Politics

Obama: Political Polarization ‘Gnaws on Me’

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired this week that the one thing from his presidency that "gnaws" on him is how politically divided the country has become.

The president expressed regret that he could not bring Republicans and Democrats together despite campaigning in 2008 as a unifying force.

"The one thing that gnaws on me is the degree of polarization," Obama told CBS correspondent Lee Cowan in an interview that aired Sunday.

"This has gotten worse over the last several years," Obama continued. "And I think that in those early years], my expectation was that we could pull the parties together a little more effectively."

Obama's comments come as, according to Cowan, even the president's supporters think he has shown "inability to be the unifying force that he had promised."

"Do you wish you hadn’t campaigned so hard on that promise?" Cowan asked.

"That’s what the American people believe, and that's what I still believe," Obama said.

Obama also expressed regret that the country had become more divided during his final State of the Union address earlier this month, but said he was optimistic that the polarization could change. He called on both political parties to compromise and come closer together.

Both liberal and conservative commentators have noted how the country is more politically polarized than ever before, with the effect that lawmakers on Capitol Hill have had trouble compromising on key legislation.

Racial divisions have reemerged during Obama’s tenure as events in places like Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri have raised tensions between black communities and local police departments.

The divide between the rich and the poor has also become a focus of political rhetoric, with all three Democratic presidential candidates campaigning on the issue of income inequality and promising to change an economic system they say unfairly favors the wealthy.

President Obama said in another interview that he regrets how divided Congress and the country have become during his presidency, adding that the divisions should not be overblown. Obama said that the United States has recovered from periods of deep polarization.

"It’s been pretty divided in the past. There have been times where people beat each other with canes, and we had things like the Civil War. So, there have been times where it has been pretty rough," Obama said.