Maybe in another lifetime I'll be able to write and speak with the power and eloquence of Dr. Cornel West. Between the voices of Mr. Hedges and Dr. West, this article is an excellent read.
“But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’ And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitz and brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong. -- Dr. Cornel West”
The entire article is fascinating, including insight into how Obama handles personal relations. Or, at least personal relations with people on the left. Obama seems to love to talk with bankers and Republicans.
One fascinating exchange is this ....
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, has, West said, phoned him to complain about his critiques of Obama. Jarrett was especially perturbed, West says, when he said in an interview last year that he saw a lot of Malcolm X and Ella Baker in Michelle Obama. Jarrett told him his comments were not complimentary to the first lady.
BTW, this appears to be a repeating story. The Obama White House staff trying to intimidate critics from the left into silence.
Now, maybe most people don't know that Ella Baker was a heroine to the civil rights movement in the sixties. She helped organize and start the North Carolina lunch counter sit ins. She's legendary and loved and remembered amongst the civil right community, or at least she was when I still lived in Atlanta. Now we find out that Ms. Obama is offended when Dr. West tries to compliment her by saying he sees some of Ella Baker in Ms. Obama.
“I said in the world that I live in, in that which authorizes my reality, Ella Baker is a towering figure,” he says, munching Fritos and sipping apple juice at his desk. “If I say there is a lot of Ella Baker in Michelle Obama, that’s a compliment. She can take it any way she wants. I can tell her I’m sorry it offended you, but I’m going to speak the truth. She is a Harvard Law graduate, a Princeton graduate, and she deals with child obesity and military families. Why doesn’t she visit a prison? Why not spend some time in the hood? That is where she is, but she can’t do it.
“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “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. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.
“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.
“This was maybe America’s last chance to fight back against the greed of the Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats, to generate some serious discussion about public interest and common good that sustains any democratic experiment,” West laments. “We are squeezing out all of the democratic juices we have. The escalation of the class war against the poor and the working class is intense. More and more working people are beaten down. They are world-weary. They are into self-medication. They are turning on each other. They are scapegoating the most vulnerable rather than confronting the most powerful. It is a profoundly human response to panic and catastrophe. I thought Barack Obama could have provided some way out. But he lacks backbone.
Although I love Dr. West's words, I'm really sick of this 'he lacks backbone' nonsense. This is Dr. West still failing to come to grips with what he actually clearly stated in the first paragraph I quoted. Dr. West needs to take to heart his own words where he understands that he was "misled on a very deep level". Its not a case of Obama not being the progressive Dr. West wanted him to be because he lacks backbone. Instead, Obama was lying and mis-leading when he announced progressive ideals, and the rich, savvy white guys he looks up to have controlled him for a very long time. Dr. West, you were indeed misled. But, please take that to heart and drop this nonsense that Obama lacks backbone.
By the way, don't blame me, I voted for McKinney. I wish Dr. West had spotted the Wall Street millions in Obama's accounts and understood the implications of those millions as to the type of president that Obama would become. I wish Dr. West had instead made 65 appearances for Cynthia McKinney's campaign for President. I don't know if that changes the election results. But, getting a chance to hear Dr. West and Cynthia McKinney speak back to back at a rally would have been a lot of fun!
“Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens. This means raising our voices, very loud and strong, bearing witness, individually and collectively. -- Dr. Cornel West
“The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence…” - Ella Jo Baker