Former President Barack Obama on Friday criticized some of the recent voting laws passed by state legislatures, saying they are trying to "further suppress the vote or allow partisan politics to infect" elections.
"We're now seeing state legislatures try to further suppress the vote or allow partisan politics to infect voting results and election results. That troubles me," Obama told "Good Morning America" in an interview on Friday.
He added that he’s also troubled by income inequality in the country, and spends much of his time at night wondering: "How can we increase minimum wages? How can we ensure that if you work hard in this country, you can make it? How does our democracy get refreshed and updated so that it continues to work effectively as we become a more diverse society?"
Obama said that he has faith that the younger generation currently fighting for equal rights will find "a way back" towards unity.
"We've gotta do a better job of reducing the influence of those who try to inflame division and traffic in conspiracy theories for their own benefit," he said. "If we can't agree on basic facts then it's very hard for us to negotiate and compromise in a way that is constructive."
The former president said that "How we change that dynamic is gonna require, I think, a level of the public paying attention and insisting and demanding their elected officials and people in the media just, you know, saving our democratic habits and practices in a way that we have not seen."
He also described rhetoric that aims to delegitimize the election process is a "threat to democracy," and noted that the country’s major political parties have drifted even further apart in recent years.
"If you are fighting for dignity and human rights and inclusion and opportunity, there's always gonna be resistance in a big, complicated society like ours. The question is, are we able to maintain a process in which we listen to other voices?" Obama said. "If we lose, we say, 'As long as the process was fair, then I guess we gotta go out there and persuade more people to our side.'"
"There's a give and take," he added. "In our world of hot takes and Twitter, [there's an effort to] demonize the other side as much as possible. Sometimes, we think somehow the compromise and listening and working together is wrong."
Obama also said that he "could not be prouder of the young activists who responded to the George Floyd murder and so many of the other incidents that we've seen over the last several years."
He added, "You had a level of white participation in those protests that you never saw, even at the height of the civil rights movement back in the '60s. … The key now is to translate that righteous anger and frustration and sadness into concrete policies.
"When you look at our history, it happens from the bottom up. It happens because of [the] multiplicity of voices. Because none of us alone have all the answers," Obama continued. "A thousand people who are organized, they can change the law in a city. A couple thousand folks who mobilize, they can have an impact at the state level. And a handful of people who are determined, they can change a neighborhood."
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