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Obama: Republican Party accepts 'unrecognizable and unacceptable' positions

Former President Obama told CNN on Monday that Republicans have been forced into accepting "unrecognizable and unacceptable" positions within their party.

Speaking with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Obama said he never thought the "dark spirits" that began to rise among Republicans during his two terms as president would later become the base of the party.

"I thought that there were enough guardrails institutionally that even after Trump was elected that you would have the so-called Republican established who would say, 'Ok, you know, it's a problem if the White House ... doesn't seem to be concerned about Russian meddling,' or 'It's a problem if we have a president who's saying that ... Neo-Nazis marching in Charlottesville, there's good people on both sides.'"

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Instead of calling out questionable behavior, Obama said the Republican establishment was "cowed into accepting" the statements that "would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago."

"We have to worry," Obama told Cooper, "when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago."

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While some Republicans at first balked at the mayhem that overtook the Capitol on Jan. 6, resulting in lawmakers and Vice President Pence scrambling for safety as a pro-Trump mob breached the Capitol building, many later walked back their comments and criticisms of former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE.

"And then poof, suddenly everybody was back in line," Obama said.

"I didn't expect that there would be so few people who would say, 'Well I don't mind losing my office because this is too important, America's too important, our democracy is too important,'" Obama said. "We didn't see that."

The former president said he still hoped that "the tides will turn," but added "it doesn't happen just automatically."