Cornel West has made it clear that he feels that President Obama should be more proactive in tackling issues like poverty and the prison-industrial complex. Some African Americans see the professor's views as divisive, while others say he's speaking truth to power. Recently, in an interview with Democracy Now, West and Tavis Smiley were asked about the president's priorities, and while Smiley said Americans must encourage the POTUS to be the best he can be, West was much more critical, writes the Atlanta Daily World.
"I think that it's morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion — poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. 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" …
When asked his opinions of Michael Eric Dyson and MSNBC hosts Rev. Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris-Perry, both strong Obama supporters, West responded with equal candor:
"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."
Responding to Dyson's statement that President Obama was "progressive," both Smiley and West said that President Obama is not, because to be progressive means taking risks, something that the president has not done.
"In the president's forward motion in the second term to establish a legacy — and I don't think that being president ought to be about a legacy; it ought to be about advancing the best for the American people. But in this conversation about his legacy, I want to see what risk he's going to take. Is he going to put himself on the line for poor people? Is he going have an honest conversation about drones? As Doc said earlier, you know, is he ever going to say the word prison — the phrase, "prison-industrial complex"? Reagan wouldn't say "AIDS." Bush wouldn't say "climate change." Will Obama say "prison-industrial complex"? I mean, I want to know where the risk is that equates to being the most progressive president ever. That's the — I don't get that."