In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired on Sunday, Obama was asked by CBS’ Scott Pelley what he meant by a passage in his new book, “A Promised Land,” in which he wrote: “Our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of a crisis.”
“We have gone through a presidency that disregarded a whole host of basic institutional norms, expectations we had for a president that had been observed by Republicans and Democrats previously,” Obama said.
“And maybe most importantly, and most disconcertingly, what we’ve seen is what some people call truth decay, something that’s been accelerated by outgoing President Trump, the sense that not only do we not have to tell the truth, but the truth doesn’t even matter.”
“Truth decay” is a phrase coined by researchers at the nonpartisan RAND Corporation think tank to describe “the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life.” A report about the term was on Obama’s 2018 summer reading list.
In an earlier interview with the BBC, Obama said Trump’s successor Joe Biden faces an enormous task in beginning to reverse the culture of “crazy conspiracy theories,” anger and resentment that has been amplified by some media outlets, “turbocharged” by social media, and boosted by Trump, who he said was willing to fan divisions because it was good for his politics.
“It’ll take more than one election to reverse those trends,” he says.
In Sunday’s interview, Obama also reflected on Trump’s refusal to accept his election loss, his persistent and baseless attacks on the electoral process, and the failure of many GOP officials to condemn it.
“I’m more troubled by the fact that other Republican officials who clearly know better are going along with this, are humoring him in this fashion,” he said. “It is one more step in delegitimizing not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy generally.
“And that’s a dangerous path. We would never accept that out of our own kids behaving that way if they lost, right? I mean, if my daughters, in any kinda competition, pouted and ― and then accused the other side of cheating when they lost, when there was no evidence of it, we’d scold ’em. I think that there has been this sense over the last several years that literally anything goes and is justified in order to get power.”