In his speech at the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth, Barack Obama made a veiled attack on Trump.
“Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning,” Obama said.
The former U.S. President opened his speech by declaring that we are in “strange and uncertain times”, and that too after an “entire generation has grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer and healthier and wealthier and less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes.”
Obama acknowledged that globalization has not all been good news, but has given rise to insecurity:
“And while globalization and technology have opened up new opportunities, have driven remarkable economic growth in previously struggling parts of the world, globalization has also upended the agricultural and manufacturing sectors in many countries. It’s also greatly reduced the demand for certain workers, has helped weaken unions and labor’s bargaining power. It’s made it easier for capital to avoid tax laws and the regulations of nation-states – can just move billions, trillions of dollars with a tap of a computer key.
And the result of all these trends has been an explosion in economic inequality. It’s meant that a few dozen individuals control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a statistic. Think about that. In many middle-income and developing countries, new wealth has just tracked the old bad deal that people got because it reinforced or even compounded existing patterns of inequality, the only difference is it created even greater opportunities for corruption on an epic scale. And for once solidly middle-class families in advanced economies like the United States, these trends have meant greater economic insecurity, especially for those who don’t have specialized skills, people who were in manufacturing, people working in factories, people working on farms.”
This insecurity felt by many proved false commentators’ declarations about the triumph of liberal democracy and led to brewing backlash – “a backlash that arrived in so many forms.”
This backlash was only made worse by the “devastating impact of the 2008 financial crisis, in which the reckless behavior of financial elites resulted in years of hardship,” he acknowledged.
He however said that only a liberal, progressive politics can free the people from hardships.
“The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies, the ones with the highest living standards and the highest levels of satisfaction among their people, happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal, progressive ideal that we talk about and have nurtured the talents and contributions of all their citizens,” Obama said.
Read the entire transcript of his speech here: Obama’s Speech At The 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture