Cornel West: Out of Touch With Reality of Racism

President Obama lives with the reality of racism on a daily basis and must contend with Republican obstructionism that blocks his presidential efforts to make any real economic progress. Does Obama need black enemies when he has the GOP? When I read West’s article titled “Dr. King Weeps From His Grave,” I was quite surprised by his statement when he said:

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

“Tragically”? This kind of elminationist rhetoric sounds a bit Republican. Perhaps West could physically continue the work that Dr. King could not finish. Is West critical of Obama because he feels ignored by him? West is not actually talking about poor people; he’s talking about impoverished African Americans. I do not recall Obama running on a platform to help African Americans only. Majority of the African American community is under no illusion that Obama can improve their economic circumstances overnight. African Americans have been faced with poor economic conditions for over two hundred years since their so-called emancipation from slavery. And West has ignored that black poverty is the result of whites turning them out of slavery into a hostile racist society with no material assistance to help them build their own lives. Brooks offers the most plausible answer to African Americans’ inability to achieve racial and economic justice and equality in U.S. society, even today. This allegory helps clarify the long-term economic problems facing African Americans today:

Two persons—one white, the other black—are playing a game of poker. The game has been in progress for almost four hundred years. One player—the white one—has been cheating during much of this time, but now announces: ‘From this day forward, there will be a new game with new players and no more cheating.’ Hopeful but somewhat suspicious, the black player responds, ‘That’s great. I’ve been waiting to hear you say that for some four hundred years. Let me ask you, what are you going to do with all those poker chips that you have stacked up on your side of the table all these years?’ ‘Well,’ says the white player, somewhat bewildered by the question, ‘I’m going to keep them for the next generation of white players, of course.’

This allegory suggests that if whites wanted to create a society where racial justice and equality prevailed, they would have shared a portion of the wealth with newly freed slaves, giving them the necessary resources to provide for themselves, their families, and their posterity. By doing so, government social programs on which many impoverished African Americans rely today would not be an issue and stir the hatred of whites who are deliberately ignorant of black history and believe African Americans want the government to take care of them.

Even though African Americans have seen some improvement since the death of Dr. King, they still have a long economic way to go. When West claims that Obama has failed to articulate “a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief and jobs and investment in education,” he is being political and his rhetoric sounds much like that of the Republicans, eliminationist rhetoric. How can poor African Americans afford mortgage relief when intergenerational poverty has prevented the masses of them from becoming homeowners? The unemployment rate among African Americans (15.9%) is greater than the national average, 9.1% and generally has been the highest among all racial groups for many decades. Moreover, I do not recall any African American males touting that West has visited them in prison, have helped them get a college education, have created any organizations to help them achieve basic math or reading skills, or have visited depressed urban areas to plead their case before Congress.

West, like the GOP, has failed to acknowledge Obama’s many accomplishments, and they focus too much on what Obama is not doing rather than how they can join him in a national effort to help ease the problems of African Americans and American citizens in general, as West suggests in his statement. Carter G. Woodson, considered the father of black history, informs us that elite African Americans who have been so long inconvenienced and denied opportunities for development are naturally afraid of devoting themselves to uplifting the black race.


  1. Every sentence is replete with fallacies. It would take me hours to enumerate each one.

    I’ll just start at the beginning & give you some samples.

    1. First sentence: implies that Obama lives with reality of racism & Cornel West does not

    2. First sentence: implies, contrary to evidence, that Obama’s efforts have been for “economic progress”

    3. First sentence: implies, contrary to evidence, that the only impediment to economic progress has been Republican obstructionism, rather than Obama’s own agreement with Reaganomics theory

    4. Second sentence: suggests that a Black critic is a “Black enemy”

    5. Second sentence: suggests that Obama has been fighting for positive things as opposed to agreeing with Republicans on all essential points

    6. Second sentence: suggests that a Black person has less of a right than any other person to be critical of a President who is Black

    7. Fourth sentence: uses a meaningless term “eliminationist”

    8. Fourth sentence: falsely suggests that the Republicans criticize Obama on the same grounds that Cornel West criticizes, when in fact the Republicans have criticized the President for the opposite reasons. The author misguidedly equates this criticism with Republican rhetoric:

    Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

    I defy the author to point to a Republican criticizing President Obama on similar grounds.

    I could go on and on and on… each sentence is as DUMB and IRRATIONAL as the one before it.

    The point is, the article has no basis in the facts.

    It is clear that the author is an Obama apologist seeking to rewrite history.

    Cornel West is subject to criticism, as are we all. But a publication like this should hold its authors to a certain standard. If you’re going to criticize something Cornel West says, criticize it with a basis in fact and in reason, rather than shrill irrational hysteria.

    If you want to pay me for the 2 or 3 hours it would take for a more detailed critique of all the other sentences, then let’s talk.

    Otherwise, suffice it to say that this post is pure garbage.

    • Joe

      Of course it does. In a very racist society you get what you can. That is what Black Americans have done for generations– pragmatism. I am a very old fan of West, but I am not sure it got the analysis right this time. He knows the limitations on the first black man working in an entirely white framed white political world, and Obama has achieved, actually, more than any reasonable expectation — in my view. And I have just gone through his very long list of political achievements — mostly not in the economic sphere, which is his great weakness and there West is correct. And Mary is her real name, and she is a communications scholar and professor, by the way.

      • lmfort

        Here’s a nice website listing many of his accomplishments.
        I am glad that you mentioned his other accomplishments. When discussing whether the president is doing a good job as president or not, we tend to focus only on economy. Personally, I think that President Obama is very limited in his power. We often like to think of the president as someone who is all powerful but in reality, is not. I think the American people should organize and fight against the policies that we think are hurting us more than they are helping. Personally, my interest is racial justice as well as education attainment.

        I am a very huge fan of Cornel West as well.

  2. phelonn

    Hi, Ray: I’m pleased you shared the points of view that troubled you about my blog and you went on to tease out the lines you believe were fallacious. I’ve learned we can isolate any sentence or passage to which we disagree and build an argument around it. In fact, we can write an entire paper on it and make it say what we want it to say, given our modes of thought and the evidence we choose to support our assertions. This is what good scholars and legal minds do. However, I do need to speak to one excerpt you shared:

    “Fourth sentence: falsely suggests that the Republicans criticize Obama on the same grounds that Cornel West criticizes, when in fact the Republicans have criticized the President for the opposite reasons. The author misguidedly equates this criticism with Republican rhetoric: Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable. I defy the author to point to a Republican criticizing President Obama on similar grounds.”
    Given this passage, I think you misinterpreted my intended message. I did not say the Republicans criticize Obama on the same grounds on which Cornel West criticized him. Any politically minded person knows that the Republicans support the wealthiest citizens and large corporations and care less about the working and middle classes. Their tactics are similar, but the content is different. I relied on simile to express that point about West and the Republicans. As for “eliminationist rhetoric,” that’s just what it is when academicians, politicians, and lawyers use the media to get their strident rhetoric heard through repeated talking points when they want to level criticisms against or eliminate their enemy. I am a pragmatist, but am not trying to rewrite history, as you suggest. Even though I appreciate your response to my article, I think your tone communicates a more favorable stake in Dr. West’s article. And your use of language at times was argumentum ad hominem.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. parvenu

    Whereas Tavis Smiley and Cornel West are attempting to develop discussion in five major black communities on the capability of President Barack Obama, I reviewed Dr. West’s recent article and pen my thoughts about the Smiley West Poverty Tour here.

    As black folks we must very careful who we listen to in this day and age of the super wealthy corporate oligarchs spreading money all over the place when it advances their pernicious racialist agendas. In fact my policy is to look for the money whenever someone steps up and announces that they are the only real self-appointed critic of Barack Obama, our first black president.

    In this respect the Smiley West Poverty Tour does not pass the SMELL test for me. The Smiley West Poverty Tour with its unashamed “Sock it to Obama” theme certainly is something that is bound to warm the hearts of the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey. Further, when the corporation funded institute ALEC is not writing Voter Suppression legislation for consumption by Republican controlled state governments, the organization is always on the lookout for any freelance political projects that can effectively be used to “swift boat” the Obama 2012 re-election campaign. Now it is certainly well known that Tavis Smiley has long had extensive corporate connections who have funded all of his projects in the past, e.g., “The State of The Black Union”. What I need to know is just who is writing the checks to fund the Smiley West Poverty Tour?

    Lastly consider the very public feud between Dr. West and Dr. Laurence Summers, the president of Harvard during the time that Cornel was on the staff at Harvard. The feud became so heated and nasty that it mercifully ended when Dr. West resigned and returned to Princeton. Dr. West was a strong supporter of Barack Obama and even campaigned on his behalf in 2008. However west’s endorsement of Obama suddenly changed in 2009 when Obama appointed Dr. Summers to be the Director of the Administration’s Economic Council. Was it just a coincidence that after the appointment of Dr. Summers in 2009 that Cornel West launched his own very personal attack upon President Obama publicly accusing him of unacceptable incompetence in the discharge of his office, in addition to maintaining an unforgivable level of benign neglect towards the black community?

    IMHO these questions must be answered before I personally start listening to the rhetoric coming out of the Smiley West Poverty Tour.

  4. I see a lot of sidestepping in this comment stream.

    I guess that’s what people do when neither (a) facts nor (b) reason support their vitriol.

    Whether you like or dislike Cornel West or Barack Obama is beside the point.

    Whether you are a “scholar”, or whether other people have defended Obama and other people have criticized Cornel West, are likewise beside the point.

    And disingenuous, intellectually dishonest argument does not become you. I did not “share[…] the points of view that troubled [me] about my blog and [go] on to tease out the lines [I] believe[d] were fallacious”. I merely — at “Joe’s” request — pointed out some of the fallacies in THE FIRST 4 SENTENCES, and indicated it would take hours for me to similarly analyze the remainder of your propagandistic article.

    Obama is not a pragmatist, unless — as the most cynical analysts believe — he is in fact a corporatist who deliberately misrepresents himself on the campaign trail. But I do not know what lies within his heart of hearts. I would prefer to think of him as a good guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing, than as a bad guy who knows exactly what he is doing. And if he is at heart a good guy, then he is the farthest thing from pragmatic, because he has repeatedly thrown out the baby with the bath water, and handed victory to the big corporations at every turn of his presidency.

    • phelonn

      Ray: I, like other academic scholars who have commented on this post, am a Cornell West fan, too. I have been citing his work since my doctoral days and attended his lecture at the university where I am currently on faculty. We are all entitled to our opinions and arguments, as long as we use evidence to support our assertions. I know, this too can be sticky and you can easily argue that we pick and choose the evidence that best elucidates our arguments. But, as humans, we always want to believe we select the most appropriate and factual information that closely supports what we are trying to get across to our audience. Communication does not mean “agreement.” Besides, our discussions on are not driven by “like or dislike” of a person, but driven by the person’s or organization’s ideological and philosophical thinking or position. The creators of have high standards to which contributors must adhere. For one thing, we do not use “corrupt” language as you would see on other sites where controversial subjects are sometimes discussed. We avoid an ad hominem approach to our discussions and debates. Because we give meaning to our language (words) and language has a nonverbal component, individuals choose words that may appear neutral, pleasant strident, “vitriol,” hostile, and so forth. But to say the contributors of, specifically to my post, are “sidestepping in this comment stream” and are not interested in “neither (a) facts nor (b) reason support their vitriol” is beyond reason. I do not read “vitriol” in my fellow contributors’ comments. In fact, I read and feel more “vitriol” coming from you than I have ever read from those providing feedback to different posts, even if they disagree. Moreover, you said: “And disingenuous, intellectually dishonest argument does not become you.” Although you did not like what I said, I am hardly “disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.” I prefer to call it “ingenuous passion.” I truly believe you have taken this discussion to a personal level rather than keeping it on a level that allows us to respect one another’s arguments. Please keep in mind that it is through great debates that we resolve problems. Am I inferring that you have a “passionate” hate for Obama, and you’re using my post to inculpate in the court of your personal disdain for him?

  5. Actually I don’t see what this whole attack on West has to do with racism, other than the author’s point of view that black people have an obligation to mute their criticism of a black president… a decidedly racist point of view, if you ask me.

    • phelonn

      Perhaps you cannot see it. America is “racism.” America was founded on “racism.” America’s point of view is “racism.” West’s article has everything to do with “racism,” even when the subtlety of it is embedded in his text in coded language. And West knows this. This is what West is all about. His work embodies what racism is. When you said, “Actually I don’t see what this whole attack on West has to do with racism, other than the author’s point of view that black people have an obligation to mute their criticism of a black president… a decidedly racist point of view,” I would say that if the study of racism is not your profession, you will not see it or completely understand it. When West speaks, he is speaking about “racism.” When West talks about King’s legacy, he is talking about “racism.” West sparked much debate among African American scholars as well as the black community when he made clear how he felt about Obama, calling him the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” This statement is loaded with demeaning racial language. West also knows Obama’s hands are tied. Obama may occupy the most powerful office in this land, but the conservative right constantly reminds him that economic power is in the hands of white men and that white men “shape the political, social, and cultural consciousness” of U.S. society (see Feagin & Obrien, White Men On Race, 2003). When Clinton signed off on the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 that deregulated the U.S. financial system and viewed “free trade through the eyes of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Wall Street” (see George Lakoff, The Political Mind, 2008, p. 72), I don’t recall West decrying Clinton for going along with a Republican-controlled House and Senate for this action or pointing to the fact that Obama’s presidency has been constrained by the very democratic institutions that shaped America’s character, a unique character that many whites can appreciate: American exceptionalism. But Clinton is white and is heralded for leaving the economy in good shape. West knows this too, but he’s taking advantage of an opportunity to use the legacy of King against Obama’s economic performance. Even though African Americans cannot be called “racists,” because they do not have the ability to deny anyone “the dignity, opportunities, freedoms, and rewards that this nation offers white Americans” (see White Racism, Feagin, Vera, & Batur, 2000, p. 7), black intellectuals like West can stir white racism and retribution against notable blacks by pointing to their weaknesses, when they feel ignored by a perceived “uppity” black brother in a high position. And West knows whites will go along with his position, because he has earned a measure of respect from elite whites, especially those whites who don’t like that “uppity” black brother. If you don’t live among blacks, share their lived experiences, understand how they operate to survive in a racist society, you will view the West-Obama relationship through an opaque white racial frame and take what West says at face value. West knows how to pander to elite whites as well as the power elite, while at the same time build on a prestigious academic career that decries racism in America.

      • OxG

        //West also knows Obama’s hands are tied. Obama may occupy the most powerful office in this land, but the conservative right constantly reminds him that economic power is in the hands of white men and that white men “shape the political, social, and cultural consciousness” of U.S. society (see Feagin & Obrien, White Men On Race, 2003).//

        I’m not a race scholar. Please help me understand. I tend to side with West. To say that Obama’s hands are tied is to say that there is no hope for progress, IMO. What then can we do, if anything? If Obama can’t even rally people with likeminded aspirations for black and minority equality, then what can we do? What good is Civil Rights progress, King’s Dream? Is the Dream and the movement dead? Should we just STFU and kindly sit back and enjoy the fact that we can vote, and work in mixed enviroments and don’t have to be legally lynched and discriminated against?

        I think I read something here by Mr. Feagin that kind of supported West initially. But now it seems he does not.

        I’m getting lost. LOL!

        • Joe

          It is a long story, but all presidents are hemmed in by the white male oligarchy that has always run this country. Its moderate wing has supported Obama while its conservative wing attacks him. Both wings agree on economic policies mostly and thus Obama and all other presidents mostly do their bidding on economic issues, as West suggests. However, on many non economic issues Obama can do progresive things, as on Dont Ask Dont Tell, which he got rid of. He can do that because of some moderate elite backing. And when people organize and raise hell, as with that CR movement, they too can force some change. It has always been an uphill battle to increase democracy in this country, but pressing for change and getting some occasionally is the best you can hope for in a country with highly undemocratic political institutions like the US Senate and Supreme Court and electoral college.

          • OxG

            Thanks for your reply, Joe. I want you to know that I really enjoy this sight and am glad I stumbled upon it some time ago.

      • That was a lot of phony, disingenuous stuff, there, phelonn.

        Meanwhile if you can point to a single thing quoted by Mary in her article which was enunciated by Cornel West, which was wrong, you would be engaged in honest discussion, rather than pure gamesmanship.

        But then again I guess you are the only person who can pick up the “codes”.

        You must have very interesting conversations with (a) yourself and (b) others who can see the unseen codes which you imagine are more important than (1) facts and (2) reason.

  6. Shari Valentine

    Wow, I see we are stirring up the dust around here. I clicked on to parse percentage points with Mary about who has the highest historic unemployment rates, (my personal research indicates it is probably Native Americans, but I decided I was too busy to go track down several decades of government reports.)

    My personal reaction to West was similar to the ending comments of Mary’s article. I haven’t really noticed him climbing down from his ivy covered towers and working in the streets, though I like others have read his stuff over the years.

    Honestly, I find in the West-Obama controversy that it is my class background that comes to the fore rather then my race scholar thoughts.

    As a union brat and former international rep for the UFCW, I am pretty testy with the Prez right now. Unions took on racism in some of the toughest counties in this country, took it head on with frank videos and down in the trenches union hall meetings. They turned their culturally inclined to racism members (like my longshoreman father) to vote for a black man for president.

    In return, they got………still waiting……..Oh yeah they got the biggest assault on unionized public workers in the history of the country while the White House and most of the Democratic leadership as well remained silent and ran from the issue.

    I am not convinced Cornel West or Barack Obama has much of a realistic feel for the plight of the poor and marginalized. Nor do they have a way to understand the 50 year old union worker whose unemployment ran out and whose hiring hall hasn’t issued a new job order in months. Who doesn’t have a JD or PhD.

    I should have put my disclaimer up top in this comment. I voted for Obama,as i have voted for every Democratic nominee since I was able to. And I will vote for him again.

    But before I voted for Obama, I voted for Hilary. Union members hung with Hilary long after other constituencies left. Some of that was no doubt racial undertones, but some of it was that we union folks really believe that you dance with them that brung you. Your friends can count on you and you can count on your friends.

    Hard to count Obama a friend of labor. I always feared that Obama had too little Washington experience for the Presidency. Joe and I discussed it several times. I really wish he would stop being so darned civilized. In Texas, you don’t try to make friends with the rattlesnake in your barn. I guess in Chicago they don’t have rattlers so he didn’t know that those guys were never going to play fair or be civilized.

    As a Native person, not my place to get into the family dispute between two prominent wealthy African American men with ivy league degrees.

    I am just wondering when that 69% unemployment rate on the Blackfoot reservation is ever going to drop and whether or not the sheet metal worker who lives next door will get called back to work next week since he has been off 3 months and things are grim for his wife and kids.

    I think it is the luxury of wealthy employed men, of any color, to parse out the nuances of rhetoric. For those with blue collars it isn’t the words that talk, its the actions.

    Obviously, my collar is very blue this morning:) I’ve had all the fun I can afford here. Gotta get dressed and go to work.

    • phelonn

      Hi, Shari: I only had unemployment statistics on the four major U.S. groups (African Americans, Asian-Americans, Euro-Americans,and Hispanics). They always seem to overlook Native Americans! I agree that Obama could have spoken more agressively and used the bully pulpit in behalf unions against Republican-controlled statehouses that are stripping workers of their union rights. But that doesn’t seem to be in his nature. Perhaps one day he will wig out on them and catch us all by surprise.

  7. Blaque Swan

    I haven’t read through all the explanations between Mary and Ray. I feel about Cornel West the same way I feel about white liberal critics of Pres Obama: either do something to push the president leftward, or shut up.

    Yeah, I’m pretty much either/or on this issue. Not in the W “either you’re with us or against us” way, no. But all things considered, I don’t see the productivity of liberal/progressive articles and blog posts, etc and so, critical of the president that suggest no collect action.

    We can debate whether there’s enough good to balance out the bad. We can debate whether early expectations were too high or if Obama misrepresented himself. We can debate how much he’s done for the black community versus what Hillary would’ve done. We can debate whether it’d be productive for him, a black man, to take a hard left stance and get all “angry.” All those things can be debated. And Obama can be rightfully, that is deservedly, criticized. And even by, if not especially by, black folks and Blackfoots alike. Fine. Good. Great. Whatever.

    Okay, so then what?

    We’ve seen what a bunch of white “thank you, Lordy” college graduates can accomplish when they put their minds, or lack thereof, to it. So “where my white Democrats at?” Where’re all the white liberals and progressives protesting in the streets? Where’re all the black elites . . . Well, let’s be honest. We’re not going to see any “tea party” of color. State governors will be calling in the national guard (ironically named, right?) should black and brown and red folks take to the streets with loaded automatics.

    Come to think of it, maybe we do need to throw a coffee, latte, and mocha party. (By the by, did the 1773 Boston Tea Party ever strike anyone else as racist? Thus making today’s so-called Tea Parts even more insulting?)

    But I digress.

    My point is that intellectualizing about the issue ain’t gonna get us where we need to go. Instead of a cruise, maybe Katrina vanden Heuvel should invite readers of THE NATION to a mass protest in DC. And instead of protesting the president, or only the president, they should protest Congress as well. Obama’s civility ain’t the problem. The Republicans’ intransigence ain’t the problem. Once upon a time, Dems had the House and a 60-vote majority in the Senate. Remind me again how much did they got done? I’ll remind you that it’s not the president’s job to make laws, only to execute them. So if there’s some law you didn’t get or didn’t get fixed, you probably want to yell at actual lawmakers first.

    Hold protests on state capitals. Do something besides intellectualizing because the people who need the message don’t appear to have sufficient intellect to keep up. I doubt Bachmann reads THE NATION or any other “lamestream” publication. Sarah Palin apparently doesn’t read at all.

    So whether right or wrong or to what extent he’s right or wrong, West’s article is ultimately even less productive than Warren Buffet’s op-ed. Unless they plan on sharing their dreams at the Lincoln Memorial, they might as well go back to sleep. Put up or shut up.

  8. diffperspective

    Hello all, just happened to stumble upon this site after initially doing some reading on Liberia…first time reader and poster. After reading the article and some of the posts in response to it, I have a few questions for anyone kind and gracious enough to respond:

    1) Do you think that if a white president had been proposing the legislative agenda championed by President Obama, the right would have quietly deferred?
    b) If so, what is your take on the right’s opposition during the Clinton years on the whole, and on the landslide Republican House takeover post-‘Hillarycare’ in ’94? (point being that vocal opposition to a president’s policies, coupled with major electoral shifts as an expression of that opposition is not novel in the American poliical experience, and did not start with a Black president.)

    2) (Unrelated to race) If Republican obstinance, foot-dragging, and obstructionism is to blame for frustrating the President’s efforts towards fixing some of the problems facing minorities, the poor, the economy on the whole, those pesky tax loopholes for “millionaires and billionaires”, etc, how can one account for no fixes for these problems coming out of Washington when the President had the triple-crown of legislative power: the White House and both houses of Congress (with filibuster-proof majorities in both, rendering Republican support or opposition completely meaningless)? Could it be that the legislative agenda failed on its own merits, and not because a powerless (at the time) bunch of meanies stood in the way?

    Political timeline considerations to note:

    2006-2008: Dems controlled both the Senate and House
    2008-2010: Dems controlled the Senate, the House, and White House
    2010 – present: Dems control both the White House and Senate

    (That’s 5 yrs of having a hand on 2 out of 3 levers of power)

    Thanks to anyone who wishes to respond…God bless.

    • John D. Foster

      @ diffperspective: I think Joe’s response above answers a lot of what you’re asking here. I’m more of a structuralist so all the focus on Obama’s individual actions is insuffient to understand what is going on right now in Washington. Increasingly both parties are corporate-controlled while we have little to no representation of labor, while even large portions of the middle-class is getting left out as well. At the same time, we must take care to dismiss the qualitative differences between this President and those before him, including Clinton. While there are some parallels, there are also some important differences, including race. One last point: we should all remember that Obama ran on reform, not revolution, and he actually has had some achievements in that sense (e.g., “Obamacare”).

    • phelonn

      We’re happy you learned about and are pleased you have decided to participate in responding to this post. As for your first question, I do believe the conservative right would have passed any proposed legislation by a white president without question. When President Obama’s predecessors asked that the debt ceiling be raised, especially when the incumbent president was a Republican, the conservative right did not hesitate to raise it. However, when Obama asked that the debt ceiling be raised, Congressional Republicans would only raise it under the condition that the Obama administration would agree to deep spending cuts. The 112th Congress, particularly the Republicans, know deep spending cuts can destroy a fragile and weak economy, which would destroy jobs and not create them in order to thwart Obama’s success to revive the economy. They are too busy trying to make Obama a one-term president instead of focusing on creating jobs. On question 1a, Clinton was a white incumbent president, and “yes” they opposed him too. But not as bad as they oppose Obama where most race scholars as well as white political analysts and commentators believe race plays a major role in what Obama is experiencing. We must remember that the Clintons back off healthcare reform, but Obama was able to proceed with DEMS holding the power in both Congress and in the Senate, without one Republican vote and a Republican idea. I think the Republicans resented the fact that the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed under the sheer audacity of a black presidency when white presidencies could not get it passed or backed down for political reasons. As for your second question, I do not believe the DEMS had any idea what they and the Obama administration were about to experience when the Republicans gained control of Congress during the 2010 elections, and the Tea Party movement was given birth, something that has not happened in politics since 1776. Obama has experienced the worst kind of disrespect that no other president has experienced. In fact, some conservative right wingers who have egregiously disrespected him probably own pets and have given their pets more respect than they have Obama or any black person, even to the point where they kiss their pets’ mouths or allow their pets to lick their faces. As for your timeline, you make a legitimate point about the DEMS “having filibuster-proof majorities in both [the Congress and Senate], rendering Republican support or opposition completely meaningless.” But, acting like politicians, DEMS failed in their representation of the American people’s interests, perhaps wanting to keep their jobs and missed the wave. The first thing the Obama administration and the DEMS should have done, when they had power in both the Congress and the Senate between January 2009 and November 2010, was to focus on what was important to the American people: the economy. Beyond this, Obama could have told the American people how bad the economic situation was, upon taking office. But somehow Obama’s advisors failed on this point too. Robert Kuttner says in Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency (p. 2) is that a president’s “leadership [is to] first transform the public understanding of national challenges and then to break through impasses made up of congressional blockage, interest-group power, voter cynicism or passivity, and conventional wisdom.” Something FDR did by convicting the conservative right in the court of public opinion and went on to win the presidency four times.

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