United States former president Barack Obama has returned to active politics with a speech on Monday at the University of Chicago. Obama didn’t offer any criticism of his successor, Donald Trump, instead, he offered a list of four things he said are wrong with US politics today.
Obama drew laughs from students in the audience at the university by jokingly asking, So, what's been going on while I've been gone? There was no mention of Trump in his opening remarks.
Obama zeroed in on four things he said hinder good government and get in the way of finding solutions to major issues of our time such as climate change, economic inequality, a lack of opportunity and a criminal justice system under siege.
The four issues: Political gerrymandering, money in politics, a politicized media and voter apathy.
“All those problems are serious, they’re daunting, but they’re not insoluble,” Obama said. “What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”
Obama said that ”Because of things like political gerrymandering, our parties have moved further and further apart, and it’s harder and harder to find common ground.”
On money in politics, “Special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel.”
On a ‘politicized media, “Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people they already agree with, and are further and further reinforcing their realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward.”
On voter apathy, “When I said in 2004 that there were no red states or blue states, there were United States of America, that was an aspirational comment. And it’s one, by the way, that I still believe when you talk to individuals one on one, there’s a lot more that people have in common than divides them.”
“But that obviously isn’t true when it comes to our politics and our civic life. And maybe more pernicious is the fact that people just aren’t involved — they get cynical and they give up. And as a consequence we have some of the lowest voting rates in any advanced democracy and low participation rates that translate into a further gap between who’s governing us and what we believe.”
Obama’s remarks — the first after a three-month, self-imposed seclusion from public life since Jan. 20 — were broadcast live on cable television and generated a lively conversation on Twitter.