As is our weekend habit, do treat this as a semi-open thread.
I hope that you have a nice Labor Day weekend. Does anyone have a BBQ or similar outing planned? Any tips or tricks from you grill masters?
The election of Barack Obama also began a series a feuds among various elements of the "left", "liberals", and "progressives". Some of the most intense spats were between black public intellectuals whose responses to Obama's tenure center on his willingness to negotiate with obstructionist and racist Republicans, how the president is the Scold-in-Chief of Black America (and silent on white racism), and is a pawn of Wall Street and the corporateocracy.
Politics is professional wrestling. The newest angle in the feud is Cornel West's blistering take down of President Obama. In a much discussed conversation with Thomas Frank, West engages in some harsh truth-telling. For example, he says the following about Obama:
"And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.West loves delivering the gut shots on Obama to get the cheap heat. Jim Ross could call West's assaults on Obama with the same style and energy as this classic storyline when The Russians and Eddie Gilbert laid out Cowboy Bill Watts:
One of West's early foes (and target of his sharp rhetorical darts) is Professor and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry. In contrast to Dr. West's repeated criticisms of Obama, Harris-Perry wrote a piece for the The Nation in which she locates the black resistance to thug white police abuse in Ferguson relative to the inspiration that Obama's election provided to black Americans (and their (then) feelings of political empowerment and citizenship).
During the 2008 general election, Senator Obama rarely spoke about racism directly, but he endured it and bore up under it. Indeed, he inspired a multiracial, intergenerational coalition that included states of the former Confederacy to carry him into the White House. He brought along with him the symbolic possibility of full inclusion. In 2012, President Obama’s re-election in the context of massive efforts to suppress African- American voters made it clear that black people were unwilling to cede the ground they had gained in asserting their political will.
No matter what his policies, his politics or his public pronouncements, Barack Obama changed the relationship of African-Americans to the American state. Even as they were forced to endure the images of Michael Brown’s lifeless body lying in the street for hours, many black Americans see in President Obama’s living presence in the halls of power a stark reminder that another outcome is possible for black men if their communities refuse to be silenced...
The election of Barack Obama is a model of what’s possible when black people refuse to stay in their assigned places, when they demand more say in the system. He is president less because of his individual accomplishments than because his community was determined to see him assume a position of power. They mobilized repeatedly on his behalf even when they were told not to. (Emanuel Cleaver and John Lewis both backed Hillary Clinton in 2008 and were overcome by their constituencies.) Michael Brown’s community learned these lessons well.Barack Obama is like the WWE's John Cena. He inspires boos and cheers both across the ideological divide between the Tea Party white supremacist GOP and the Democratic Party, as well as among the black commentariat.
Despite his best efforts to be the embodiment of respectability, it turns out Barack Obama is a role model for resistance. Yes we can.
I would suggest that West is misrepresenting Obama and his bonafides--Obama never marketed himself as a progressive beyond the empty slogan "hope and change". And if one follows the money, Obama is a Rockefeller Republican, who is beholden to Wall Street and the banking classes. West is a brilliant and smart man. He knows that "presidents are selected and not elected". Consequently, the Office of the President of the United States of America will not be occupied by a radical who would satisfy either West's or the progressive left's dreams, desires, or policy goals.
Dr. Harris-Perry is assigning too much meaning to the symbolic power of Obama and its role in the Ferguson uprising against the police rioters. Obama is not and cannot be a role model for resistance. The linking of the "resistant" to "President of the United States" is an oxymoron.
In addition, there is a history of black folks rising up against police abuse and white racism that predates Obama's tenure.
Moreover, while Obama's election signaled a momentary bump in Black American's positive views of the country and race relations, the data indicates how that effect has subsided and diminished during Obama's time in office.
Black politics is experiencing a crisis of meaning and relevance because of neoliberalism's power, the durability of institutional racism and white supremacy, a diminishing sense of linked fate within the black community, and the realization that the country's first black president--whose election should have been a high point in the Black Freedom Struggle--is unwilling and unable to confront many of the deep structural problems that have created the particular and unique challenges faced by black people in America. Harris-Perry has a deep grasp of these facts. Her effort to find some meaning in Obama's position relative to the events in Ferguson is understandable. It is also a great question that will/is being empirically evaluated by social scientists and other researchers.
What is your take on Obama, Harris-Perry, and West?
As always, do you have any interesting news items or other information to share?