Blistering Cornel West on Obama’s war against the black prophetic tradition

As you may know, there’s a war going on in the black community, and Barack Obama is at the center of it. We’ve done some reporting on it ourselves. For example:

Cornel West on Obama — “Obama Deception: Why Cornel West Went Ballistic”

Eddie Glaude on Cornel West and “The Obama Deception”

Ed Schultz interviews Cornel West & Melissa Harris-Perry on the criticism of Obama from the black community

Weekend thoughts: Cornel West and Tavis Smiley on Obama 2013

From the outside the gist is this (written in mid-2011):

A number of communities have felt betrayed lately by Obama and the Democrats in general — it’s foolish not to admit that. Gays, Latinos, immigrants, progressives, advocates for the poor, and blacks; all have a sense of checks cashed and promises unkept.

Of these, only one is in a kind of criticism-trap: blacks. Obama is not gay and he’s not an immigrant. Immigrants and gays can pressure him from the outside, and he can respond accordingly. They can say, “You betrayed your promises” and he can say, “No I didn’t.” A simple conversation.

But Obama is black, both in reality and in white perception. When blacks say to him, “You betrayed your promises,” he or his supporters can say, “And you are betraying a brother by saying this.” Not a simple conversation. In addition, blacks are the only group being accused by whites of playing “identity politics” in criticizing Obama. It’s a powerful killer of opposition from that quarter.

Criticizing Obama from the black square is an interesting chess problem, different from criticizing him from the Latino square. Something for you fans of eight-dimensional politics to consider.

And here’s what it looks like to someone on the inside, like Dr. Cornel West, again from 2011 (my emphasis):

“This [the aftermath of the 2008 election] was maybe America’s last chance to fight back against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats, to generate some serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment,” West laments. “We are squeezing out all of the democratic juices we have. The escalation of the class war against the poor and the working class is intense. More and more working people are beaten down. They are world-weary. They are into self-medication. They are turning on each other. They are scapegoating the most vulnerable rather than confronting the most powerful. It is a profoundly human response to panic and catastrophe. I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone.

“Can you imagine if Barack Obama had taken office and deliberately educated and taught the American people about the nature of the financial catastrophe and what greed was really taking place?” West asks. “If he had told us what kind of mechanisms of accountability needed to be in place, if he had focused on homeowners rather than investment banks for bailouts and engaged in massive job creation he could have nipped in the bud the right-wing populism of the tea party folk. The tea party folk are right when they say the government is corrupt. It is corrupt. Big business and banks have taken over government and corrupted it in deep ways.

Obama lying to Leno: "We don't have a domestic spying program."

Obama lying to Leno: “We don’t have a domestic spying program.”

“We have got to attempt to tell the truth, and that truth is painful,” he says. “It is a truth that is against the thick lies of the mainstream. In telling that truth we become so maladjusted to the prevailing injustice that the Democratic Party, more and more, is … thoroughly complicitous with some of the worst things in the American empire. I don’t think in good conscience I could tell anybody to vote for Obama. If it turns out in the end that we have a crypto-fascist movement and the only thing standing between us and fascism is Barack Obama, then we have to put our foot on the brake. But we’ve got to think seriously of third-party candidates, third formations, third parties.

Put all this together and you can see the storm it raises.

Dr. West is part of a tradition of black truth-tellers, a tradition that’s being silenced

Now comes Hedges again to broaden the context of this disagreement to the full “black prophetic tradition.” If you know your black history and writers, you know what this means. If you don’t, this is an excellent introduction.

Hedges via Truth-out (my emphasis as paragraphing):

Cornel West and the Fight to Save the Black Prophetic Tradition

There is an insidious and largely unseen effort by the White House to silence the handful of voices that remain true to the black prophetic tradition. This tradition, which stretches back to Sojourner Truth and  Frederick Douglass, has consistently named and damned the cruelty of imperialism and white supremacy. It has done so with a clarity and moral force that have eluded most other critics of American capitalism.

President Barack Obama first displayed his fear of this tradition when he betrayed his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, abetting the brutal character assassination of one of the church’s most prophetic voices. And he has sustained this assault, largely through black surrogates such as the Rev. Al SharptonTom Joyner and Steve Harvey, in vicious attacks on Cornel West.

Jeremiah Wright was the canary in the mine,” West said when we met a few days ago in Princeton, N.J. “The black prophetic tradition has been emptied out. Its leaders have either been murdered or incarcerated. … A lot of political prisoners who represent the black prophetic tradition [are] in jail. They have been in there for decades. Or we have leaders who have completely sold out. They have been co-opted. And these are the three major developments. With sold-out leaders you get a pacified followership or people who are scared.”

obama_gives_them_social_security_Braveheart_THUMBThe black prophetic tradition has been the leaven in the American democratic loaf,” West said. “What has kept American democracy from going fascist or authoritarian or autocratic has been the legacy of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Martin King, Fannie Lou Hamer. This is not because black people have a monopoly on truth, goodness or beauty. It is because the black freedom movement puts pressure on the American empire in the name of integrity, decency, honesty and virtue.”

The tradition is sustained by a handful of beleaguered writers and intellectuals, including Glen Ford and his Black Agenda Report, James ConeCarl DixBruce DixonBoyce WatkinsYvette CarnellRobin KelleyMargaret KimberleyNellie Bailey, the Rev. Michael PflegerMaulana KarengaAjamu Baraka and Wright, but none have the public profile of West, who is routinely attacked by Obama’s black supporters as a “race traitor,” the equivalent of a “self-hating Jew” to hard-line supporters of Israel.

It is understandable why this tradition frightens Obama. It exposes him as the ideological heir of Booker T. Washington, a black accommodationist whose core message to black people was, in the words of W.E.B. Du Bois, “adjustment and submission.”

The wide swath of destruction Obama has overseen on behalf of the corporate state includes the eradication of most of our civil liberties and our privacy, the expansion of imperial war, the use of kill lists, abject subservience to Wall Street’s criminal class and the military-industrial complex, the relentless persecution of whistle-blowers, mass incarceration of poor people of color and the failure to ameliorate the increasing distress of the poor and the working class.

His message to the black underclass in the midst of the corporate rape of the nation is drawn verbatim from the Booker T. Washington playbook. He tells them to work harder—as if anyone works harder than the working poor in this country—and obey the law.

“Obama is the highest manifestation of the co-optation that took place,” West said. “… Forty percent of our babies are living in poverty, living without enough food, and Obama comes to us and says quit whining. He doesn’t say that to the Business Roundtable. He doesn’t say that to the corporate elites. He doesn’t say that to AIPAC, the conservative Jewish brothers and sisters who will do anything to support the Israeli occupation against Palestinians. This kind of neglect in policy is coupled with disrespect in his speeches to black folk, which the mainstream calls tough love.”

“He is a shell of a man,” West said of Obama. “There is no deep conviction. There is no connection to something bigger than him. It is a sad spectacle, sad if he were not the head of an empire that is in such decline and so dangerous. …

William Trotter and Du Bois, along with Ida B. Wells-Barnett, were going at Book T [Booker T. Washington] tooth and nail. Look at the fights between [Marcus] Garvey and Du Bois, or Garvey and A. Philip Randolph. But now if you criticize Obama the way Randolph criticized Garvey, you become a race traitor and an Uncle Tom. A lot of that comes out of the Obama machine, the Obama plantation.”

(Note the name Glen Ford in the quote above, by the way. I have an Obama archeology project under way, Barack before he left Chicago, and Ford has a piece of it. Stay tuned.)

This is amazing stuff, amazingly courageous, and in my opinion, entirely correct. Please read the whole piece. It’s strong and right-on.

For example, on Martin Luther King and Obama, West says: “We see the richest prophetic tradition in America desecrated in the name of a neoliberal worldview, a worldview King would be in direct opposition to.”

The “neoliberal worldview” (and the neoliberal project) is deeply anti-democratic and deeply unhuman. It’s also, with its almost military notion of collateral damage — think “winners and losers in the globalization game” — deeply pathological.

I’ll have much more on neoliberalism, its BFF predatory capitalism, and the economic system that can and must replace it in a few weeks. In the meantime, thanks to all who stand with us against it.

Carry on, Dr. West. And you, Mr. Hedges. Some of us, at least, have your backs.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States. Click here for more. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius and Facebook.

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  • Kim_Kaufman

    A couple of weeks ago Sam Seder repeated a joke that Mark Maron told right before the 2008 election (“Maron’s only good joke,” said Seder): “This election will be historic! Now African-Americans will get the opportunity to be screwed over by one of your own.” That, to me, is the very definition of “post racial politics.” Welcome to the Senate, Cory Booker, et al. Btw, email Sam to get the exact wording of the joke, I may not remember it totally correctly but the substance of it is correct.

  • Stanley_Krute

    Cornel West could not be elected dog-catcher. He’s a fool.

  • http://wattree.blogspot.com Eric L. Wattree

    Thank you, Karmanot.

  • Dustee

    Agreed, we all have issues in common, that was why we disagreed with Smiley and West. So they continue to go around spreading their hatred for this President.

  • mirror

    Dude I checked out your blog. I can see no one with any criticism of Obama is going to make much headway with you.

    “While we’re looking back 5000 years to find great Black kings, queens, and conquers, we have one of the greatest men in history – and not just Black history, but in ALL of history – walking right here among us.” [etc. etc.]

    http://wattree.blogspot.com/2013/09/obama-unique-historic-figure.html

    But you could at least have the courtesy to address the content of the posts you comment on instead of just cutting and pasting long pieces and rants from your blog like you did here.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It runs in the family. Pierce is Barbara Bush’s great grandfather.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Thank you for the thesis. “These two are shameless”—thank god for that!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Aren’t you special.

  • Black Guy in DC

    This is really revealing.

    You are saying President Obama — a man with a serious list of accomplishments before he even entered politics — has no agency or ability to make his own decisions. You are saying that President Obama is sitting in the Oval Office waiting to be told by others what he should do, because he lacks capacity to think for himself or the authority inherent in his office to compel or direct the people beneath him in the chain of command to act out his instructions.

    Intentionally or not, you are speaking symbolically of President Obama as a slave. You completely dehumanized him.

    There is ample room for disagreement on his actions as President. But to completely ignore the man’s obvious intelligence, leadership, and human agency because he uses them in ways you disagree with is just insulting. Even if you are doing so just to score points from blog commenters.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Sorry, It’s the U6 rate of unemployment. “The U6 unemployment rate counts not only people without work seeking full-time employment (the more familiar U-3 rate), but also counts “marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons.” Note that some of these part-time workers counted as employed by U-3 could be working as little as an hour a week. And the “marginally attached workers” include those who have gotten discouraged and stopped looking, but still want to work. The age considered for this calculation is 16 years and over.”

  • Jerry Burke

    Right, but MLK didn’t go around whining about how all of his “allies” let him down. Cornel West cares about making sure Cornel West gets his press. I enjoy his work and value his insight, but like most philosophy majors who starred in the two “Matrix” sequels, he’s a thinker, not a doer.

  • Black Guy in DC

    I am thoroughly enjoying your ability to, as Joe Madison says, “put it where the goats can get it.”

    These two are out for self, desperate and increasingly unhinged. They are totally frittering away the smarts and capacity they have to help the Black community, due to either an inability to see or total disregard for the “optics” of their attacks on President Obama.

    I’d like to see West and Smiley take their act from corporate-sponsored events into your average barbershop or HBCU faculty lounge. I doubt they’d want to televise that conversation. (I would actually prefer them to go there, get shellacked, and have no media reports of the thing at all.)

    On a side note, did you notice how the original Gaius Publius piece included a shout out to Maulana Karenga?

    Maulana Karenga?! A man who actively — literally — fought the Black Panthers, kidnapped and tortured women in his own organization, and created a sham “African” holiday is lauded for his Black Radical bona fides?

  • Ford Prefect

    Great point! We’ll take him off the list. Unless of course he lights a fire in Syria, in which case Trail of Tears will definitely apply to the 22 million people in that country. And Jordan. And the Kurds. And others as well.

  • http://wattree.blogspot.com Eric L. Wattree

    Absolutely,
    I’m an educated hood rat. My father was a drug dealer and my son is a federal agent. I think that would qualify me as multi-dimensional.

  • Black Guy in DC

    From your thoughtful comments, I take it you know and interact with actual, multi-dimensional Black people.

  • Clevelandchick

    Bingo.

  • Clevelandchick

    West is not wrong. By not taking on the crooks on Wall Street, by not doing anything to actually help bot the poor and middle class in this country – it’s not just black people he betrayed but everyone who voted for him. From the environment to drug policy, from fiscal policy to the safety net, Obama has not been on our side. But Obama is not alone, he’s enabled by his party.

    I only voted for him a second time because Romney would hasten our demise. Republicans refuse to work with Obama which at least keeps bad policy from being enacted. Democrats would have cooperated with Republicans under a Romney presidency, just like they did under Bush. As disappointed as I am with Obama, I don’t think he’s even outside of the mainstream of the Democratic Party anymore. Save a few exceptions, we don’t even have true Democrats left in office.

  • http://wattree.blogspot.com Eric L. Wattree

    Mirror,

    No, Mirror, exposing Tavis and West is not my occupation, but if you’re suggesting that I’m on a mission, you’re absolutely right. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West represent a flaw in our culture that’s been disabling the Black community for over 400 years, When I first recognized what they were engaged in, I said someone needed do something, but when I found that to tantamount to spitting in the wind, I decided that “someone” had to be me. And since I don’t have access to the mainstream media, I’ve used the internet as my weapon of choice.
    .
    The hostility that Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have for President Obama is so transparent that if it were glass we would have walked right through it and cut ourselves to shreds. These two are shameless, and it’s not only a national disgrace how the establishment media is allowing them to prance around posing as the savior of the poor and middle class, but they’re actually helping them to perpetuate this fraud by providing them constant coverage and millions of dollars worth of publicly supported air time.
    .
    These two thought that they were gonna become the Grand Dragons of the Black Community – which is a very profitable gig when you’re in the business of selling ALEC-connected corporations access to the Black community like Tavis Smiley. Tavis is the biggest corporate shill in the Black community. He fronts for Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, Exxon/Mobile, Allstate Ins., Nationwide Ins., etc. – a veritable who’s who of the corporations that are most responsible for victimizing the poor and middle class in the country, and who are spending millions of dollars to obstruct minority voter rights. That’s what makes it so ironic that they’re trying to portray themselves as the saviors of “the poor minorities.”
    .
    During Obama’s first campaign for president Smiley and West had already hitched their wagons to Hillary Clinton. She was 37 points ahead of Obama in the Black community at the time, so they were all set to gain the clout, prestige, and riches of having presidential access and being acknowledged as the new grand viziers of the Black community. But then, Obama won the election – in spite of their most ardent efforts – and caught them by surprise. In fact, Cornel West tried to jump the fence and began campaigning for Obama when it became clear that Obama might actually win, but Obama wasn’t having it. That’s what caused the controversy over West not being invited to the inaugural celebration.
    .
    At the time, West tried to frame the issue like Obama was an ingrate for not inviting him to the inauguration after he campaigned for him. But he failed to mention the fact that less than an hour after Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States West went on national television and told the Black community that Obama couldn’t be trusted..
    .
    That’s right – on the very day that Obama went to Springfield, Illinois to maximize the historic significance of announcing his candidacy for president in the shadow of Lincoln’s former statehouse instead of coming on Tavis’ “State of the Black Union” jibfest, West stood up and did an impassioned rant indicating that Obama couldn’t be trusted to be president because he didn’t come on the Tavis Smiley show, as though Tavis was the gatekeeper of the Black community – and all the while Tavis is standing there grinnin’ like a chess cat as though they’d caught Obama committing some sort of unconscionable act.
    .
    Look at the video below and notice how entitled West sounds, as though it was more appropriate for Obama to come kiss Tavis’ ring than to announce his candidacy in the shadow of Lincoln’s former statehouse. I remember becoming slack-jawed at his unmitigated arrogance. Up until that moment I had been a big fan of both Tavis and West, but that was when I first realized that they were egomaniacal fools. That was also the morning that I started investigating them, and I’ve written nearly 30 articles on them since.
    .
    .The video is also ironically prophetic. Notice how even as West is lecturing the nation on how Obama is surrounding himself with people who can’t be trusted, you can see Wells Fargo and Exxon/Mobil logos floating by in the background behind him. What makes that so prophetically ironic is Tavis was later involved in the Wells Fargo “Ghetto Loans” scam, where Wells Fargo ended up having to settled a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice agreeing to pay poor and middle-class minorities $175 million as a result of the scam. This is the biggest scandal EVER perpetrated by a Black man on the Black community, but the establishment media is refusing to cover it. That’s why I’ve become so fixated on bringing the machinations of these two demagogues to the attention of the Black community.
    .
    http://wattree.blogspot.com/2013/03/beneath-spin-eric-l_24.html

  • flocculent

    axis labels?

  • mirror

    Tavis Smiley used to bore the hell out of me because he seemed like such a mainstream Black Democrat, following the party line. That is why I was surprised when he was in a fairly early group of name Democrats who called out Obama for being somebody very different from who he said he was going to be. We wanted so much for Obama to be a man of vision, courage, and integrity at a time that needs a great leader, but he simply isn’t. It is hard to accept this after feeling that glow of hope following the despair that set in by the end of the Bush years…

  • Bill_Perdue

    Capitalism has been regressive since it’s inception and the organized fight against it began 165 years ago. http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/

  • http://wattree.blogspot.com Eric L. Wattree

    Tavis Smiley and Cornel West – ‘Bligoted’ Turncoats Without A Home
    .
    Why are Tavis Smiley and Cornel West always so racially inflammatory when referring to the policies of President Obama? Every comment they make seems to be hostile, disrespectful, and racially slanderous. Cornel West, who was alleged to be an intelligent man, doesn’t seem to be able to open his mouth without alluding to “Black puppets,” “house negros,” or referring to people who disagree with him as being on “Obama’s plantation.”
    .
    They claim to want to be taken seriously, yet, they just can’t seem to bring themselves to say, “MR. PRESIDENT, I think you’re making a serious error. Here are the reasons why,” and then going on to engage in an intelligent and constructive discussion of the issues. Instead, they rant and rave and name-call in a way that they never did against neither Bush, nor Clinton.
    .
    So are these two individuals really interested in the issues they’re discussing, or are they simply using the political issues as a pretext to attack President Obama the man? Their strident behavior is clearly not simply an oversight on their part, because in response to comedian, Steve Harvey, referring to Smiley and West as ‘Uncle Toms,’ Cornel West said the following:
    .
    “When you’re trying to talk about issues that affect the people, name calling get’s in the way. Name calling is nothing but another weapon of mass distraction.” – Cornel West. (http://www.eurweb.com/2011/08/steve-harvey-ain%e2%80%99t-sorry-about-what-he-said-except-the-uncle-tom-thing/)
    .
    So what’s the deal with these two. Why are they KNOWINGLY barraging America, and the Black community, with their “weapons of mass distraction?”
    .
    Based on their own definition, Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are deeply engaged in a game of mass distraction. They’re not only PURPOSELY lending comfort to the enemies of the Black community – after all, PRESIDENT OBAMA is the most powerful symbol of Black competence in the world – but they’re also slapping the Black community in the face in the process, because every time they’re disrespectful of the president, FOX News and every White racist and bigot across this country take that and run with it. They say, “We told you that Black people are incapable of handling power – they don’t even have any respect for Obama themselves.” . . . (MORE)

    http://wattree.blogspot.com/2013/09/tavis-smiley-and-cornel-west-bligoted.html

  • Black Guy in DC

    I fail to see the President Obama or any other human being is such narrow terms. Seriously.

    Isn’t he BOTH the President who backs unconscionable drone strikes and NSA surveillance AND the President who nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court?

    Didn’t Sen. Ted Kennedy (plenty of both/and with that guy, may he RIP) introduce the original FISA?

    Can Cornel West have a personal beef and legit criticism? Can his anger be rooted in both the personal and political (in fact feeding on one another)?

    Can I call out West’s grotesque caricatures of President Obama and also disagree with some if the President’s policies?

    Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes. And much more.

  • neroden

    Mmm. It’s interesting to realize that capitalism has gotten far, far worse since MLK was saying what he said.

  • neroden

    Reminds me of Franklin Pierce. The Free Soilers had *seemingly* been discredited, and everyone united behind Pierce, but Pierce was an unmitigated disaster. The next election saw the explosive rise of the brand-new Republican Party.

  • neroden

    Ah, but Obama is really very unlike Andrew Jackson, who was a terrible President (Trail of Tears! Abolishing the Bank of the US! Murdering people!). Jackson terrible in a very *decisive*, *independent*, and *action-oriented* way.

    This is the exact opposite of President Obama’s “I’ll just do whatever what these military men, NSA directors, Republican Senators, and rich bankers tell me to do”.

  • neroden

    As far as I can tell, President Obama is President For the NSA and the Military-Industrial Complex.

    Around the time when West soured on Obama, Obama voted for the FISA Amendments Act. And then Obama lied about what was in that act. Did you notice that? Maybe there was a reason for the timing of Professor West’s anger.

  • neroden

    As a T-Shirt I have had for roughly *12 years* says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”. I can’t really blame Cornel West for being outraged; I’m outraged too.

  • Black Guy in DC

    1. To clarify. I mean Cornel West is an academic. He is paid and held accountable in that realm. President Obama is an elected politician, accountable to the public under Article 2 of the US Constitution.

    He is not being attacked by West for the scholarly part of his background. West is attacking his actions as President. (And there is not much nuts-and-bolts scholarship in West’s ad hominem attacks.)

    2. I understood your reference to the “beer summit” and still don’t see how that instance logically connects to my point about the racial straitjacket President Obama eschews. (Here, I am assuming your numbering means you are addressing my points as they were numbered.)

    President Obama is able to sit and have a beer with a professor and a cop. He can also host full state dinners at the White House and eat greasy food at roadside diners with Real Americans. Isn’t that broad appeal (or cynically, chameleon-ness) what you’d expect from someone with the instincts, ambition and skills to run for and win the Presidency? Twice?

    3. Touré is no apologist. Touré and others point out a fact Cornel West has made himself: that he was glad to promote candidate Obama — at 65 campaign events! — but soured on President-elect Obama, who didn’t give him some inauguration tickets.

    That is what changed West’s attitude. And that is petty.

    It is not re-inventing facts or disregarding the content of West’s criticisms to point this out.

    But it goes to the heart of the extremely personal and derogatory nature of the language West uses to describe the President. And it suggests how easily West’s favor can be bought.

    (Nor does pointing out West’s pettiness exonerate President Obama for any number of things. Drones, especially.)

    All I’m saying is this: President Obama was not elected to please Cornel West, deliver Black Folk to the Promised Land, or for that matter, to implement a progressive liberal fantasy. He said he is, and he is trying to be, President for everyone — not just the people who voted for him.

    Maybe that sounds quaint after the example of many a past President. But isn’t that something he should be? It’s a deep commitment to this whole experiment in democracy to resist the pull of majoritarian rule.

    He is President shaped by and trying to shape the reality of our times. And I am okay with that as a starting point for legitimate debate about his actions. But idealistic purity tests and hurt feelings and “the prophetic tradition”? No thank you.

    1. To clarify. I mean Cornel West is an academic. He is paid and held accountable in that realm. President Obama is an elected politician, accountable to the public under Article 2 of the US Constitution.

    He is not being attacked by West for the scholarly part of his background. West is attacking his actions as President. (And there is not much nuts-and-bolts scholarship in West’s ad hominem attacks.)

    2. I understood your reference to the “beer summit” and still don’t see how that instance logically connects to my point about the racial straitjacket President Obama eschews. (Here, I am assuming your numbering means you are addressing my points as they were numbered.)

    President Obama is able to sit and have a beer with a professor and a cop. He can also host full state dinners at the White House and eat greasy food at roadside diners with Real Americans. Isn’t that broad appeal (or cynically, chameleon-ness) what you’d expect from someone with the instincts, ambition and skills to run for and win the Presidency? Twice?

    3. Touré is no apologist. Touré and others point out a fact Cornel West has made himself: that he was glad to promote candidate Obama — at 65 campaign events! — but soured on President-elect Obama, who didn’t give him some inauguration tickets.

    That is what changed West’s attitude. And that is petty.

    It is not re-inventing facts or disregarding the content of West’s criticisms to point this out.

    But it goes to the heart of the extremely personal and derogatory nature of the language West uses to describe the President. And it suggests how easily West’s favor can be bought.

    (Nor does pointing out West’s pettiness exonerate President Obama for any number of things. Drones, especially.)

    All I’m saying is this: President Obama was not elected to please Cornel West, deliver Black Folk to the Promised Land, or for that matter, to implement a progressive liberal fantasy. He said he is, and he is trying to be, President for everyone — not just the people who voted for him.

    Maybe that sounds quaint after the example of many a past President. But isn’t that something he should be? It’s a deep commitment to this whole experiment in democracy to resist the pull of majoritarian rule.

    He is President shaped by and trying to shape the reality of our times. And I am okay with that as a starting point for legitimate debate about his actions. But idealistic purity tests and hurt feelings and “the prophetic tradition”? No thank you.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    It’s a major theme and focus of civil rights. MLK felt it essential.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Incredibly stupid comment and with just a touch of racism to boot.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Thanks for the link Bill. Belafonte is a powerful voice in these matters.

  • Snaggletooth

    1. He is not speaking as a scholarly enterprise but he ran for president with his education as part of resume and credentials so it’s not to much to expect him to act like it as president.

    2. That was a reference to President Obama’s “beer summit” with Harvard professor Henry Gates and Cambridge Police Sgt James Crowley. Do you get my point now?

    3. The piece you reference by Toure is basically bashing West because he was mean to Obama. He is an Obama apologist, a trite “lesser of two evils” kinda guy and frankly part of the problem.

  • Black Guy in DC

    1. Is he currently teaching somewhere? No. He is President of the United States. I am not parsing or re-inventing facts. He is not speaking on public issues as a scholarly enterprise.

    2. Are you suggesting the whole of his identity boils down to his ability to (or willingness to) have a beer? Can you elaborate?

    3. The link I provided was to words that appeared in Time magazine. The contributor made specific points that you may disagree with. Fine. But “Fuck Time magazine” is hardly an intelligent reply to the substance of Toure’s piece.

  • Bill_Perdue

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2012/05/king-m25.html

    I don’t like most of their politics but this is an excellent article.

  • Jerry Burke

    Then why does Cornell West only focus on that aspect of it?

  • GaiusPublius

    Thanks, BrianG. As a guy who’s taught writing (but not history), I appreciate the compliment.

    GP

  • Snaggletooth

    ROFLMAO, great way to re-invent the facts. I hope you are paid well and are at least able to eat.

    1.) Obama, constitutional law scholar is not an academic?
    2.) Yeah, let’s talk this out over a beer… (Remember that?)
    3.) Fuck TIME magazine.

    Got anything intelligent to say?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Cornel West is the ‘Prophetic Voice’ and carries the most liberating concepts of MLK forward with aggressive vigor. His criticisms of beogouise assimilation of black culture into mainstream politics makes him an unpopular Cassandra. To me he is an amazing voice of clarity and his strident narrative style is reminiscent of the old abolitionists.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Except for say, haiku–brevity can be the soul of nitwits.

  • Black Guy in DC

    Total crap. By which I mean:

    1. Reality Check
    Cornel West is an academic. That has its place. But he is in no way engaging in reality with his hyperbolic vitriol.

    President Obama is not an academic. He is not an itinerant preacher or leader of an issue advocacy group. He is a politician who has a responsibility (and nominal/actual “checks” on his authority) beyond what he thinks, says, and imagines as ideal.

    Governing under the the US Constitution’s framework is not an exercise in idealism. And that’s before you even get to the particulars of GOP/teabagger hysteria and opposition from day one of President Obama’s administration.

    2. Racial Straitjacket Check
    President Obama defines himself and the contours of his Blackness very well. And that’s his right.

    To suggest President Obama/Blacks are solely defined by the “prophetic tradition” is insultingly dehumanizing and ignores the reality of a diverse Black experience. (Besides, has any oppressed community in human history not had its share of prophets, daily toilers, rebels, and oppressor-identified elites, etc.?)

    As it pertains to President Obama, such a definition seeks to predetermine the scope of his possible contribution as an individual to the whole of humanity. He is, but is not only, defined by the circumstances of his birth. Outwardly, that includes skin color. Inwardly, it includes a lot more nuance.

    3. What Touré Said
    http://ideas.time.com/2012/11/15/what-behind-the-bad-blood-between-cornel-west-and-obama/

  • Jim Olson

    Does Cornel West ever say anything in a tone less than blistering? He has important things to say that I want to hear and people should listen to; his outrage-o-meter pegged all the time is tiresome.

  • Ford Prefect

    Yeah, as if his re-election was anything but preordained. But it makes for nicely frothy copy, so why not? It’s easier than dealing with real issues, after all.

  • Ford Prefect

    Of course! Come to think of it, there’s no reason to exclude any shitty president from the list. There’s actually quite a lot of those….

  • Whitewitch

    Totally and completely true! And there were bloggers out them denigrating anyone who appeared to indicate we should not re-elect the President. It was like they were BOTS seeking and destroying anyone who criticized him either in posts like these or in personal blogs.

  • http://www.americablog.com/ Naja pallida

    Can we overlay just a touch of Nixon’s “The President can do no wrong”?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Absolutely excellent Gaius—-just superb. Many of us have been saying this for years and now at last it has gained some traction from the progressive black community. West had pretty much nailed Obama from the beginning and having Hedges on board—spectacular.

  • Ford Prefect

    They voted for him because Lesser Evil. By the time he leaves office, he will have destroyed that meme altogether. I guess that’s one positive thing he’s accomplishing amongst all the other disastrous items.

  • Ford Prefect

    And now, let’s go ahead and add in Buchanan to Hoover and Coolidge.

  • Ford Prefect

    Outstanding!

    I’m glad to see this battle is now underway. The way things are going, it’s starting to look like Obama’s decision to wage a war of aggression without popular support is: 1) putting them in a political jam they can’t get out of; and 2) causing all sorts of hemorrhaging from quarters that previously felt defeated. His actions have forced some rather powerful responses that I hope will reverberate for a long time to come.

    Perhaps we might get lucky and have the wheels come off the Neo-Liberal train without too much strife. (Okay, maybe not, but I reserve the right to a little optimism on occasion and this is one of them.)

  • Bill_Perdue

    You claim, “Cornel speaks for an extremely small group of academics and followers who have not a damn clue about what the majority of African Americans think. Actually–most don’t know who the hell Cornel West is” and that’s a pretty good definition of being isolated. But as I think the facts show, he’s far from isolated.

  • cole3244

    the less you post the better off you will be, brevity you know.

  • Leota2

    Thank you Bill for the links. I did not say Cornel was isolated—I said he did not know what most of the African American electorate really thinks. Op-ed writers and managing editors of progressive blogs and rich actors don’t really know either.

  • mirror

    Namaste?

  • mirror

    Furthermore, the total failure to engage with the coming climate change catastrophe will make the Hoover administration look wildly creative and effective by comparison.

  • Leota2

    Brevity is the soul of wit.
    You have none.
    Namaste

  • Bill_Perdue

    Thanks Gaius.

    Obama’s enduring legacy – massive, long term unemployment, poverty and cuts in Social Security and Medicare.

  • cole3244

    if you can’t stand the heat, well even you know the rest.

  • Bill_Perdue

    It’s simply not true that Cornell West is isolated,

    He and others who point out Obama’s anti-worker, pro boss bias are basically correct. So are the folks at Black Agenda Report who criticize Obama from every angle. They oppose his warmongering ( http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/obama-warlike-bush-and-just-lonely ), his attacks on workers and consumers and his attacks on the Bill of Rights.

    Obama is a paid political prostitute for the rich. Tens of millions of working people hate what he’s doing to us. Obama, who denies health care to imported workers and who exponentially increased ICE attacks on them is a racist. That’s confirmed by his racist wars against Arab/muslim nations and his orders regarding the racist murders of Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed.

    Obama sabotaged marriage equality in California in 2008, rebranded his bigotry and now claims to support the LGBT communities, even though he won’t campaign for ENDA pass age and DOMA repeal.

    As Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out long ago “Obama sure was slow — I think fish developed legs and walked on land in a shorter period of time. That’s just the Obama we all know and . . . feel lukewarm about. Just once I’d love to see him out front on a social-justice issue instead of adopting a decent stance after everyone else has spoken out. You could say that Obama is once again leading from behind.” http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/You-say-you-want-an-evolution-well-you-know-wed-all-love-to-see-the-plan.html)

    Black Agenda Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon comments “The last refuge of Obamaphiles is that no matter how many times the First Black President double-crosses us by cutting Medicare and Medicaid, no matter how completely be betrays his voters us by ignoring black unemployment, by deporting one million Latinos, by protecting the banksters responsible for the foreclosure crisis and by invading, bombing, occupying and subverting even more countries than the Cheney-Bush regime, his white supremacist tea party opponents are far worse.”

    “I think [Obama] plays the game that he plays because he sees no threat from evidencing concerns for the poor… (or) a deeper concern for the needs of black people…” Harry Belafonte http://www.democracynow.org/2011/1/26/harry_belafonte_on_obama_he_plays

    James Kane of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says “More blacks are wondering publicly just what Obama is doing to help alleviate problems in the black community, which is a dramatic change from just a few years ago when the first African-American president seemingly could do no wrong.”

    (1) http://pamshouseblend.firedoglake.com/2008/01/31/dnc-chief-of-staff-opposed-to-marriage-equality-deposition-reveals/

  • dula

    Poverty in America is not just a black issue.

  • dula

    More people should be personally offended by Obama’s neoliberal policy. I guess West had high expectations for this President. God forbid someone should be too earnest about the further decline of their nation.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    We needed a president who was a combination of the two Roosevelt cousins.

    Teddy: Trust-buster. Conservationist. Populist. And a man who understood the limits of militarism.

    Franklin: Allay fears. Concentrate on regular folks to recover from the economic nightmare. Hold the plutocrats accountable. A new-New Deal.

    Instead we got Hoover and Coolidge.

  • BrianG

    As someone who teaches United States History at the college level, I can only say you’ve written an excellent essay and your analysis is spot on. Bravo.

  • Leota2

    Watch what you say and stop using your mouth as a garbage pail.

  • cole3244

    look at the alternative and use your head for more then a hat rack.

  • Leota2

    Well, that makes sense. I guess he got re-elected because the average citizen thought he was such a monumental disappointment they voted for him again. Good grief.

  • kwd

    He had me until “black prophetic tradition”.

  • cole3244

    whatever you think of obama he has been a monumental disappointment to the left and the average citizen in america, the elites, they are supremely satisfied.

  • emjayay

    West is mostly right. But to be really superficial, why does he dress like he’s going to a Halloween party as Frederick Douglas if he forgot to brush his hair, and not get braces on his teeth when he can well afford it?

    Also, Booker T. Washington was also mostly right. Which doesn’t mean W.E.B. Dubois was wrong.

  • emjayay

    In case the up arrow isn’t enough, thanks.

  • mirror

    For quite some time now I’ve believed that part of the reason Obama was selected by his big money backers was so he could defang Black America politically and it has worked wonderfully for them.

  • gratuitous

    Oh, just let it be said: Cornel West is being shrill. There.
    Now it’s out there, and some folks don’t have to restrain themselves. I could
    see it was paining them immensely.

    But really, how do you point out the simple fact that this administration
    has “tough love” advice for the poorest, but soothing words and large sums of
    money for the captains of industry and economic masters of the universe? Is it
    possible even to notice that without some folks opining that the observer
    sounds like the embarrassing butt-hurt by-product of a bad breakup?

    The American worker has become steadily more efficient, more
    productive, working longer hours and making ever less money for the past 35
    years. It’s no secret where the Wealth generated by that Labor has gone, and in
    case it has escaped notice, it hasn’t gone into the pockets of the people who
    have created that Wealth.

    On one level, it isn’t surprising that someone who has
    managed to win under this system has a certain affinity for it; but is it
    demanding too much of that person to remember that this huge mountain he has
    managed to scale wasn’t accomplished solely due to his own efforts? And can it
    be anything but shrill to opine that perhaps it’s time for the winners in this
    system rouse themselves from their luxury coach seats and help pull instead of
    carping about the ride they’re getting and how expensive they think it is?

  • http://heimaey.us/ heimaey

    Well put. I wish I could say it so well.

  • Leota2

    Actually, the only war going on in the black community is in Cornel West’s head.
    He’s a poverty pimp. Yes, yes, ugly words but that’s as it is. I used to respect him
    before he got Obama Derangement Syndrome because of some perceived slights he felt were meted out to him at the beginning of Obama administration.

    Cornel speaks for an extremely small group of academics and followers who have not a damn
    clue about what the majority of African Americans think. Actually–most don’t know who the hell Cornel West is. What some know about him is he is Tavis Smiley’s wingman who has basically been laughed at for the past four years. Please. The MSM has given Cornell a big forum because they love when they can get a black man to go off on Obama. And that would be par for the course is Cornel didn’t take it all so damned personally. He acts as if he had a bad break up.
    Its embarrassing.

    I respect and agree with many of Dr. West’s policy disagreements with the president. I even support them. But Cornell has made his disagreements over the top vitriolic. (But that does get him speaking engagements) Barack Obama is not Martin Luther King. West can talk all he wants about the African American prophetic tradition but what the hell does that mean for eighty-five percent of the rest of the country? And what about African Americans like myself who could give two damns about it? I didn’t vote for Barack Obama to be my pastor. I voted for him for the same reason I voted for the last two democratic presidents.

    West does what many on the right wing of this country do to black people. He puts us all in a small guilded box. Disagreement with this president is warranted as it always is with any administration,
    but Cornel is a bit too butt hurt about it all and it makes you wonder how much is policy and how much is hurt feelings.

  • Dustee

    Cornell West and Tavis Smiley sooo wanted Obama to be the President of Black American, only…forget the rest of the country.

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