Obama Warns Democrats Against ‘Circular Firing Squads’
"We have to be careful in balancing big dreams and bold ideas with also recognizing that typically change happens in steps."
Former President Barack Obama is concerned that his party is tearing itself apart.
“The way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you,” he said at an Obama Foundation town hall event in Berlin, Germany. “And that by definition means you’re not going to get 100 percent of what you want.
“One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives,” he continued, “we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’ where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”New York Post, “Obama: Democrats are having a ‘circular firing squad’ over ‘purity'”
As a longtime Republican driven out from that party as it was gradually taken over by extremists, I’m sympathetic to this concern. And I worry that the Democratic Party will alienate moderates and make it easier for Donald Trump to be re-elected President.
That said, presidential primary season is when the out-party struggles to define its identity. It’s actually quite healthy that the Democrats are hearing from self-described socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez*, progressive capitalists like Elizabeth Warren, comparative conservatives like Joe Biden, and a panoply of other candidates who offer variations within the spectrum.
Ultimately, though, Obama seems to be suggesting moderation in tone and conservatism in style rather than any ideological prescription:
The former president said he believes this approach “weakens” movements, and that those that would like to see a progressive agenda “have to recognize that the way we’ve structured democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you.”
Obama ended his speech by advocating for patience and incremental change: “We have to be careful in balancing big dreams and bold ideas with also recognizing that typically change happens in steps. And if you want to skip steps, you can. Historically what’s ended up happening is sometimes if you skip too many steps you end up having bad outcomes.”Vox, “Barack Obama warns against a “circular firing squad” over ideological purity in politics”
He’s absolutely right about that.
*Yes, I’m aware she’s not running for the 2020 Democratic nomination; indeed, she’s Constitutionally ineligible because of her age. But she’s very much shaping the conversation and potentially part of the “firing squad” in question.