Obama criticizes GOP's embrace of 'unrecognizable' and 'unacceptable' ideas about democracy

Barack Obama.
(Image credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The Jan. 6 insurrection served as a reminder to Americans that "this experiment in democracy is not self-executing," former President Barack Obama told CNN's Anderson Cooper during an interview that aired Monday night. "It doesn't just happen automatically."

Obama told Cooper he's concerned about what is happening within the Republican Party and criticized GOP lawmakers who have been "cowed into accepting" outlandish positions. "We have to worry when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago," he said.

After supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to stop the certification of President Biden's electoral victory, several Republicans called out Trump for his role in the day's events. One of them, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said Trump "bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters," but he has since tried to rewrite what happened during the insurrection — and he's not the only one.

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Obama pointed out to Cooper that "poof, suddenly everybody was back in line," and there are now "large portions of an elected Congress going along with the falsehood that there were problems with the election." They changed their tune because the Republican base "believed it, and the base believed it because this had been told to them not just by the president, but by the media that they watch," Obama said. "My hope is that the tides will turn. But that does require each of us to understand that this experiment in democracy is not self-executing. It doesn't happen just automatically."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.