During his campaign for president, Barack Obama vowed to deliver “hope and change” to Washington and pledged to move toward a post-partisan political world.
When he became president, he did just the opposite. He blamed Republicans in Congress for all his failures and stoked the partisan flames that engulfed Capitol Hill.
Now, though, the “elder statesman” says political leaders — including himself, of course — need to make sure that the online world does not become too splintered by biases.
“All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet,” Obama said in an interview conducted by Britain’s Prince Harry (for some reason), which broadcast on BBC radio on Wednesday.
“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities, they can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases,” Obama said.
Obama didn’t name President Trump, but he has previously warned that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can prompt people to make judgments about issues without having all the facts. He thinks those platforms should promote diverse views in a way that “doesn’t lead to a Balkanisation of our society.”
The solution: Everyone should meet to discuss complex issues.
“It’s also by the way harder to be as obnoxious and cruel in person as people can be anonymously on the internet,” he said. “Meet in the pub. … Meet at a place of worship. Meet in a neighborhood and get to know each other.”
Of course, Obama’s comments are ironic as he often embraced the role of “divider in chief” — pitting white against black, male against female, straight against gay, rich against poor. Both of his political campaigns were heavy on class warfare — and Obama was even worse once in office.
After a Republican lawmaker was shot during a baseball practice, GOP Rep. Steve King said Obama deserves much of the blame for the divided political climate.
“I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama,” the Iowa congressman said in a June interview. “He contributed mightily to dividing us. He focused on our differences rather than our things that unify us. And this is some of the fruits of that labor.”