Obama made a case against voter apathy by unloading on the current state of the Republican Party, saying among other things that they are abdicating their responsibilities by doing nothing "when the president does something insane".
Obama said it's not an exaggeration to say the midterm elections are the most important in his lifetime. "He is a symptom, not a cause", Obama told students at the University of IL at Urbana-Champaign.
Obama is also expected to campaign in IL and Pennsylvania later this month and headline a fundraiser for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee in New York City, which is looking to reverse gerrymandering that has helped Republicans in some congressional districts.
"You've got to do more than retweet a hashtag, you've got to vote", he said.
"They'll promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away", he said.
"We're supposed to stand up to bullies", Obama said.
Mr Obama also jabbed Mr Trump on the issue the current president frequently heralds as one of his greatest achievements: the strong economy. "He is a symptom, not a cause".
"The progress the US economy has made since Donald Trump took the helm from the hapless Barack Obama is an ongoing rebuke to the Democrats anti-growth policies", he said. President Trump will likely be on the road in the weeks ahead, trying to fend off a Democratic takeover of the House and possibly even the Senate.
Obama was clearly exasperated by what he's seen in government since he left office in January 2017.
An Obama office official said before the speech that they could not say whether the former president would mention Trump directly in IL but added that "regardless of whether he mentions him by name, it will be very clear who he is talking about". "More often, it's manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege".
President Trump, campaigning himself in North Dakota for a challenger to Democratic Sen.
Obama ridiculed Trump for taking credit for economic gains that began under Obama's administration, and said Trump was exploiting cultural fears and economic anger that have grown in recent years amid societal upheavals.
That kind of equivocation, Obama argued, isn't one that has its roots in the Republican Party, referring back to one of his favorite presidents and fellow IL son, Abraham Lincoln.
Obama added in his remarks to Democrats: "It did not start with Donald Trump". He said the biggest threat to democracy isn't Trump but "indifference".
Next week, Obama plans to campaign in Ohio for Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee for governor, and Ohio Democrats.
Breitbart.com contributor Joel B. Pollak not only attacked Obama in a September 7 critique of the speech, but also, the University of IL itself.