Mr. Obama has written about how he saw “dark spirits” lurking on the edges of the GOP when he was in elected office, but said Monday he never envisioned establishment Republicans staying so silent as Mr. Trump trampled over political institutions and traditional norms.
“And then poof, suddenly everybody was back in line,” Mr. Obama said Monday on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”
“Now the reason for that is because the base believed it, and the base believed it because this had been told to them not just by the president, but by the media that they watch, and nobody stood up and said ‘Stop! This is enough, this is not true,’” Mr. Obama said.
The Democratic former president said some Republicans deserve credit - including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — for calling out Mr. Trump’s bogus claims.
Unfortunately, their reward has been getting “viciously attacked,” he said.
“All those congressmen started looking and said, ‘You know what, I’ll lose my job. I will get voted out of office,’” Mr. Obama said.
“Another way of saying this is I didn’t expect that there would be so few people who would say, ‘Well, I don’t mind losing my office because this is too important. America is too important.’”
Mr. Trump stunned the political establishment in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton, riding an anti-establishment sentiment that Mr. Obama helped foment.
“When that is all done against the backdrop of a large number of Republicans having been convinced wrongly that that was something fishy about the last election, we have got a problem,” Mr. Obama said.
“I think we have to worry when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago,” he said.
Mr. Obama attributed the increased polarization of politics to the “nationalization of media and the nationalization of politics,” as well as the growing “economic stratification and segregation” in public schools.
“All that has contributed to the sense that we don’t have anything in common,” he said. “So much of our work is going to have to involve not just policy, but it is also: How do we create institutions and occasions in which we can come together and have a conversation?”
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