Speaking at a tech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, former President Barack Obama had some rather frank things to say about the current state of democracy globally. And while Obama never mentioned Trump by name, some of his remarks seem directed at the current president.
On the larger global stage, pushback against political elites and global institutions is arguably fanning the flames of anti-democracy movements. In the upcoming EU parliamentary elections, for example, anti-EU parties are poised for big wins. EU-skeptic parties have been steadily gaining ground in several EU countries, and hold power in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere.
Amid all the turmoil, Obama noted: “I like the rule of law, democracy, competency, and facts. Those things aren’t partisan but they also don’t happen automatically. Democracy is a garden that has to be tended.”
Another major theme of Obama’s remarks was leadership. Obama noted that one of the most important things a leader could do is surround him or herself with competent experts. And just as important, Obama notes, you have to “Have confidence that you can understand what they are saying and if not, you’ll keep on asking questions until you do.”
On the other hand, it’s tempting for leaders to “start feeling, ‘I have every answer.’ When in fact, most of the time you have not.” Obama also claimed that he based his own presidency on “facts and reason and logic.”
Like most former presidents, Obama has been keeping a low profile, at least as far as politics is concerned. With the 2020 Presidential race heating up, Obama could take a more activist approach, but so far has been reticent to weigh in. Whether or not that stays true as the year wears on, however, remains to be seen.