In an interview with Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now,” our dear brother, Dr. Cornel West, said that while he’s happy that Mitt Romney didn’t win the presidential election, our foreign policy is still imperialistic, politicians should be ashamed of spending billions on campaigns while people are living in poverty, and that President Barack Obama is nothing but a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”
I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.
But that’s not all.
He had some choice words for Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, as well. While the aforementioned scholars have been extremely vocal in their support of the Obama Administration, Tavis Smiley, who was interviewed along with Dr. West, said their support comes at the expense of critical thinking and a legitimate push for a Black agenda:
“…Lincoln isn’t Lincoln if Frederick Douglass isn’t pushing him. FDR isn’t FDR if A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt aren’t pushing him. LBJ isn’t LBJ if MLK isn’t pushing him.
“We don’t believe in making excuses. We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president. And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. But that doesn’t happen unless you’re pushed.”
Dr. West said that Smiley was just being “very kind,” and gave his opinion to Goodman, straight no chaser:
I love Brother Mike Dyson… but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.
Responding to Dyson’s statement that President Obama was “progressive,” Both Smiley and West said that President Obama is not, because to be progressive means taking risks, something that the president has not done.
“In the president’s forward motion in the second term to establish a legacy—and I don’t think that being president ought to be about a legacy; it ought to be about advancing the best for the American people. But in this conversation about his legacy, I want to see what risk he’s going to take. Is he going to put himself on the line for poor people? Is he going have an honest conversation about drones? As Doc said earlier, you know, is he ever going to say the word prison—the phrase, “prison-industrial complex”? Reagan wouldn’t say “AIDS.” Bush wouldn’t say “climate change.” Will Obama say “prison-industrial complex”? I mean, I want to know where the risk is that equates to being the most progressive president ever. That’s the—I don’t get that.”
These are legitimate critiques that all deserve to be addressed. What remains to be seen is will President Obama do so, and will Black voters turn out in 2014 to take back the House of Representatives so that he won’t be faced with the intense obstructionism of the last 4 years.
More importantly, will Smiley and West continue to face obstructionism from factions of the Black community that believe any criticism of the president amounts to treason. And will they ever realize that Black America is not a monolith and just because Dyson, Sharpton and Harris-Perry do not agree with them, it does not make them “sell-outs”?
While Dr. West speaks nothing but truth as it pertains to poverty and the need for this administration to transparently and pro-actively address it, one also has to wonder if our dear brother would be so upset at his colleagues with access to the White House if he had been given that ticket to the inauguration.