The recent controversy surrounding the unfortunate personal attacks on President Obama by the once-respected Professor Cornel West could be written off as just another story from the United States of Stupid. There are an infinite number of such stories, recent ones including the $500,000 Tiffany’s line of credit enjoyed by the “populist” Newt Gingrich the manic media obsession with the marital life of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
But the Cornel West story is different in a very important way. His comments and his personal line of attack were not explosive, but they were corrosive. There is no way that a relative lightweight like Cornel West could collapse the Obama presidency with his pseudo-intellectual hoots and catcalls.
However petty, personal and disrespectful commentary gets more media coverage than any serious criticism of the policies and actions of the Obama Administration. Unfortunately many of the same people who read the National Enquirer for their news and get their facts from seminars held in barber shops and beauty salons are the same people who will pay attention to the likes of Cornel West. And they all vote – or don’t vote, based upon bits and pieces of information and nonsensical chatter such as the squawks that recently emanated from one of Princeton’s Finest.
If left unchallenged, over time commentary becomes fact. Cornel West has questioned whether Barack Obama is a “progressive”; he has also questioned whether he is truly connected to the black community in America. When Cornel West was selected as the arbiter of these matters is certainly a matter of some debate and mystery. Yet there are otherwise intelligent men and women who will listen to this nonsense. And they all vote -–or don’t vote.
The many critics of Professor West have pointed out the validity and need for a robust discussion, and where necessary critique, of the policies of President Obama, as would be the case for any president. But any African American who doesn’t recognize that the first African American President of the United States is a special case needs their head examined, and soon.
The insults, degrading remarks and insane rhetoric directed at Barack Obama by the right wing of the right wing are unprecedented. To suggest that these attacks are not in some way connected with the racial and racist concerns would be delusional. That Cornel West would join in this madcap chorus is minstrelsy, pure and simple. Professor West may not lecture about the Stockholm Syndrome in his classes at Princeton, but he is certainly a walking illustration of this malady.
When queried as to how his attacks are different from those emanating from the G.O.Tea Party and the right wing of the right wing, West had a facile response. He (correctly) pointed out that much of the so-called grassroots Tea Party movements are financed by “billionaires and plutocrats”. He then (insanely) stated that he spoke for the otherwise voiceless “masses” that have either been ignored or further oppressed by the Obama Administration.
My research does not indicate the moment in time when Cornel West was anointed as the voice of the “masses”. He presumably considers the thousands of black congressional, state and local elected officials (elected by the “masses”) as being mute and complicit in the sins of President Obama. And finally, Professor West is seemingly oblivious to the great harm that he can be the result of his attacks.
Much in the same way that Ralph Nader was directly responsible for the election of George Bush in 2000, Cornel West’s ravings born of personal pique and misplaced self-importance could persuade just a few voters to not vote for Barack Obama in 2012. A relatively few black voters in key states that stay home in solidarity with Princeton’s Finest could tip the election in favor of a Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann.
Clearly it is news to Professor West that politics is about the achievement of the possible while striving for perfection. Questioning Barack Obama’s “blackness”, calling him a “black mascot of Wall Street” and suggesting that he is afraid of “free thinking black men” (which presumably includes the Princeton-based bit actor in “Matrix Reloaded”) does nothing but energize the right wing of the right wing while degrading and corroding support for the president.
Perhaps Cornel West will be satisfied with a Palin or Pawlenty presidency in 2013. This is not the future that I wish for my son or the children of this country. If he can’t see the error of his ways perhaps he might have the good grace to just be quiet.