Day After Trump-Putin Meeting, Obama Warns Against Rise of “Strongman Politics”

He also decried the “utter loss of shame among political leaders.”

Themba Hadebe/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

In his first major speech since leaving office, former President Barack Obama issued a stern warning against the rise of “strongman politics,” while urging the world to choose a democratic vision based on equality and justice in response to such threats. The former president was speaking from an event in South Africa honoring Nelson Mandela, which came just one day after President Donald Trump openly sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over US intelligence agencies.

“Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly,” Obama said. “Elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

He also denounced the current erosion of facts and the politicians who knowingly spread misinformation. “We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more,” Obama said. “It used to be that if you caught them lying, they’d be like, ‘oh man!’ Now they just keep on lying.”

In keeping with his previous remarks since leaving the White House, Obama did not mention Trump by name. But the primary target of his criticism was clear. 

The speech concluded on an optimistic note with Obama’s signature vision of hope, as he urged the world to seek the path of past leaders, such as Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Abraham Lincoln.

“I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy based on a premise that all people are created equally.” He added, “I believe we have no choice but to move forward, that those of us who believe in democracy and civil rights have a better story to tell.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest