Dr. Cornel West is a leading liberal public intellectual. He gave an interview to NewsOne immediately following the 2012 Election that was nothing if not provocative. Dr. West said he was happy Romney didn’t win, but far from satisfied with the Obama record and especially with the just-ended presidential campaign:
So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.
Say that again? If one of my conservative colleagues had dared to say anything remotely like that, he (or she) would have been charged with racism of the worst sort. Still, it is worth considering the merits of Cornel West’s argument.
Has President Obama really been so disappointing from a genuinely Left-wing perspective? I suggest he has not. Nor has he been “incompetent,” as so many of my conservative colleagues are charging. Most recently, some have raised the bar (or, perhaps, lowered it) by claiming that President Obama’s administration is one of “epic incompetence.”
President Obama has seemingly floated above these charges, these criticisms Left and Right. He marches to the beat of a different drummer.
He shrugged off sharp criticism from the Clinton camp in 2008. Recall he raised the hackles of Bill and Hillary then by saying Ronald Reagan was a “transformational” President in a way that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were not. The Clintons were enraged. But candidate Obama was exactly right. He was giving the Gipper a left-handed compliment, to be sure. He granted that Reagan had transformed American politics—but in no way that he, Obama, would approve.
In fact, the Clintons and most of the Establishment media missed the real point of Mr. Obama’s statement: He was promising liberal activists to be the kind of transformational President for the Left that Reagan was for conservatives.
And so he has been. His administration began by exercising control over the banks, insurance companies, and major automakers. All this was done in the name of pulling
the country out of its economic nosedive. Mr. Obama’s Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers reassured worried corporate leaders that the administration was not going to nationalize everything, but only “the commanding heights of the economy.”