November 22, 2010; Source: Firedoglake.com | While the mainstream press—and yes, NPQ as well—are obsessed with the Tea Party and its potential emergence as a third party challenger to the Republicans and Democrats, we gave short shrift to the idea of a challenge to Democrats from the left. But the left is as disgruntled with mainstream Democrats as the right is with establishment Republicans. Notwithstanding the withering criticism Ralph Nader took for this run against Bush and Gore, the splintering of the parties may in fact be upon us.
Princeton University African-American studies and religion professor Cornel West was asked by Democracy Now! about his reaction to Kanye West’s calling George W. Bush a racist, but answered with a response about President Obama. The activist professor said that President Obama’s policies, like Bush’s, discriminate against African-Americans, with “racist effect and consequence” despite neither President’s “racist motivation and intention.”
West seemed to out-Kanye Kanye in his critique of Preisdent Obama: “He doesn’t care about the Black poor: The evidence is overwhelming! . . . His policies [a]re . . . generating misery among poor people, disproportionately Black and Brown . . . The Obama Administration seems to have very little concern about poor people and their social misery . . . (L)ook at the policies of Black Farmers—a settlement already in place but they don’t want to execute it because they don’t want to be associated with Black folk too explicitly . . . (W)e can go right across the board—look at the policies of the new Jim Crow.”
While Professor West is entitled to his opinion, his comment about President Obama and the Pigford black farmers settlement is wrong; ever since he was the junior senator from Illinois, Obama has strongly supported reopening and refunding the black farmers settlement, as we have reported here at NPQ before. Read here, here, and here.
West also intimates that the President was a reluctant supporter of the Cobell case on Indian trust lands, but the evidence is that he was in that camp as well, even when the staff he inherited at the Department of Agriculture (on Pigford) and Department of Interior (on Cobell) hadn’t caught up with the President. Critiquing “mean-spirited cold-hearted Republicans and spineless milquetoast Democrats,” West predicts the “slow demise” of the two-party system under pressure from both ideological wings.
Don’t dismiss West out of hand. He is one of the more influential African-American leaders in the nonprofit sector, sitting on the boards of the National Parenting Association, the Fund for Community Leadership Development (with board chair Rev. Calvin Butts), International Bridges to Justice, and Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble (with Alma Rangel as a board colleague). If Cornel West is talking, people are listening.—Rick Cohen