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Former President Barack Obama speaking in Miami in November 2020. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Former President Obama said in an interview with BET that the U.S. today is more fractured than when he first ran for president in 2008 — divided along "political, cultural, ideological and geographical lines that seem to be deeper than just differences in policy."

Why it matters: To mend the faults and protect the longevity of U.S. democracy, Obama said he believes it requires "active citizenship and sustained focus on the issues — not just in an election season, but all the days in between."

What they're saying: Obama said today's political divisions are in part a result of changes in how people get their news, how information is disseminated on social media platforms and the rise of misinformation.

  • "I've spoken about this before, but if you watch Fox News, you perceive a different reality than if you read The New York Times. And those differences have been amplified by social media, which allows people to live in bubbles with other people who think like them," the former president told BET.
  • "Until we can agree on a common set of facts, until we can distinguish between what’s true and what’s false, then the marketplace of ideas won’t work. Our democracy won’t work."

The big picture: Obama said communities of color in the U.S. that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and witnessed multiple instances of police brutality over the past few years "need to keep marching, keep speaking up, keep voting" and fighting against cynicism.

  • "It’s a lot for anybody, especially with the instances of police violence and other reminders of the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment that we’ve seen over the past year. And it can make you wonder if things will ever get better," he said.
  • "But I also know this: the people who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to convince you that your vote, and your voice, doesn’t matter. That’s how they win."

Go deeper: Obama, Shaq and Barkley urge communities of color to get COVID vaccine

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.