Now that the most expensive presidential election in history is just that, broadcaster/activist Tavis Smiley and scholar/activist Cornel West are continuing to speak out for those mired in poverty.
Smiley and West recently got with Democracy Now to discuss President Obama’s re-election and their hopes for a national political agenda on poverty in and outside the White House during Obama’s second term.
At a time when one in six Americans is poor, the price tag for combined spending by federal candidates — along with their parties and outside groups like super PACs — totaled more than $6 billion.
Together, West and Smiley have written the new book, “The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto.” Both Tavis and Smiley single out prominent progressives whom they accuse of overlooking Obama’s actual record.
“We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president,” Smiley says. “And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. … To me, the most progressive means that you’re taking some serious risk. And I just don’t see the example of that.”
West says that some prominent supporters of Obama “want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way.”
Dr. West also had some choice words for Rev. Al Sharpton, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, as well. And while the aforementioned scholars have been extremely vocal in their support of the Obama Administration, Smiley, opined that their support comes at the expense of critical thinking and a legitimate push for a Black agenda:
“…Lincoln isn’t Lincoln if Frederick Douglass isn’t pushing him. FDR isn’t FDR if A. Philip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt aren’t pushing him. LBJ isn’t LBJ if MLK isn’t pushing him.
“We don’t believe in making excuses. We believe that if [Obama] is not pushed, he’s going to be a transactional president and not a transformational president. And we believe that the time is now for action and no longer accommodation. But that doesn’t happen unless you’re pushed.”
Dr. West said that Smiley was just being “very kind,” and gave his opinion to Goodman:
“I love Brother Mike Dyson… but we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people.”
Watch Tavis Smiley and Cornel West being interviewed by Amy Goodman for Democracy Now at EurWeb.