Former President George W. Bush criticized the current political environment and warned of a shift in the attitude of the country, saying Thursday "bigotry seems emboldened," while the nation's politics are "more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."
Speaking at a forum hosted by the George W. Bush Institute in New York City, the 43rd president spoke of the decline in public confidence in institutions, as well as the shifting support for democracy among young Americans, a change he said has occurred over the last few decades.
"Our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs. The American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who have been left behind. In a changing economy, discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts," Bush said.
"Bigotry seems emboldened, our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. There are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned, especially among the young who never experienced the galvanizing moral clarity of the Cold War or never focused on the ruin of entire nations by socialist central planning."
"Some have called this democratic deconsolidation, really it seems to be a combination of weariness, frayed tempers, and forgetfulness."
Bush also warned of the change in political discourse, which he said has been "degraded by casual cruelty," as well as the view of the U.S.'s role in the world, a veiled criticism of President Trump's "America First" worldview.
"We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America," the president said.
Bush went on to reject the white supremacy and bigotry that has been on display in recent months, particularly in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalist groups clashed with counter-protesters during the "Unite the Right" rally in August, and said these ideologies are counter to the "American creed."
He also denounced the "bullying and prejudice" on display and warned of the harm such actions are having on children.
"Bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation," he said. "We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools and our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children."