Is Cornel West Fighting For Poverty Or Ego?

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Cornel West Obama

Cornel West (pictured) didn’t join in on the nationwide wobble over the re-election of President Barack Obama. The academic and political activist has harshly criticized the President consistently over the last few years and didn’t shy away from any of those criticisms in a new interview with Democracy Now. Joined by his brother in Obama bashing Tavis Smiley, Dr. West’s coined up a new diss for Obama, dismissing him as a “Rockefeller Republican in Blackface.”

RELATED: Cornel West: Obama Is A ‘Rockefeller Republican In ‘Blackface;’ Sharpton, Harris-Perry, Dyson Are Up For Sale

Dr. West explained:

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 with NewsOne Contributing Editor Kirsten West Savali and her assessment that Dr. West needs to accept that Blacks, i.e., his colleagues who support the president, aren’t a monolith, and thus, are not necessarily “sell-outs” for not aligning themselves with his ideology. That said, I’m more concerned with his constant employment of ad hominem attacks.

Enter this comment made about the President earlier this year:

I think at this point he’s obsessed with being on Mount Rushmore. He wants to be a great figure in the pantheon of American presidents. If you’re thinking about Mount Rushmore, you’re thinking about your legacy, your legacy, your legacy. Puh-lease.

Or this one made last year:

It is very clear that President Obama caves in over and over again. He punts on first down. If you’re in a foxhole with him, you’re in trouble because he wants to compromise. He doesn’t have the kind of backbone he ought to have.

There’s also the infamous dismissal of Obama as ”a Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

And there’s the despicable comment:

I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free Black men. It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a White man with Black skin. All he has known culturally is White…. When he meets an independent Black brother, it is frightening.’

Dr. West has made a habit out of using Obama’s biracial background as a means of insult, and as Mother Jones’ Adam Serwer noted of his most recent line of attack, “Republican in Blackface’ actually sounds vaguely like something a Civil War-era Southern Dem might have used as an insult.”

For someone who has constantly bemoaned Obama not being “Martin Luther King-like,” you would think the author of works like “Race Matters” would be more inclined to elevate the tone behind trite racial stereotypes.

I would like to think that Dr. West is over Obama not returning his phone calls and giving him tickets to the inauguration. I want to believe that his obvious frustration is rooted in the reality that millions of Americans — particularly those who are Black — are drowning as social inequality in this country soars and social mobility becomes increasingly harder to attain. You know, even though there’s a special irony in going on a poverty tour sponsored by Walmart.

Nonetheless, we should all be upset that the only major presidential candidate to make combating poverty a central issue of his campaign in decades was the now-disgraced John Edwards.

Even so, if Dr. West’s aim is to actually persuade President Obama in to seeing his point of view and open up a much-needed dialogue about growing poverty, then he has a funny way of showing it. As someone who publishes their opinion every day of the week, I’m well aware of the reality that a message can quickly be lost in its delivery.

When I want someone to hear me out, I act accordingly. When I solely want to lash out after giving up hope on the other side seeing my perspective, you can imagine how it reads tonally.

If Dr. West wants to compel President Obama to fight more for the poor, then stop speaking of him as if he broke his heart and stole his comb. Now if West merely wants to be an angry ranter and headline grabber, congratulations are in order because he’s officially reached Donald Trump-like proportions of useless spectacle.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick

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