September 24, 2023

Editor’s Note: Listen to The Axe Files podcast for the full conversation between former President Barack Obama and his former senior adviser, David Axelrod.


The Republican Party should acknowledge issues of racial inequality in the US instead of continuing rhetoric that opportunities in the country are equal and fair, former President Barack Obama said in a newly released interview on “The Axe Files.”

Asked by David Axelrod about comments from 2024 Republican presidential candidate Sen. Tim Scott, who has said Republicans are “doing a fabulous job of making progress” on race, Obama said there should be an “honest accounting of our past and our present” within the GOP.

“I’m not being cynical about Tim Scott individually. I am maybe suggesting that the rhetoric of ‘can’t we all get along?’ – and those quotes you made about, you know, from my speech in 2004 about there’s a ‘United States of America’ – that has to be undergirded with an honest accounting of our past and our present,” Obama told Axelrod, his former senior adviser, adding that he hadn’t listened the South Carolina Republican’s 2024 campaign speeches.

“And so, if a Republican who may even be sincere in saying ‘I want us all to live together’ doesn’t have a plan for how do we address crippling generational poverty that is a consequence of hundreds of years of racism in this society and we need to do something about that. … If somebody is not proposing, both acknowledging and proposing elements that say, ‘No, we can’t just ignore all that and pretend as if everything’s equal and fair. We actually have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.’ If they’re not doing that, then I think people are rightly skeptical.”

The first Black US president continued, “And, you know, maybe there will come a time in which – and this goes to the point I made earlier about within the Republican Party – people who are actually more conservative in some fashion but are serious about working-class issues, there may come a time where there’s somebody in the Republican Party that is more serious about actually addressing some of the deep inequality that still exists in our society that tracks race and is a consequence of our racial history.”

Obama’s comments follow efforts by Republicans to restrict how race is taught in schools.

Scott, the only Black Republican in the US Senate, said earlier this month on ABC’s “The View” “both sides of the aisle can do a better job on the issue of race” and has pledged there would be “less CRT and more ABCs,” referring to so-called critical race theory, if he is elected president. Critical race theory, which is usually taught in college, seeks to understand and address inequality and racism in the United States.

Obama also suggested that the GOP needs to move beyond the populist grievance politics of former President Donald Trump, telling Axelrod the GOP has embraced “a cultural populism, the kind of populism that we talked about earlier: resentment, anger, you know, exploiting people’s sense that things are rigged.” He also said the Republican Party should have a “working-class version” that wasn’t “country club” and “big business.”


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