Former President Barack Obama blamed the polarization present in the current political climate on social media, cable television, and monetary influence from special interests in a speech Monday.
“It’s harder and harder to find common ground because of money in politics,” Obama told high school and college students at the University of Chicago in his first public speech since leaving office, adding that “special interests dominate the debates in Washington in ways which don’t match up with the road a majority of Americans feel.”
The former president mostly avoided taking direct hits at President Trump and commenting on current political debates and, instead, talked about the state of the country from his perspective.
“One thing I’m absolutely convinced of is that, yes we can confront a whole range of challenges from economic inequality and lack of opportunity to a criminal justice system that too often is skewed in ways which are unproductive, climate change to issues related to violence,” he said. “All those problems are serious, they’re daunting but they’re not insoluble.”
He said that rise of social media, cable TV, and talk radio contribute to this polarization in political debate because people only seek out information that validates their own beliefs.
Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them and are further and further reinforcing their own 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.
“If you’re liberal, then you’re on MSNBC and conservative, you’re on Fox News. You’re reading the Wall Street Journal or you’re reading the New York Times or whatever your choices are. Or maybe you’re just looking at cat videos, which is fine,” he added.
Obama is cashing in on the speaking circuit. He will receive $400,000 for a speech he will give at a healthcare conference sponsored by Wall Street giant Cantor Fitzgerald. Obama also dipped his toes into international politics post-presidency by speaking on the phone with left-leaning French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron Thursday.