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Obama, Bush React To Current State Of U.S. Politics

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WASHINGTON -

In a move, some call unprecedented, two former U.S. presidents blasted the state of politics on the same day Thursday.

Former President Obama hit the campaign trail in Richmond, Virginia, Thursday night to stump for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam at a campaign event for the Democratic nominee, his second campaign stop of the day for a gubernatorial candidate.

"America is a story of progress," Mr. Obama said. "Ralph Northam wants progress. He wants to take us forward, not backwards."

This election matters, "because our democracy is at stake, and it's at stake right here in Virginia," Mr. Obama continued. 

At a time when politics seems so "divided" and so "nasty," the question is whether voters can support and embrace a candidate like Northam who brings people together, the former president said. 
Northam faces Republican nominee Ed Gillespie on Election Day, November 7. The former president's speech started out calm, but eventually became louder and more passionate, reminiscent of the speeches Mr. Obama gave about equality and American values when he himself was a candidate and president.

"Folks don't feel good now about what they see," Mr. Obama said. Instead of politics reflecting values, politics are "infecting" communities, he claimed.

Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush on Thursday issued a thinly veiled warning about the state of American democracy under the current president, arguing that "bigotry seems emboldened" and politics is "more vulnerable" to conspiracy theories.

Speaking at the George W. Bush Institute's "The Spirit of Liberty: At Home, in the World," a national forum in New York City, the former president warned that the trend in Western countries of moving away from democratic confidence and global engagement is seeping into American culture.

Parts of Europe, Bush said, have developed an "identity crisis" as a result of economic stagnation, youth unemployment and fears about immigration.

"America is not immune from these trends," warned Bush, who noted that public confidence in U.S. institutions has declined in recent decades and discontent has "deepened and sharpened" partisan conflicts.

"Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories," he said. "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism."

Bush warned that the U.S. faces the return of isolationist ideology even though he said that American security is "directly threatened by the chaos and despair" of other nations around the world. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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