Cornel West Vs. Rev. Al Sharpton Round 2

    Sharpton, West to Debate on Obama, Black Agenda


    Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 3:42 am
    By: Jackie Jones,



    Rev. Al Sharpton (left) and scholar Cornel West will engage in a debate at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the NNPA convention.

    The debate over President Barack Obama’s performance on the black agenda deepens this weekend, when community activist Rev. Al Sharpton and scholar Cornel West engage in a debate at 12:30 p.m. central time Friday afternoon at the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s annual conference in Chicago.

    The pair had a heated discussion about Obama in April on the MSNBC special "The Black Agenda," hosted by Ed Schultz.
    West leveled blistering criticism of Obama, arguing not only that the president has failed to do enough to reduce black unemployment, but suggesting Obama was no more than a “black mascot” for the rich.
    Sharpton, in response, said many black leaders have gotten behind the president to help him press a more progressive agenda and put pressure on a Congress that has largely been resistant to the measures that would best serve the black community.
    “Too many of us are putting it all on the president,” Sharpton said on MSNBC in April. “If I see a [Rep. Paul] Ryan in Congress, where is the counterpoint to Ryan? That’s not President Obama’s job ... He shouldn’t lead the civil rights marches against himself. Everybody’s sitting around acting like we can’t do anything; Obama’s going to do it. That’s hogwash.”
    Critics say Ryan (R-Wis.) has come up with a counter to the health care legislation Obama signed into law last March, as well as other budget initiatives which would disenfranchise millions of poor and underserved Americans.
    West maintains that black congressional leaders were hesitant to lead on issues themselves and to challenge Obama.
    “They have a black constituency, and there’s a context in the nation that a criticism of President Obama is an attempt to support the right-wing vicious attacks of Fox News and others,” West said.
    After Friday’s debate at NNPA, there will be a national leaders forum moderated by Harvard Law School Prof. Charles Ogletree, featuring Chuck Morrison of Ford Motor Co., Benjamin Chavis of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, Georgetown University Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, Rainbow PUSH founder Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr., NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous; Maulana Karenga, PhD., founder of US, and Sharpton.
    The conference will focus primarily on the challenges and opportunities facing black newspapers.


    -----I'll try to post an update after the conference is over once I determine where a video will be available online

    ---Note: In a previous response to a post, I stated that Shirley Sherrod had accepted a post as a consultant to the Obama Dept of Agriculture. I thought it had been reported as a done deal. Appaently, they only wanted to pay her $35K for a very detailed job, so she has not accepeted the post.

    Where I got the idea that she had accepted

    The story that says that she hasn't accepted. [link fixed - d]

    Sorry for the error.



    I fixed the link. Also, there was this article in the LA Times I thought was related:

    But the real divide is not between West and Obama or West and Harris-Perry, it's between two age-old, unresolved strategies black leaders have adopted throughout history to ensure black survival in America: nationalism and assimilation. Assimilation holds that blacks must claim their place in the mainstream to be successful; nationalism maintains that black success starts -- and perhaps ends -- with building and sustaining group unity. Fueling the latest image anxiety is a taboo question that animated the comments of an increasingly irate West: What good is Obama to us? By 'us' I mean black masses who are a crucial and historical part of the American working class and poor for whom West has always advocated.

    She goes on:

    The real problem with the assimilation-versus-nationalism battle is that it isn't really a battle anymore because black leaders, whatever philosophy they espouse these days, rarely put black interests first.

    I'd amend that to poor black interests, much in the way that leaders of any color don't seem to put the interests of the poor, and increasingly the middle class, at the top of their lists, either.

    Thanks for repairing the link and for the LA Times article. Poverty is not on the front page in MSM. I came across a story about a highway in Baltimore that actually goes nowhere. It's only effect was to separate portions of two poor Black neighborhoods and displace hundreds of residents.

    Poor Black neighborhoods fall prey to the wims of government and industry. Toxic waste plants are another construct that tends to find themselves close to poor neighborhoods. The very easy takedown of ACORN by Republicans and Democrats shows the weakness of  political power among the poor.

    The West-Sharpton discussion is essentially a discussion about who among the Black elites will have the strongest voice. West is at Princeton and Sharpton sleeps in five-star hotels.

    Obama has, no doubt, purchased the support of the entrepeneurial and often insightful Sharpton.  The lame excuses he makes on behalf of Obama's horrendous record are the same lame attacks the Obamabots have been using since he began reneging on all his major campaign promises.

    The idea that someone else has to lead is the quintessential demonstration of just how pathetic and cowardly Obama really is.  The President's job is to lead.  If he fails to lead (as has been the case with Obama since he was sworn in) then nothing gets accomplished.  There is, of course, no guarantee that any particular effort is sure to win if the President leads the charge, but it is guaranteed that little or nothing will happen if he shirks his duty and fails to lead as he does on just about everything.

    It is not the job of Congressional Democrats to be on point and lead the charge for him, take all the flack and get no Presidential support for the effort.  It is not the job of civil rights leaders to push harder for the President's proposals particularly since he has none they can get behind!  Obama is an abject failure as a Democrat.  He's a blazing success as a Republicn though!

    ..........Obama is an abject failure as a Democrat

    Wrong, Obama has high approval among self identified Democrats. A gallup poll in May 2011 rated his approval among Democrats as > 80%.

    Even among the Netroots, 80% rate Obaama as strongly approve to somewhatpprove

    Despite their grousing about the administration during the Netroots Nation conference, liberal activists and bloggers are relatively happy with President Barack Obama's performance.

    A straw poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that 80 percent either approve or strongly approve of the president more than a year before voters head to the polls to decide whether he deserves a second term. The results broke down to 27 percent strongly approving of Obama and 53 percent approving “somewhat.” Thirteen percent said they “somewhat disapprove,” and 7 percent strongly disapprove of the president.

    The poll of 519 people was conducted via iPad in the Minneapolis Convention Center on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.



    Big deal. 

    Most Democrats are just rooting for the blue team.  He sucks as a Democrat and that's all there is to it.  Everyone knows that.  Everyone who isn't a blind follower that is. 

    His spokesman at the Netroots convention was loudly booed and the only argument he made and the only one anyone makes for his reelection is that the Republicans are worse.  If he were genuinely popular with the netroots crowd why didn't Obama show up?  Simple: because they didn't want Obama himself to be booed.

    He cannot point to any major progressive victories and his claimed victories such as the stimulus which was watered down (because he is afraid to fight for anything) and the rotten Romney Plan for healthcare are both failures as far as common citizens are concerned: we still have massive unemployment with no hope of relief in the next several years and healthcare costs continue to rise exponentially.  The watered down stimulus did not have the strong stimulative effect it would have had if it wasn't 40% tax cuts and the health care bill will do absolutely nothing to control the exhorbitant cost of health insurance which is the number one concern most people have about it.  There is massive dissatisfaction with his weak, timid, even flacid "leadership on issues important to the base of the Democratic Party.  Democrats have no alternative and are being fed a steady diet of excuses as to why this alleged Demcrat governs as a Republican and they have no choice but to buy it.  The only reason that lying fraud is going to be re-elected is because the Republicans are so far out on the extreme and even then they will come close to beating him because Obama won't even defend himself!

    claimed victories such as the stimulus

    What makes it even more galling is that back at the beginning of his administration, when this worst of his mistakes was being made, he had the banks and the repugs on the run.  Without the helicopters dropping fed money on the plutocrats, they would have gone down the toilet (where they belonged.)

    He not only failed to  play his hand, he had a winning hand to play and he folded instead.


    That's exactly right and he failed to play that hand because even though he had the power to do them in he was just fundamentally a weak, fearful, coward.  It's sickening to think of how his total lack of any moral fiber or courage has, for all intents and purposes delivered a fatal blow to the American people who elected him.  He is now, by his own choosing, merely a willing puppet of the same monied interests Bush worked for.  And if there's really anyone out there who doesn't believe it just look at how he has escalated the Afghan war, now lies about ending it, and how he launched an illegal war in Libya without Congressional approval.  Who do those wars serve?  How embarassed is the Nobel Committe now?

    Excuse me.  This is not an illegal war in Libya.  If it were a war, it would be illegal.  However, because it does not involve hostilities, it is not a war.

    How does it not involve hostilities?  Because the US armed forces personnel raining death down upon Libyans (rebels and gaddafites alike) do so from such a distance, and in such calm surroundings, that they have, in fact, not the slightest animus towards their victims.  It's a videogame.  Who hates Mario?  Who curses Ms. Pacman.

    Ya feel me?

    Totally feelin ya!

     a weak, fearful, coward.  

    You are easy on him.  I think he's a lying sack of shit.  Cowardice had nothing to do with it.  He did the job he was sent to do.  

    So 80% of Democrats aren't "real" Democrats and 80% of Netroots aren't valid barometers of the Left?

    Learned helplessness leads to depression and passivity.  We need better medication...

    I, of course, recommend amphetamines (ed note: you recommend amphetamines for everything...)

    Just as the far right base of the Republican party will claim that moderate Republicans aren't true Repulblicans (and thus why there aren't many of them left), the far left take the mantle as being the true Democrats.  The rest of the so-called Democrats are deluded or brainwashed or Obamabots.

    If I remember correctly, there seemed to be general agreement in Dean's 50 state plan, through which the Democrats would be embracing a wide range of beliefs and ideologies.  Being pro-life was not reason to kick you out of the party. 

    Apparently it seems some believe now that if one believed that letting the banks fail and rolling the dice on the possible impact on the global economy was a bad idea means one is not worthy enough to call oneself a Democrat.  In the end, it is the purity test, by which this or that sub-group within a national party attempts to claim for themselves the role of bearers of the ideology and policy stance for the whole party.  They cannot seem to accept that within a national party, if it is to be sufficient to have any power on the national stage, is going to have include a lot of diversity of thought. 

    The far Left is as rigid in their positions as the far Right is in their positions. Both would let the country collapse based on "principal". Both groups are eager to classify themselves as the true Patriots. Give them any real power and they will run roughshod over the rest of the citizens of the United States because only they possess the "truth"..

    Although I would say there are those in the "middle" who find it just as easily to run roughshod over the rest of the citizens.

    True. LOL

    You miss the point (though I find it hard to understand how).

    First, like most Americans, most Democrats are conditioned to cheer for "our" side and they do that.  They are clearly unhappy about Obama's wars.  They are clearly unhappy about Obama's failure to get the economy moving.  They are clearly unhappy about Obama being another typical Washington Democrat who doesn't stand up for what he believes in.  The evidence for this is abundant.  But what choice do they have but to support our Republican Lite President?  Zip.  Nada. Zilch!  If they had any alternative they would go for it but they don't have an alternative.

    And as for your touting the numbers from Netroots get real.  These are activist Democrats and only about a third are very happy with his performance.  The bulk of them are "somehwat" happy with his performance.  That is a 100% Democratic crowd whose main purpose is to get Democrats elected.  As such, the approval is astoundingly low not high.  A large majority ought to be strongly in support of him and they are not.  Most are luke warm.  In other words, they are holding their noses and supporting him even though they know (like everyone else) that he sucks.  Because they are committed Democratic activists they are still persuaded by the only argument in favor of supporting President Ford, uh, I mean Obama, and that is the old canard: "the Republicans are even worse".  Wow.  Just wow.  What a robust and laudable argument that is.  Who can blame the netroots for booing his representative for an extended period when that's the best they can do?

    No doubt about it: As a practical matter and in light of the record he has laid down, Obama is for all intents and purposes a Republican.  Disappointing, disgusting, but true.  He sure ain't no Democrat and he damn sure lied and quite knowingly to the nation when he said he was for change.  There has never been a bigger defender of the status quo.

    The thing is during the seventies, there were still plenty of Boll weevils who could be a lot more conservative than Republicans.  Thanks to Reagan revolution building on the Southern strategy, they were finally purged as Nascar dads and others voted Republican (although not due some liberal uprising in the primaries).  Saying that Obama is like a '70s Republican actually is not saying much of all because they were as varied as the Democrats back then.  Probably more accurately, Obama is like Lincoln Chaffee who was purged in the 2006 elections.  But Lincoln is not like today's Republicans (which is why he went independent).  But calling Obama this is done (in my not so humble opinion) usually with the hopes that people will associate the term Republican to what the party is like now, not what it was like back in the seventies.

    The point here is that you have your definition of what qualifies someone to be a "Democrat," as do I, as do just about anybody involved with the Democratic Party.  We are equally valid.  Obama made it clear during the campaign that although he talked about change, he was not out to undermine the basic fundamentals of our market economy, etc.  He never promised a revolution.  He promised the status quo, but made to work better, the way it could work for Americans.  Which is what most Democrats want - with memories of the America in the post-WWII boom era.  That makes him a Republican in your eyes, but not in every other Democrats'.


    One problem with being so caught up in how much of a disappointment Obama constitutes, you make a statement suggesting that the Republicans are not a bigger danger. This is a strong dividing point for me. Look at the actions of the Republicans on the court towards corporations. Look at the actions of Republican Governors towards unions and unemployment benefits. Look at the action of Republicans in Congress playing with the debt ceiling and the damage being done to the global economy. Look at the action of Republican legislatures in voter suppression. Republicans are the big danger.

    Am I first and foremost anti-Republican? You betcha!

    This is a bit long but I think it is worth noting:

    Washington, D.C.–Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Republican attempts to block the Economic Development Administration reauthorization. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

    This Congress convened in January with a single mandate from the American people: create jobs.

    And so Democrats have brought to the Senate floor bill after bill aimed at helping American businesses innovate, grow and hire. These were good pieces of legislation with proven track records of creating jobs.

    Take the Economic Development Administration reauthorization, for example. Since 1965 the EDA has created jobs in economically distressed communities. Creating good jobs in places that really need them, like Nevada, ought to be a goal we can all agree on.

    In the last five years, the Economic Development Administration has created 300,000 jobs. And it’s done it efficiently, too. For every dollar the federal government invests, private industry invests seven.

    For 45 years the EDA has worked with businesses and universities at the local level to create jobs from the ground up.

    Even when Republicans controlled the White House, even when they controlled Congress, even when they controlled both, EDA was there helping businesses grow.

    Today our economy needs those jobs more than ever. Yet Republicans have found a new way to kill a piece of legislation that would put Americans back to work.

    They have stood here on the Senate floor and talked with straight faces about job creation. And then they turned around have bogged down good, job-creating legislation with amendments that could kill even the most bipartisan bill.

    Meanwhile, unemployed Americans wait.

    They wait while Republicans filibuster – not with words, but with amendments – a bill that has created 300,000 jobs in the last five years.

    One would think these must be important amendments if Republicans are willing to make Americans standing in the unemployment line wait a little longer.

    You be the judge. My Republican friends are holding up a proven job-creator to exempt the sand dune lizard from the Endangered Species Act, for example. And, lest the lizard be singled out, there is an amendment to exempt the lesser prairie chicken, too.

    This sends the message that such frivolous amendments – more than 90 of them in all – are more important than putting people back to work.

    They’ve also filed amendments on:

    • EPA water quality standards,
    • Light bulbs,
    • Right to work laws,
    • The estate tax,
    • Repeal of Wall Street Reform,
    • The U.S.-Mexico border fence.

    And, yet again, a handful of their amendments would delay or repeal health care reform. That is a battle Republicans seem determined to fight over and over no matter how many times they lose.

    We’ve already voted on bank-card swipe fees and ethanol subsidies. And we voted on the regulatory reform amendment offered, once again, by the senior senator from Maine. Yet we could not reach agreement to consider this worthy bill.

    But this is not the first time Republicans have stopped the important work of job creation in its tracks. The Small Business Innovation Research Bill died here on the Senate floor. And the FAA Reauthorization and Patent Reform bills – which would have put hundreds of thousands of people to work – languish in the House.

    And still, unemployed Americans wait.

    Tomorrow Republicans will get another chance to help us move forward on a bill that has a proven track record of putting people to work. In the meantime, I urge my Republican colleagues to consider the cost of these delay tactics.

    Thanks Trope. The Republicans are who we think they are.


    I see Cornel West still has learned to shut up. He lacks credibility, so all he's doing is digging himself into a hold in the Black community.  But it'll be interesting to see if he tries to use the occasion to try to walk back some of his previous statements. I'm sure he's going to do it eventually, because he specializes in telling the people whatever makes him most popular.

    If you are a Black "elite" and you make Al Sharpton sound good, then you have really lost the battle. West has fallen victim to this problem. Sharpton was the one who appeared calm and sane during the MSNBC debate. West uses the word lawn jockey "mascot" and expects no controversy?

    I tend to look at people like West and Dyson as excellent at producing word salad. You wish that you had their gift with words despite realizing that the words have no real content. Once you get past "The man is screwing us.",  West and Dyson have nothing else to say. You don't leave a dicusssion with West or Dyson feeling that you have gained any details on how to change the situation in any reality based fashion.

    I think part of your problem with West is that West makes a career out of criticism and not solutions, whereas you have put flesh in the game at the Postal Service. West is a mouthpiece, not an activist. You are an activist.

    Yeah, that's why I like Marion Barry - he has street cred, not just a bystander.

    Street cred???

    So Wattree is no different than Marion Barry in your eyes?

    I believe Wattree is a Eulipion, if I recall correctly.

    So Marion Barry and street cred should not be part of the discussion since Wattree is a lifeforce above such comparisons?

    If you could only hear yourself talk.

    Street cred of course is to be discussed - on the street.

    Okay. although I got the feeling that Watrree was inside a Postal Service building.

    So Marion Barry has no place in the discussion?

    Many postal workers work on the street, and as a Journey Agent, undoubtedly.

    Marion Barry had tons of street cred.

    I am sure that you believe that you are making sense. For me, your end of the discussion has been word salad. There just doesn't seem to be any real point other than to argue and veer away from anything serious.

    Will you be watching the West Sharpton debate?

    No interest - the blind leading the naked. Would rather hear Barry debate Wattree.

    But I could bring a fruit salad.

    Ok. So imagine I went to a party, and riled up this Fruit Salad by slinging some sass at it. Got it completely infuriated, right off its nut... and then told it that it was actually the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake that had put me up to it.

    Mano-a-mano, who would win? Fruit Salad? Or the Dulce Cheesecake?

    I put $20 on the Dulce.


    I think you've got your finger on something there Eric.  I think West really regrets his personal attack on Obama's blackness.  That was, to be kind, ill advised.  Perhaps his regret will lead him to stick to the issues in the future. We shall see.  I think also you are correct regarding how good a nose West has for ingratiating himself with as wide an audience as possible.  If he isn't popular, if he doesn't maintain his audience, then he's left without much to do right?

    If past is prologue, can we can expect West to attack Sharpton for continuing to wear a conk? :-)

    Funny about Shirley Sherrod - I had an idea any contract was nothing close to her full time director's job even before the followup link. $35K? That's like a 6-week consulting gig for anything serious.

    Given that this debate will be happening at a conference of newspaper publishers (didn't know about this organization, nor what the acroynm stood for, so had to check out their website), I hope that the debate does deal with how does one talk about, criticize, and praise Obama when one has the objective of telling it like it is.  By this I mean, how does one talk and write about politics to a wide base while acknowledging one's own agenda. 

    The assimilation vs nationalism debate is an interesting one, especially as touches upon identity politics and its role in the upcoming elections.  In the context of Obama, there is the specific question of the role of the federal government (as opposed to state and local government, NGOs, and the communities themselves) in assisting specific communities.  And of course with Obama I have always felt that he is (overly?) sensitive about appearing as if he was assisting minorities at the expense of the whites who are in need of assistance as well. 

    I also hope that the debate will at least touch on how those outside the specific community, such as me, can engage meaningfully in this debate.  Not being black nor poor (although I am close on the latter category), I understand there is time when I need to just be quiet.  But there are also times when everyone should engage in the issue.

    On the more gossipy side of things, I find it interesting that in the original agenda (on their website), it was just Sharpton speaking at lunchtime and West’s name doesn’t appear at all.  So it would appear that this debate was added afterwards. Was it West who originally approached the NNPA?

    One of the potential traps that exists is the concept of "objectivity". What this has meant in the past is that the straight white guy is objective, and others are suspect. Can a Gay reporter cover the story of Dan Choi and his vow not to vote for Obama because of the Gay marriage issue? Can a female reporter cover the GOP and it's attempts to suppress accessibility to abortion and contraception?

    We assume that the White male reporter (Fox News excepted) does not have an agenda, while Black reporters are suspect. Take the issue of Prof Gates' arrest, were White reporters biased if they didn't take into account examples of racial problems in the police department, or were Black reporters biased if they allowed those examples to influence their reporting? Is a Black reporter who has personally experienced racial profiling unqualified to report on the Gates' arrest?  It's a very complex situation.

    Regarding the West-Sharpton debate, I do note that the debate does not show up on West's calendar on his personal website. I don't know how accurate the calendar is since I haven't been tracking West's appearances.


    On identity politics, it's amazing how many conveniently forget what they read in Audacity of Hope. (Or perhaps they blocked it when they read it, didn't want to believe it. )The prologue is a series of declarations. Prominent among them is a rejection of identity politics based on race, gender and/or sexual orientation. This was a major topic of discussion leading up to his election, i.e., articles like Matt Bai's Aug. 2008 "Is Obama the End of Black Politics?" with comments from Mayor Michael Nutter, Reps. James Lewis, Arthur Clyburn and Artur Davis. The post-racial attitude was one of the main things that attracted youth of mixed race (a group growing by leaps and bounds-see the last census) to Obama's campaign. To be addressing Obama's post racial attitude over and over is so tiresome, whether critically or positively, as anyone involved in identity politics should have known what and where he was on this issue long ago. (Gay activists have no excuse as well.) Unless they've in a coma since early 2008, that is.

    I don't think that the majority of the Africa-American community agreed that things were post-racial. There are those who feel :  "If you can't see color, then you can't see me." I suspect that Gays and Feminists might feel the same way about their particular identities. I don't see people not discussing the influence of race, gender and sexual orientation on their politics anytime soon.

    Both West and Sharpton feel that they are laboring in the interests of poor people.


    Rep Jim Clyburn from South Carolina seems to think that we are still not post-racial since he recently stated that some opposition to Obama was because of Obama's skin color.


    Kanye West vs Rev Al Green:

    Who has more street cred? Who has more flesh in the game?

    The Reverend Al cannot be defeated.

    And also: Fuck Kanye.

    The video that caught my attention was the first West-Sharpton debate. West asked where the jobs bill was, Sharpton pointed out that Congress might get to work on legislation. West talked about how many Black men were stopped and frisked in New York City. sharpton pointed out that the National Action Network, Sharpton's group, had been in fighting the police abuse, while academics remained in their ivory towers.

    Has anybody seen West at anything but a conference?.

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