The Black Left Debates Barack Obama




I don't want to say too much about this debate between Glen Ford and Michael Eric Dyson hosted by Amy Goodman. But I think it's important that people see this because it's outside of the spectrum we usually see on display. It also has the luxury of not being weighted by the sort of personal beef we often saw in earlier critiques.


Here's Ford explaining his critique:
[W] e at Black Agenda Report have for some time been saying that Obama is not the lesser of evils, but the more effective evil. And we base that on his record and also on his rhetoric at the convention. So, we would prefer to talk about what history-making events have gone down under his presidency. He's, first of all, created a model for austerity, a veritable model, with his deficit reduction commission. He's introduced preventive detention, a law for preventive detention. He's expanded the theaters of war in drone wars, and he's made an unremitting assault on international law. And I think that possibly the biggest impact, his presidency--and I'm not talking about his--all this light and airy stuff from the convention, but actual deeds--I think probably what will go down as his biggest contribution to history is a kind of merging of the banks and the state, with $16 trillion being infused into these banks, into Wall Street, under his watch, and the line between Wall Street and the federal government virtually disappearing.
And Dyson's (I think correct) rebuttal:
[A]ll of the stuff that Glen Ford has talked about is absolutely right in an ideal world where the politics of erosion can be stemmed by progressive forces that have an upsurgence, that have the possibility of getting elected. But if you ain't in the game -- Miami Heat is playing the -- talking about sports -- is playing the Oklahoma Thunder. It's not "I'd prefer it be the Los Angeles Lakers." This is the game we're talking about. And if the American left can't be involved in the actual practice of government to offer the critical and salient insights that are available -- take -- take 2000, when siding with Nader, then Al Gore, who should have been president, who would have prevented some of the stuff that we see now happening, didn't occur. The left won't take responsibility for the fact that, with the extraordinary intelligence of a Glen Ford and many other leftists notwithstanding, the reality is that he's the most progressive president, as Gary Dorrien, an American leftist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary argues, since FDR. Those are the stakes on the ground.
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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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