Black Agenda Report
News, analysis and commentary from the black left
How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor
by Glen Ford
May 25, 2011
Black Agenda Report
Unable to defend the indefensible, Black Obama supporters have been “rendered all but mute on issues of policy.” They got their chance to reenter the political conversation when Princeton professor and media celebrity Cornel West, a former Obama supporter who is now a harsh critic, speculated on the racial workings of the president’s brain. That was a mistake. “There is no need to inject racial psychoanalysis into the (public) conversation when straightforward political analysis is more than sufficient to the task.”
How Cornel West Did the Obamites a Favor
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Cornel West’s foray into Obamanalysis gave them the opportunity to explode in reams of outraged words that had little or nothing to do with policy.”
It is a shame that Princeton professor Cornel West did not stick to a disciplined critique of the corporatist policies that have made Barack Obama richly deserving of the label, a “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs.” Instead, West slipped into psycho-babble, musing on the president’s supposed “fear of free Black men” and associated personality deformities. The particularities of Obama’s racial background may, or may not, have contributed to his malignant neglect of the African American condition, but we will not forge a movement to defeat Obama and his Wall Street masters by putting the president on the couch.
There is no need to inject racial psychoanalysis into the (public) conversation when straightforward political analysis is more than sufficient to the task. In two and a half years, the Obama administration has expanded George Bush’s wars and national security infrastructure and budget, added a new theater of combat in North Africa, and proclaimed a presidential prerogative to assassinate and invade at will. He has out-Bushed Bush.
Obama engineered by far the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, funneling at least $12 trillion to Wall Street. At the height of his popularity, still riding the crests of post-election euphoria, and under no real pressure from a demoralized Republican Party, Obama eagerly placed Social Security and other entitlements “on the table” for chopping. He endorsed the corporate/Republican line that deficits were the nation’s biggest problem, effectively sentencing the unemployed to damnation and inviting the austerity reign of terror that has descended. And these are just the highlights of Obama’s tenure.
“The rationale for continued Black and progressive support of the Obama administration has been reduced to one factor: a primal fear of the Tea Party boogeyman.”
The resulting catastrophe in Black America had rendered Black Obamites all but mute on issues of policy; they could not defend the indefensible. In an MSNBC debate with West, Al Sharpton, the administration’s Black pit bull, was reduced to inane sputtering. The rationale for continued Black and progressive support of the Obama administration has been reduced to one factor: a primal fear of the Tea Party boogeyman. Yet, the sheer economic and political devastation wrought under Obama’s brief tenure has made it plausible to make the case – as we do at Black Agenda Report – that the First Black President is not the lesser of two evils, but the more effective evil, having facilitated more of the right-wing agenda at home and abroad than George Bush ever attempted or envisioned. What does it matter that Obama is not a white Republican, if he can tear down the social safety net, privatize education and wage aggressive war more effectively than the GOP?
Of course, Obama is empowered to act as Wall Street’s Trojan Horse by the acquiescence of the Left’s core constituencies – chiefly, Black America, without whose consent and active participation progressive politics is reduced to the fringes. For reasons that have everything to do with race, Black people have clung to Obama even as he has consistently pushed them away. But the agonzing facts of a community in historical free-fall can no longer be denied. The “Black Wall” that the African American mis-leadership class attempts to erect around Obama is cracking, if not crumbling, especially among left activists and intellectuals. Cornel West is a celebrity example.
“The First Black President is not the lesser of two evils, but the more effective evil, having facilitated more of the right-wing agenda at home and abroad than George Bush ever attempted or envisioned.”
Unable to mount a coherent defense of Obama’s policy decisions, especially after his further, dramatic lurch to the right following last year’s midterm elections, Obama’s unrepentant Black politicos seethed in relative silence. It had become impossible to speak in policy terms without indicting the presidential icon. Cornel West’s foray into Obamanalysis gave them the opportunity to explode in reams of outraged words that had little or nothing to do with policy. Prof. Melissa Harris-Perry managed to write almost 1,500 words for The Nation on West’s “personal attack” on Obama, offering only 130 words about her own position on Obama’s tenure at the end of the piece. TheRoot.com, a Black Obamite corporate hangout, gleefully reported that West had “’stepped in it’ with his controversial comments about President Obama,” with “Google News listing more than 100 stories.”
This is the kind of “controversy” in which Obamites revel, precisely because it allows them to avoid confrontation with Obama’s indefensible policies. If they can resurrect another version of the phony, diversionary arguments of 2007 and 2008 about whether Obama is “Black enough” to deserve African American support, then they can hope to coast through the 2012 campaign without having to justify support for the “Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs.”
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Cornel West speaking on "Left of Black, Episode 35"--Duke University--May 23, 2011