President Barack Obama said Tuesday that in the final year of his presidency, he has at least one major regret for his time in office.
In his final State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama lamented that he could not “fix our politics.”
“Democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter, that the system is rigged in favour of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest,” Obama said.
“Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
Obama placed much of the blame on the influence that campaigns has on congressional politics and the pressures of re-election, citing the influence of gerrymandering and campaign finance.
“There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber — good people — who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know — you’ve told me. It’s the worst kept secret in Washington.”
We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.
Obama’s comments on Tuesday reflect his frustration with not being able to seriously break partisan gridlock, one of the central tenants of his 2008 campaign.
In a 2008 debate with current Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, Obama suggested he was a far better candidate than Clinton to help bridge the divide between parties.
“I think I’m better as the nominee is that I can bring this country together I think in a unique way, across divisions of race, religion, region,” Obama said then.
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