Why Obama Is Worried About The Future Of The US Democracy And Economy

Written by Ann Brown

Many Americans — on all sides of the spectrum — have been wondering what’s to become of the U.S.

This is a question that seems to be on the mind of former President Barack Obama as well. During a recent appearance at a tech conference in Las Vegas hosted by identity security company Okta, Obama discussed his concerns about the future of the U.S.

While Obama said he was still hopeful that the country can solve its political divisiveness, he warned that if it is not resolved, the U.S. economy and democracy are at risk.

Obama said technology from mobile phones and social networks is “helping tear us apart, rather than bring us together,” Business Insider reported.

Obama’s remarks coincided with a new study that found it is not just the politicians who are divisive, but American citizens as well.

When some whites in America feel that the marginalized are benefiting from democracy, they tend to abandon their democratic beliefs in favor of authoritarianism, according to “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy” a working paper by political scientists Steven V. Miller of Clemson and Nicholas T. Davis of Texas A&M universities. This tendencey is most prevalent among GOP and Trump supporters, the authors wrote.

Obama said technology can create distance between people. When Okta CEO Todd McKinnon asked Obama his thoughts on the nature of identity these days, Obama replied: “We live in a culture today where everybody feels the crush of information and the collision of worlds.”

This is much different than our ancestors, who throughout most of history lived “their whole lives in the same basic geographic area where they were born, had a network of friends that stretched to maybe 150 people and lived in societies ‘with very clear rules and expectations,’ Obama said,” according to a Business Insider report.

But Obama added, “the great thing about the United States” is that we’ve had a head start because the U.S. is a nation of immigrants.

“We are a people that came from everywhere else, so we had to figure out how to join together and work together, not based on race, or religious faith or even, initially, language, but based on creed and a sense of principals,” Obama said.

The key to surviving as a culture, Obama said, is, “How do we maintain that sense of common purpose, our ‘in it together,’ as opposed to splintering and dividing? As we are seeing in some debates in social media and elsewhere, it’s harder to do today. But I think it becomes more necessary than ever, because if we don’t figure it out, not only will it be hard for our economy to survive but it is going to be hard for our democracy to survive.”

According to Obama, U.S. citizens need to relate to one another through the things we have in common, rather than look at the differences.

“Right now part of our polarization is that if you watch Fox News all day, or you read the New York Times, you are occupying two different realities. We have to be able to figure out, in this multiplicity of platforms, to have some common baseline of facts that allow us to meet and solve problems,” he said.

Tom Roest