President Obama said Friday night that Democrats should stop assaulting Donald Trump supporters at political rallies, even as the president told wealthy donors that Mr. Trump is exploiting voters’ resentment of immigrants and gays.
The president said opponents of Mr. Trump shouldn’t resort to violence, as occurred at a rally in San Jose this week, where a mob of anti-Trump demonstrators terrorized supporters, throwing punches, hurling eggs and intimidating them.
“We saw in San Jose these protesters starting to pelt stuff and Trump supporters,” Mr. Obama said at a fundraiser near Biscayne Bay, Florida. “That’s not what our democracy is about. That’s not what you do. There’s no room for violence. There’s no place for shouting. There’s no room for a politics that fails to at least listen to the other side — even if you vehemently disagree.”
The president said Democrats must “remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy, and not slip into some of the bad habits that currently manifest themselves in the other party.”
“I believe if you’ve got the better argument, then you don’t need to do that [engage in violence],” Mr. Obama said. “Just go out there and organize and persuade.”
The fundraiser was hosted at the home of personal injury lawyer Robert Rubenstein; tickets ranged from $10,000 to $30,000.
Even as he called for cooler heads to prevail, Mr. Obama said Mr. Trump and his party are trying to divide Americans with ugly tactics.
“Being able to say that it’s immigrants or it’s gays or it’s somebody that is taking something away from you — that’s the essence of the message that the Republican nominee is delivering,” Mr. Obama said. “The appeal that is being made is not primarily an economic one, but rather it is feeding resentments.”
The president said Democrats need to take the election seriously, because Mr. Trump is dominating the media cycle this year.
“Celebrity and fame is such a driver in this culture — and everything’s so contested,” he said.
Mr. Obama also gave a plug for Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was in attendance. She is facing a primary challenge in her congressional district from Timothy Canova, who’s running on a platform of Wall Street reform and has the backing of presidential candidate Sen. Bernard Sanders.
“She’s had my back, I want to make sure we have her back,” Mr. Obama said.