Former US president Barack Obama has said that not just politicians, even the voters are divided now as the priority is to "beat the other guy" rather than discussing issues, facts and policies, and the current media environment adds to that greatly.
Obama, in an interview to CBS News on Sunday, said that they have to work with the media and the tech companies to find ways to inform the public better about the issues and bolster the standards to ensure that they can separate truth from fiction.
“The media landscape has changed. And as a consequence, voters' perceptions have changed. So that I think Democratic and Republican voters have become much more partisan,” the 59-year-old former president from the Democratic Party said. Responding to a question, Obama acknowledged that the country is very divided.
In the run up to the 2020 US presidential election, the political divide between the supporters of President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Biden got deeper with political analysts predicting that almost half of the US was likely to feel betrayed by the result.
Trump and Biden voters expressed strikingly different views on different issues. While Biden voters wanted the government to prioritise limiting the spread of the COVID-19, Trump supporters preferred an approach that focused on the economy.
Biden often appealed to a sense of national unity and the soul of America while Trump often described himself as a defender of his voters. He even threatened to withhold pandemic-related aid from states run by Democratic governors.
Obama said: “It’s not just the politicians now. The voters are divided. It has now become a contest where issues, facts, policies per se don't matter as much as identity and wanting to beat the other guy. You know, that's taken priority.
“I do think the current media environment adds to that greatly. This democracy doesn't work if we don't have an informed citizenry. This democracy doesn't work if we don't have responsible elected officials at other levels who are willing to call the president when he's not doing something right, call him on it”.
He said that there is a need to work at the local level.
“When you start getting to the local level, mayors -- county commissioners… they've actually got to make real decisions. It's not abstractions. It's like we need to fix this road. We need to get this snow plowed.
“We need to make sure our kids have a safe playground to play in.’ And at that level, I don't think people have that kind of -- visceral hatred. And that's where we have to start in terms of rebuilding the social trust, we need for democracy to work,” he added.