Obama: Worried That Progressives Are Creating "Circular Firing Squad" With Purity Tests And "Rigidity"


During an Obama Foundation town hall in Berlin on Saturday, former President Barack Obama said he was concerned that purity tests and ideological "rigidity" among progressives could weaken the American left.

BARACK OBAMA: What's true for me when I was a president or an elected official is going to be true for you as well, even within your own organizations.

One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States, maybe it's true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, "Uh, I'm sorry, this is how it's going to be," and then we start sometimes creating what's called a circular firing squad, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them is straying from purity on the issues.

And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens. So, I think whether you are speaking as a citizen or a political leader or an organizer in the nonprofit space or civic space or the political arena, you have to recognize that the way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don't agree with you. That by definition means you're not going to get 100% of what you want.

But you should take some time in your own mind to continually refine and reflect, "What are my core principles?"

Because when you don't know what your core principles are, that's when you compromise your principles away. So you have to know ahead of time, here's what I'm willing to compromise on, here are the things I am not. You can't set up a system in which you don't compromise on anything, but you also can't operate in a system where you compromise on everything. That requires a certain amount of internal reflection and deliberation.

Watch Obama's full town hall in Berlin:

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