President Barack Obama defied the notion that Donald Trump was leading a populist revolution, quibbling with the media’s branding of the historic rise of the billionaire’s run for president.
“Maybe somebody can pull up in the dictionary quickly the phrase ‘populism’ but I’m not prepared to concede the notion that some of the rhetoric that’s been popping up is populist,” Obama said.
The president made his remarks at the end of a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Neito after the North America Leaders’ Summit.
Obama argued that his 2008 campaign and his entire presidency was more about populism, arguing he cared more about poor people and working people.
“I suppose that makes me a populist,” he said confidently.
He alluded to people like Trump who worked against some of the policies pushed by liberal Democrats.
“They don’t suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes,” Obama said. “That’s not the measure of populism. That’s nativism or xenaphobia. Or worse. Or it’s just cynicism.”
Obama told reporters to “be careful” about referring to the rising anti-elitist sentiment fueled by dissidents to his liberal agenda as “populist.”
“Where have they been? Have they been on the front lines working on behalf of working people?” he asked.
He admitted however that Sen. Bernie Sanders was a populist, because he had “worked in the vineyard” of making life better for poor people.
Obama warned voters to avoid political figures offering simple solutions to fixing the economy.
“Sometimes there’s simple solutions out there, but I’ve been president for seven and a half years, and it turns out that’s pretty rare,” he said.