Obama's Left Flank

In this Chris Hedges piece, Cornel West attacks Obama for betraying progressives, and then descends into some really personal, embittered invective:

He bitterly describes Obama as "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it." 

 "When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority," says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. 

"And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that's where I find myself now...

There's a lot in there about Obama's inability to return phone-calls, ("I said a prayer on the phone for him, especially before a debate. And I never got a call back.") his unwillingness to part with inauguration tickets, ("And then as it turns out with the inauguration I couldn't get a ticket with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange.") and passive aggressive telepathy, ("I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men.") 

But there's very little in the way of specific, detailed policy critiques. Of what little there is, I don't know how you support a president and don't expect him to "head of the American killing machine." That's what a Commander In Chief is. I can't think of a single president, who was more committed to loving the weak and the vulnerable first. In specific, practical terms, I'm not even sure that it's a good idea, nor do I know what it means.

Was there something more Obama should have done to get a public option? Should he not have traded the Bush tax cuts for extending unemployment benefits? Did Obama settle too quickly on a small stimulus package? Was he wrong to allow the GOP to shut down planned parenthood in DC? Is the strategy of increased drone attacks in Pakistan inhumane? Was the financial reform bill he signed ultimately too weak?

I think all of this is fair game. I think Charles Ferguson's critique in Inside Job was really solid.  I think calling someone a "black mascot" or a "black puppet" because they don't agree with you is much less so. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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