On December 15, 2016, Steve Inskeep of NPR sat down with President Obama for an interview. Below you will find the entirety of the interview embedded from YouTube, as well as a few highlights that I thought were worth taking a look at whether or not you watch the video.
I think we have a scrambled political landscape right now. -Barack Obama
What this most recent election has made obvious, if it wasn’t already, is that the old labels of Republican and Democrat, left and right, are no longer sufficient to talk about politics in America. People do not sit as cleanly in one camp in the other. Many people who voted for Obama in 2008 and in 2012 voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and for likely the same reasons. Some of Trump’s supporters were even former supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders. Watch this video of Professor Steve Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs describe the situation:
There is something about our current political ecosystem, and we’re all part of it, that parties, the candidates, the media, the voters—that leads us to avoid going deep into the issues that are really gonna affect people’s day-to-day lives, that put a premium on what here in the White House we call the shiny object: the faux scandals, the trumped up controversies, the insults that are thrown back and forth. So that it ends up being covered like a reality show or—at best, a sporting event. And we lose track of the fact that this has an impact on some family that’s trying to send their kids to college, or some veteran who’s trying to get their benefits, or whether or not some of our young people get sent to a far away land to fight a war. -President Obama
If you watched any of the presidential debates leading up to the 2016 election, you probably noticed a profound absence of substantive discussion of actual issues. The same goes for media coverage of the election, even in the last days. The prevalence of ad-hominem, emotional appeals, anecdotal evidence, and other fallacies in today’s political discussions is deeply harmful to rational and compassionate decision-making.
President Obama gave a thoughtful response to Steve Inskeep’s question regarding political correctness, which has been cited by President-Elect Trump as a serious problem in America today. Mr. Obama’s full remarks on the topic were too lengthy to share here, but can be heard in the video starting at 40:00.
My advice to young people, and my advice to all of us as citizens, is to be able to distinguish between being curteous and being thoughtful and thinking about how words affect other people and not demonizing others versus having legitimate political debates and disagreements. – President Obama
As I discussed in greater detail here, President Obama is touching on the reality that the term “political correctness” is largely lost to us for any serious discussion going forward. It means too many different things to too many different people. It has become an epithet at best and an excuse for poor manners and hateful speech at worst. It has also served to inadequately address legitimate concerns about freedom of speech and expression in politics, the media, the classroom, and the dinner table.
Mr. Obama is also correct when he points out that hypersensitivity goes both ways politically. Being too easily offended and attempting to frame disagreement in terms of discrimination and hate is a problem for both the Left and the Right. While there are some progressives that might be hypersensitive to gender terminology, there are also conservatives that are offended when people say “Happy Holidays.” This kind of hypersensitivity is counter-productive to an open society.
Whether you liked Mr. Obama as president or not, he has observed issues that go beyond partisan divides and should be thought about carefully.
What do you think about President Obama’s remarks? What do you see as the most important takeaways? Comment, share, and subscribe if you have not already. Thank you for reading!