Former presidents, especially popular ones, have a great luxury; they can say pretty much what they want and not worry about the political consequences.
With that in mind, consider what former President Barack Obama said during a recent Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. Obama called out the extremes of the woke movement.
“The idea of purity and you are never compromised, you are always politically ‘woke’ and all that stuff… you need to get over that,” Obama told the audience. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.”
That’s so simple, but also profound because it reflects the real world. We are all human and therefore flawed. People who are otherwise good make mistakes or even do bad things.
He also touched briefly on the issue of commonality. “People who you are fighting may love their kids,” he said.
That’s what we often lose in today’s super-heated dialog. It is quite possible, no it is likely, that you have more in common with someone you are arguing with than you care to admit.
That commonality can serve as a bridge. If warring factions acknowledge some shared values, they are less likely to see each other as evil. That’s critical because it’s impossible to find common ground with someone you believe to be morally wrong.
Obama then aimed his comments at young people who set themselves up as judge and jury of language or behavior that is not woke or politically correct.
He said it’s dangerous when young people, particularly on college campuses, believe the way to make change, particularly though social media, “is to be as judgmental as possible of other people.”
Obama said that leads to a feeling of self-satisfaction for simply calling people out, but “That’s not activism, that’s not bringing about change,” he said.
His words are important, and I hope they take hold. This is a “Nixon goes to China” moment for the left because of the source—a popular liberal former president who is calling out purity tests.
Jen Psaki, a former Obama White House Communications Director and political commentator, said on CNN, the Democratic Party should heed Obama’s warning and abandon the mentality of “If you don’t check every single box then you can’t be part of the party.”
Don’t think Obama has sold out. He’s still all about “hope and change.” However, he has the benefit of eight years of White House experience and a few years since to reflect on his time in office. He has lived messiness and ambiguity at its highest levels.
Jim Messina, a former adviser to Obama, said on Fox News that this is not a new message from the former President; it’s an ongoing admonishment to his party to avoid a circular firing squad during the Democratic Primary.
However, it also sounds like just good advice for all.