetering.”
That fear compounds the more polls tighten, and on Thursday evening, a path for Trump to the presidency appeared clearer than ever.
Fresh polling data and early voting figures are showing tied races in several states Trump had trailed in just days ago.
Clinton still maintains a clear advantage: She has several electoral college paths at her disposal to the requisite 270 needed to clinch the White House. But with Trump leading in Florida and Ohio, and with polls close in Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada and North Carolina, the swing state sweep he would need to clinch victory appears within reach.
Beyond Democratic fears that Trump would jeopardize the very foundations of American republicanism – “democracy is on the ballot,” Obama said – the president continued to make a case against a candidate he views to be temperamentally unfit to hold any office, much less the presidency.
Obama and Clinton have argued for months that Trump’s rhetoric and actions toward women, ethnic groups, religious minorities and the disabled have fractured civil society beyond what has become custom in American partisan politics.
“Tell them that this is the moment when America makes a stand about who we are and what we believe,” Obama said on Thursday.
“Tell them this is the moment we reject cynicism and reject fear. This is the moment we choose hope.”
Trump, on the other hand, is being advised to maintain his composure and “stay cool,” he joked on Wednesday, in order to maintain the leads he has gained in the race’s final days.
Also campaigning in Florida on Thursday, Trump warned that Clinton’s election would lead to a crisis, given the FBI’s decision to examine newly discovered emails possibly tied to the bureau’s closed investigation into Clinton. The federal law enforcement agency is also reportedly investigating the Clinton Foundation over the donations it received during Clinton’s time as secretary of state.
“The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment,” Trump said, quoting a Fox News report that its anchor, Bret Baier, has said was misconstrued.
“The system is rigged, and reports also show the political leadership at the Department of Justice is trying to protect Hillary Clinton and interfering with the FBI’s criminal investigation,” Trump continued.
A New York Times/CBS News tracking poll released on Thursday found Clinton ahead of Trump by a margin of just three points.