Obama says Trump voters' alternative views divide the country

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – America’s deepening divisions are driven by the different mindset of President Donald Trump’s supporters and the conservative media that feeds those views, predecessor Barack Obama said on Sunday (Nov 15).

Mr Trump lost the popular vote to President-elect Joe Biden even though over 73 million Americans cast their ballots for him.

“The power of the alternative world view that’s presented in the media those voters consume – it carries a lot of weight,” Mr Obama said in an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning, his first interview since the Nov 3 election.

The former president didn’t cite a specific outlet, but he and Democrats have long criticised Fox News Channel, which features a weeknight line-up of conservative hosts including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, who’ve been ardent promoters of Mr Trump and his policies.

Mr Trump has turned on the cable news channel recently, blasting its election coverage for being insufficiently loyal, and suggesting in a tweet on Thursday that his supporters switch to more conservative choices such as OANN and NewsMax.

“They forgot the Golden Goose,” Mr Trump said. “The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

Mr Obama said the lack of consensus on the challenges the nation faces makes it difficult to make progress on them.

“It’s very hard for our democracy to function if we are operating on just completely different sets of facts,” he told CBS.

Full-Throated Attack

In the final weeks of the campaign Mr Obama played a prominent role, vigorously promoting Mr Biden during appearances in several states.

Mr Obama’s stump speech was a full-throated attack on his successor, in which he characterised Mr Trump as a man fixated on his ego, claiming credit when things went well and taking no responsibility for the pandemic.

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Mr Obama said that Mr Trump had breached norms and undermined institutional values, and that it was important for him to speak out.

Mr Trump has frequently been critical of Mr Obama’s tenure in office, something that Mr Obama said he didn’t take “personally or seriously” but that were “destructive and harmful” nonetheless. Among them was Mr Trump’s claim that he had done for for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.

Mr Obama noted his own difficulties in getting his programmes enacted while in office, citing income inequality, universal health care, climate change, immigration and criminal justice reform as things he wanted to get done but didn’t.

No ‘Speed Boat’

He said he learned early on that “the federal government, headed by the president, is an ocean liner, it is not a speed boat”. He added that the work his administration did accomplish may be more appreciated in 10 or 20 years than it is now.

That was due in part to Republican opposition that Mr Obama encountered while in office. The US$787 billion (S$1.06 trillion) stimulus Bill he proposed shortly after his inauguration, as a response to the 2008 financial crisis and recession, received votes from just three Republican senators.

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Mr Obama said he tried to improve his relationship with the GOP by doing everything from hosting Super Bowl parties to attending their caucus sessions, but with little result.

Mr Obama also discussed his family, life in the White House and after leaving it, and his new memoir, called A Promised Land. He’ll be interviewed again Sunday night on CBS’s 60 Minutes.

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