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Opinion | Barack Obama Delivers a Jeremiad

He put aside the language of “there is no blue America or red America, only the United States of America.” He named essential elements of democracy, including the right to vote, a free press, a military with civilian leadership, and “fidelity to facts and science and logic and not making stuff up.”

Such principles, Mr. Obama said, should not be partisan, but now they are. President Trump and those who enable him “have shown that they do not believe in these things.” Therefore, they must be defeated and driven out.

It is almost as if a despairing Barack Obama during the Trump years has decided that if this be partisanship, so be it. Politics is war by other means. And winning this time means the survival of the nation itself.

The former president told us that “our democracy” — the American experiment — is on the line in this election, that the Trump presidency has so soiled and corrupted the promise, sent it to the brink of self-destruction, that we have only 70-plus days to save it. Mr. Obama knows that the jeremiad is not a mere lamentation, but a cry for hope. He delivered both.

And he spoke of “our democracy” struggling against “them.”

“Do not let them take away your power,” he pleaded particularly to young voters. Mr. Trump and his minions, he said, “are counting on your cynicism.”

Here was the altar call of the classic jeremiad — come back to the faith, even if you are so young that you were not aware you ever had one. Learn from the dark past and those who survived it — the reviled immigrants, religious groups and especially African-Americans, who all had reasons to quit on the promise but never did.

The ultimate target of Mr. Obama’s speech was young voters who do not turn out in large numbers. They are, he said, the “missing ingredient.” He insisted that our “system of self-government can be harnessed” to help them follow through on their conviction that everyone has equal worth.

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