President Barack Obama took a trip down memory lane Wednesday, recalling more political collegiality in his home state of Illinois where he first held public office and decrying the fractious national political scene in Washington.
In a visit to Springfield, Illinois, he told the legislature, where he was a state senator before entering national politics, that he recalled Republicans and Democrats voting "against each other all the time," but that they also “trusted each other.”
“We didn’t call each other fascists and idiots,” Obama said, “because then we’d have to explain why we were playing poker with fascists and idiots.”
Now in the last year of his presidency, Obama has acknowledged his failure “to reduce the polarization and the meanness in our politics.”
Watch: President Barack Obama speaking in Springfield, Illinois.
He called for the elimination of the vast, unregulated sums of money being spent on U.S. political campaigns, creation of independent agencies to redraw congressional districts after the 2020 national population census, and easier rules for registering voters to encourage more citizen participation in government at all levels.
President Barack Obama, prior to his speech to the Illinois General Assembly, stops to greet people across from the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Ill., Feb. 10, 2016.
Obama lamented the harsh tone of American politics, even as he acknowledged the United States has a long history of candidates angrily calling each other foul names.
But he said, “We should insist on a higher form of discourse in our political life.”