The professorial tone, slight complacency (“Joe gets the job done”), light self-irony (“You can logically and sharply undermine other people’s arguments,” but “This is not a recipe for winning arguments with Michelle”) and a firm belief in the politics of compromise and persuasion.
In an hour-long interview with New York timesOn Tuesday, Barack Obama reviews the traits that earned him the presidency twice. But his presidency also, he hesitantly admits, helped Donald Trump win in 2016 and sent many Republican voters into the trenches against Democrats.
Obama, now a writer and media entrepreneur with his wife, Michelle, sees the GOP’s feud as “two steps forward, one back,” though he admits the reaction “may take a long time.” In his view, it is inevitable that any major social progress will “release energy in people who feel threatened by change”.
Despite this, Obama is fully committed to compromise as a solution—and also as interviewer Ezra Klein (writer Why are we polarized) says that the idea has taken root on the left of the political spectrum that a hard core of opponents can no longer be persuaded and that a politician must adopt an irreconcilable position on this matter. “At some point in this country, in this democracy, you still have to put together a majority to get things done,” Obama said. “You have to be convinced, you will have to form alliances.”
He admits that the United States is more deeply divided than it was in his years as president. According to him, the reason is not because people have changed themselves, but because the media focused on conflict is feeding on them. “I was amazed to see the extent to which conservative Democrats or pro-abortion Republicans were expelled from their parties.”
He believes the government’s results will “eventually” be satisfied. “You can convince most people because everyone wants more or less the same thing. They want a good job. They want to be able to provide for their families. They want a safe neighborhood.” “If you keep saying 30 percent of the country is wrong, it’s going to be hard to judge.”
“More profound, more rational”
Read also: Republicans block investigation into Capitol storming
30 percent seems to refer to the political news that came out last week. A minority in the Senate blocked the formation of a commission of inquiry into the January 6 storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters. The vote ratio of 54 in favor and 35 against was insufficient to achieve such a bipartisan committee. The American political system is organized in such a way that the less populated states, which are usually more conservative in the center of the country, have undue political weight thanks to the proportional representation in which each state, regardless of population size, provides two senators.
Democrats, says Obama, know that they always need voters on the political center-right, while Republicans don’t care about winning center-left voters. It also sees the bright side. It has made the Democratic Party more sympathetic, more thoughtful, and more rational. We must necessarily consider a wide range of interests and persons. To me, that’s how America does better. We don’t have the luxury of pointing to a group of people and saying, “You’re not a real American.”
Democrats don’t have the luxury of being able to point to a group of people and say, ‘You’re not a real American
This is one of the ways Obama, very cautiously, sometimes expresses himself in talking about racism in American society. “People do not think of historically difficult debates like race: How can we do something miserable with people who are not like us in honor? What they worry about is whether they are not disenfranchised, whether their way of life and traditions have been taken away from them. Or their position in society is being undermined” . According to Obama, people are willing to change if you talk to them. According to him, the latter would definitely become more difficult than before.
He hardly talks about his successor, Donald Trump. He says his presidency has helped sharpen political ties. He says it’s not good to imagine that Republican presidents like Father and Son Bush could have handled the coronavirus pandemic very differently than a Democrat like Bill Clinton or himself would. “I can’t imagine that the Republican administration would not have cared about science.”
Read also: Trump took control of the Republican Party with Cheney’s vote
Obama says the extent to which Trump lied as president, and the indifference with which the American media printed those lies (“he told it, they said – and then called it journalism”) has taken root in the Republican Party. ‘For someone like Mitch McConnell’ [leider van de Republikeinse fractie in de Senaat, red.] There is no reason not to lie, make up something completely, outright obstruction, say one minute, and B the next. It’s only politically useful.”
However, he cannot or will not see Trump as someone who has fundamentally helped change American politics. “If Donald Trump had not been reelected, but if Joe Biden, or the person he was fighting against, Hillary Clinton, succeeded me, and the economy boomed, with an unemployment rate of 3 percent, I think the idea would have settled. That, really, the policies have worked. Obama.Trump has already halted the continuation of my policies, but the benefit of the economic growth and stability that we have provided, has made people skeptical: “Oh my God, unemployment has fallen to 3.5 percent under Trump.”
A copy of this article also appeared in NRC on the morning of June 2, 2021
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