Yesterday, our pastor, Dr. Otis Moss III tweeted “Twitter Conversation: Do u think Cornel West’s comments about POTUS are on point or a distraction to a real policy dialogue?” along with a few other questions. After some reading & discussion, I thought this would be a great topic to share my thoughts on and maybe get feedback from you. First, let me say that I’m definitely not one to incite drama, which some may argue Cornel West & Tavis Smiley have in their statements. Many of the reactions and comments over the last few days even years have been very critical of these two men. I, however, tend to have a way of looking at the good & bad in situations. I also sometimes can take things I may not agree with and see something that can fuel positivity and encouragement.
With that said, here are my thoughts on these recent events…
For those of you who may not have read or saw the Cornel West & Tavis Smiley interview on Democracy Now, check out:
See link for video & transcript.
One of main things that have stirred peoples’ reactions has been the following Cornel West statement from the interview:
“Well, one, 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.”
I agree that it is morally & spiritually obscene to spend that amount of money on an election. Many would agree that if we could put that kind of money into our schools and our communities, it would be better served. Not too minimized West’s point, but at the same time we can look at how much some of us spend in a month or year on shoes, hair care, entertainment, and various other non-essential items. We could all be put to shame, the poor included. I say that because we all need to get some perspective on what is really our priority in this world. But I also feel the need to take a look at the fact that obviously the majority of us wanted Obama re-elected, including West, and exactly what did that take?
I searched a few articles to read about all the money spent during this campaign including this See Reuter’s article, and CBS article
Not to give any excuse for this kind of money being spent, but we all know how the game is played. Advertising, marketing, appearances, and more all key to getting people to hear a candidate’s voice, arguments, agendas, and get people to vote for you. In Obama’s case, I can’t say this amount of money was needed, but at the same time, with the election as close as it was, we can never know if the amount put into his campaign made a difference.
But moving on to the last statement in West’s quote of saying “we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama..”
Ok, I’m just gonna say this, first, Obama has a annual salary of *$400,000 and his net worth is reported between $2,801,012 and $11,830,000. He may be considered upper class or rich but he is by far no Rockefeller.
Secondly, when you have time read this: Official GOP Platform And then tell me do you REALLY think Obama is a Republican? I mean since a portion of this GOP Platform document explicitly tears down Obamacare and his agenda, along with the points below; I don’t think Obama would constitute being one.
– Extend the 2001 and 2003 tax relief packages—commonly known as the Bush tax cuts—pending reform of the tax code, to keep tax rates from rising on income, interest, dividends, and capital gains;
– We support efforts to help low-income individuals get a fair chance based on their potential and individual merit; but we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education, or corporate boardrooms.
– We support State efforts to ensure ballot access for the elderly, the handicapped, military personnel, and all authorized voters. For the same reason, we applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud, particularly with regard to registration and absentee ballots.
**Furthermore, Rockefeller Republican (often termed “moderate Republican”) refers to a faction of the United States Republican Party who hold moderate to liberal views similar to those of Nelson Rockefeller. Modern Rockefeller Republicans are typically center-right, reject far-right policies, and are culturally liberal. Many espouse government and private investments in environmentalism, healthcare and higher education as necessities for the nation’s growth. In general, Rockefeller Republicans oppose socialism and the redistribution of wealth while supporting some regulation of business and federal social programs in matters pertaining to the public good. They represent a diversity of views on foreign policy, but historically most were considered “hawks” against communism and strong supporters of American business abroad.
While Obama is for investment in environmental causes, healthcare & education, but that is also part of the Democratic Platform. Unlike Rockefeller Republicans, Obama is for redistribution of wealth and because his various speeches he’s given have focused on the American people as a collective & the idea of community, some have even called him a socialist. Just because there may be some commonality, to say he’s a Rockefeller Republican is not really true.
What I do respect and agree with in West’s statement, which leads me to Tavis Smiley’s points, is that there should be discussion and a focus on poverty. What I think West & Smiley are doing and is very much needed is for Obama to be pushed to be more progressive. As Smiley states…
“..this is why we believe that the president has to be pushed. I’ve said so many times across the nation that great presidents aren’t born, they’re made. They have to be pushed into their greatness. There is no Abraham Lincoln—I just saw the movie coming out this weekend, I think, the Lincoln project. And 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.”
I feel that both West & Smiley are serving to do just that. Smiley’s statements are probably a bit more palatable than West’s but they definitely strike a match to put a light under our butts to address very key issues in this country. And truth be told, maybe because the statements are so controversial that that is what’s getting our and the President’s attention, as stated in the interview when Ms. Goodman says “President Obama said to Harry Belafonte, according to Harry, “Why don’t you and Cornel West cut me some slack?”
Yeah, we can probably do without the name-calling but if you know Cornel West (and I’ve read his books, he even signed my copy of ‘The Cornel West Reader’ when I met him & heard him speak at Northeastern University some years ago) it’s part of his personality and I still love him.
I will also say that I love Michael Eric Dyson, as well, but I disagree with his statement that “the reality is that he’s the most progressive president… since FDR.”
From what I’ve heard in some of Obama’s speeches & talks, I do think he is a progressive president. Actually, I don’t’ think we’ve actually seen how progressive he REALLY is. First, it’s very difficult to live on the South Side of Chicago, and see the things you do in our communities (crime, education, low-income conditions) and not have some very unconventional and socially-conscious perceptions of what is really occurring in our society. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama likes West & Smiley, agrees with many of their positions and is a fan of their work.
At the same time, going from that, especially as a State Senator to President, there is a certain diplomacy that one must seek not just to get things accomplished with our current Congress, but also to try and remain in the position to be able to do something (ie. getting re-elected) about it.
Smiley and West mention LBJ. Him taking the stand he did for signing the Civil Rights Act, the War on Poverty & healthcare reform, as well as like mentioned him saying “I know that advancing this legislation, voting rights and civil rights, is going to lose my party the South for two decades” was very progressive. At the same time, LBJ ended up losing control of the Democratic Party and it severely split into different factions and he ended up withdrawing from being re-elected. I say this not to say the most important thing is for a president to have a 2nd term, but if Obama no longer has a seat at the table to be able to enact his plans, then it’s over. And we all saw how close the election really was.
I’m hoping that Obama is simply being very strategic in all this, and seeks to use his 2nd term to move FORWARD with some unconventional plans and serious risks accordingly without the hindrance of attacks to get him out office. Time will definitely tell.
Interesting enough, West’s makes a compelling statement that “Jamal gets caught with a crack bag; he going to jail. But Mr. McGillicuddy gets caught on Wall Street; he’s protected by the government.”
Yes, as many in urban & poor communities the standard is different in most cases for minorities in certain circumstances, but Dr. West, can’t you also see that’s also the case for an African American president in office. We have seen nowhere near the kind of attack on Obama on previous presidents. Looking at a Franklin Roosevelt, who initiated & established various programs under the New Deal in his first term, was truly progressive. Keep in mind it was after he got a second term, however, he even had to deal with bipartisanship preventing his plans, not passing legislation, and later abolishing many of his programs. Unfortunately, seeing that the standard is different in our current society, heavily based on race and class, I believe Obama may not have had a chance at 2nd term, if he hadn’t as Smiley said “compromised” on certain things.
One point that I want to mention from a discussion I had about all this is that President Obama is not just the president of poor people, Black people, elderly, our soldiers or particular groups. He is the president of ALL people in the United States. So not to belittle a needed focus on particular issues like poverty, but he also must preside with a level of understanding and a desire to work with and for the behalf of all – all issues, all sides, all people.
Truth be told, this is why I couldn’t be president. Like West & Smiley, I have a passion, a position and focus on certain issues from my point of view and things I’ve seen. Fortunately for us we can stand on those things as priorities for us and that is a good thing, we should. It allows us to be the ones that can push for Obama to do things about them from the position he has.
At the same time, unlike the President who must consider foreign policy, healthcare, education, civil rights, war, poverty, Republicans & Democrats, rich, middle class & impoverished, students & senior citizens, and more, we can stand for and take action to change the specific things we want to see in our communities.
As I’ve stated in a previous post, we can talk, discuss, debate, and even elect those we see fit to deal with the issues closest to our hearts, but now is the time for us all to play our part. I appreciate brother’s West & Smiley because they both have written books that serve to educate us, have shows and continue to bring light to various issues. Now that Obama will have a 2nd term, we ALL can take steps to continue a movement to act and serve these issues and needs that exist in our nation and our world.
Please feel free to share your thoughts & comments. Keep moving forward & be blessed…
Follow President Barack Obama – @barackobama
Follow Pastor Dr. Otis Moss III – @om3
Follow Dr. Cornel West – @cornelWest
Follow Tavis Smiley – @tavissmiley
* From the source: http://www.therichest.org/celebnetworth/politician/president/barack-obama-net-worth/
** Updated Nov 14, 2012, 12:31pm