Former President Barack Obama warned of an increasing "politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment" in what he described as "strange and uncertain times" during a speech in South Africa Tuesday.
Obama, speaking at an event honoring the 100th anniversary of South African political leader Nelson Mandela's birth, described the recent political environment as protectionism and “barely hidden racial nationalism” in the west and authoritarianism in developing countries.
Such developments have been “on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago," he said.
Obama’s speech, one of his most significant since he left office in 2017, came one day after President Donald Trump embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election over his own intelligence community. The move sent some members of Trump's own party scrambling to distance themselves.
“Each days news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines,” Obama said.
Like other public appearances since he left office last year, Obama never said Trump’s name. Still, he appeared to rebuke the partisan politics that have come to define the Trump era.
“Look around you. Strongman politics are ascendent suddenly. Whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained — the form of it — but those in power seem to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning,” Obama said.
The world, Obama said, was at a crossroads. He described “two very different visions” of the future.
He expressed hope that people would move forward and align with the visions of Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.
“Let me tell you what I believe: I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision," he said. "I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multiracial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal."