Former President Barack Obama on Friday warned 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls to pay attention to what voters actually think — warning that most of them don’t want to “tear down the system.”
“The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it. And I think it’s important for us not to lose sight of that,” Obama said.
“There are a lot of persuadable voters and there are a lot of Democrats out there who just want to see things make sense. They just don’t want to see crazy stuff,” he said. “They want to see things a little more fair, they want to see things a little more just. And how we approach that I think will be important.”
The two-term Democratic president made the remarks at a gathering of the Democracy Alliance, a group of wealthy Democratic donors. He was interviewed by Stacey Abrams, who lost Georgia’s gubernatorial race last year.
Obama has largely stayed on the sidelines on the 2020 Democratic primary, and has not yet backed a candidate — even as former Vice President Joe Biden has invoked his name on numerous occasions. But Obama has made remarks indicating he is nervous about the drift to the extreme left on a number of issues by parts of the Democratic Party.
On Friday, he did not mention any candidates by name, but did cite immigration and health care reform as examples of where Democrats may be out of sync with the broader electorate.
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who have both released plans on immigration and “Medicare-for-all” respectively in recent weeks. Warren’s government-led overhaul of the health care system would eventually abolish private insurance and cost $52 trillion, while Sanders’ immigration plan includes radical policies including welfare for illegal immigrants and a moratorium on all deportations.
“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans, are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds,” Obama said.
The comment about Twitter feeds echoes remarks he made last month, when the former president took a swipe at “woke” virtue signalling and cancel culture, telling a Chicago audience to “get over” their obsessions with ideological purity tests.
“This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke, and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,” Obama said. “The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.”
Fox News’ Ronn Blitzer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.