In what will be interpreted as a comment about the nature of the rivalry between different factions within the Democratic Party, the former president stressed the need for compromise.
“The way we structure democracy requires you to take into account people who don’t agree with you,” he said at an event in Berlin hosted by the Obama Foundation. “And that, by definition, means you’re not going to get 100 per cent of what you want.”
According to The Hill, he added: “One of the things I do worry about sometimes among progressives in the United States….is a certain kind of rigidity where we say, ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’, and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a “circular firing squad”, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.
“And when that happens, typically the overall effort and movement weakens.”
The 2016 Democratic presidential primary was marked by often bitter hostility between the camps of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Supporters of the Vermont senator considered her a Wall Street sell-out, while many of those backing the former secretary of state believed Mr Sanders was out of touch and campaigned for unrealistic policies.
As Democrats prepare to select a challenger to Donald Trump for 2020 – congressman Tim Ryan announced on Saturday he was joining the already crowded field – different factions are already becoming clear. Progressives such as Elizabeth Warren and Mr Sanders support policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Others, such as Beto O’Rourke and Cory Booker have adopted a more centrist position.
With perhaps as many as 20 Democratic candidates running in 2020, there is already a energetic fight underway for supporters and donations, something that will intensify as the contest progresses.
At the same time, Mr Obama said it was important for candidates to know what they stood for.
“You should take some time to think in your own mind and continually refine and reflect, ‘What are my core principles’,” he said. “Because the danger is if you don’t know what your principles are, that’s when you compromise your principles away.”
He added: “You can’t set up a system in which you don’t compromise on anything, but you also can’t operate in a system where you compromise on everything.”