Amid a fervent presidential contest to replace him, President Barack Obama renewed calls for civility in politics amid divisiveness that he said has dominated the country’s political discourse and pushed people away from the political process.
“I’ll be the first to admit that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better, but worse,” Obama said in his weekly address that was taped during his visit to the Illinois state capitol Wednesday and released on Saturday. “Too many people feel like the system is rigged and their voices don’t matter. And when good people are pushed away from participating in our public life, more powerful and extreme voices will fill the void.”
Underlining the need to change America’s political culture, he added that lawmakers could do more to bridge the partisan divide and address crucial issues that undermine the electoral system, including the influence of corporate donations in elections and gerrymandering of congressional districts.
Obama also used the address to call on states to adopt laws that would allow citizens to automatically register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license. Currently, only California and Oregon have automatic voter registration systems.
“It convinced me that if we just approached our politics the same way we approach our daily lives, with common sense, a commitment to fairness and the belief that we’re all in this together, there’s nothing we can’t do,” said Obama.
Reflecting on his second term, the president admitted he should have done more to bridge the partisan gap between Republicans and Democrats. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday after addressing the Illinois General Assembly, where he served before becoming a U.S. senator en route to the White House, Obama said: “There is no doubt that every step of the way, every day that I’m in that office, maybe I could have done that a little better.”
Still, in his weekly address, he said, “Nine years after I first announced for this office, I still believe in a politics of hope.”