If it's crap ... We'll tell you
In my three months since starting The Story Masonry blog, I've tried to have my thoughts well-formed before publishing an article. After all, without a large reader base, the articles where I end with a question are ultimately pointless. But some topics are so morally relative that it's impossible to remain of one mind in my writing. Such is the case with last week's controversy over Dr. Cornel West's criticism of President Obama as "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats."
My natural reaction, as one could guess, is agreement with Dr. West. But, instead of defending him against his reactionary critics immediately, I waited to hear the responses to the responses to determine whether each side would address the other's objections. And, despite Dr. West devoting an entire episode of Tavis & Smiley and Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges a two-page rebuttal, the results were massively disappointing. The former lauded the latter with praise while the latter hailed the former as a prophet, thus demonizing the opposition as "neoliberals." Hedges dances around the more divisive tonal and racial comments and stick to his stock position, which I reluctantly agree with, that the corporate media fears and dismisses opinions that can't be solved with the campaign ad revenue that keeps it running.
Hedges's original Truthdig editorial/interview that sparked this was a bit heavy-handed to begin with, painting Dr. West's tattered relationship with Obama, someone whom he did 65 campaign events for, as a betrayal of Shakespearean proportions. In turn, Salon's Joan Walsh's commentary compensated the heroics with tragedy, labeling West's remarks as a "meltdown." Surprisingly, The Young Turks pundits Cenk Uygur and Jayar Jackson appeared as mediators in the debate in comparison, concluding, much like the Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart, that sentiment toward Obama's polices was mutual with Dr. West's, but his racial background is off-limits.
As with most moderate opinions, I disagree. Rejecting the racial complexities as "no better than a birther['s]" doesn't only hinder the debate; it's also baseless. The birther conspiracies have circulated since the 2008 primaries, likely before Obama's platform was established to the mainstream, proving that they were based solely in racism. Dr. West's analysis of Obama's upbringing, however, stems from Obama's policy, more specifically, his shift in values once sworn into office. Dr. West's objective seems targeted toward understanding the political system that shaped the president, something that Walsh obviously had no interest in exploring when considering her admitted support for Obama reelection. In this context, race's relevancy is equivalent to any other discussion point.
Are we allowed to celebrate Obama's achievement as first black U.S. president but not to question why he was the first chosen? America's broken electoral system allows for a certain type of presidential candidate to succeed, the white, middle-aged type with a law or military background, an Ivy League education and a devotion to the Christian faith. The majority of Dr. West's points sounded, to me, more like piecing together why Obama ended up the same, as the Washington Post's Ezra Klein calls him, "moderate Republican from the early 1990s." Dr. West's characterization of him as "a black puppet of corporate plutocrats" is different from similar criticism leveled at previous presidents, particularly Bush, only in the addition of "black," which is in turn the only thing separates Obama from the typical presidential checklist.
Of course, the race card immediately distracts the demographically-driven pundits unless drawn for statistical purposes, hence why I believe "puppet" was taken out of context by the aforementioned parties. Capehart assumes of African-American Obama dissenters, "They think he has turned his back on the black community." This implies that Obama willfully took this stance. However, the original Truthdig article cites an event where Obama chastises Dr. West for doubting his progressivism. With this in mind, the "black puppet" line falls in with the idea that Obama is genuinely unaware that his in-office performance doesn't match with his progressive image during the 2008 campaign. I posed a similar theory in an earlier article where I mentioned Obama's poor choosing of his influential advisors--many of which either hail from Wall Street (William Daley) or were holdovers from past administrations (Larry Summers.) Put this all together, and it makes sense that Dr. West deduced corporate interests were pulling the strings of Obama's presidency.
This conclusion sounds like I'm in full agreement with Dr. West despite the uncertainty I opened the article with; but I have some reservations. Dr. West jumped the shark with his allegations toward Obama's fear of "the free black man," which contradicts the "black puppet" supposition. I also could've done without the references to Jewish and white ethnicities of the smart, savvy and manipulative people Obama is supposedly so impressed by since Obama's administration is as diverse as any other in recent years. I would have stuck solely to class descriptions for that example, but I'm not the expert Dr. West is. All I know is that none of what he said justified Joan Walsh's diagnosis of "tragic meltdown" or Jonathan Capeheart's "no better than a birther" remark.
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