THE BLOG
10/10/2011 02:55 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2011

Words of Caution to the Supporters of Barack Obama's Re-election

In my last blog, I wrote that the 2012 Presidential Election may be the most important one in the history of our country since the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. I suggested that November 2012 may define our nation's policy priorities and values for the balance of the 21st Century and that the likely overriding issue will be which candidate for president persuades the American people that they have the executive management leadership abilities to address the major issues confronting our country at this time.

Events which have occurred since my last article only confirm the probable wisdom of my initial observation.

The principal issues of articulated concern in the media, especially on various network and cable television news reporting, panel discussion or interview shows continue to be unemployment, our trillion-dollar national debt and the state of the economy. Yes, border security, immigration, taxes, abortion rights, and our wars against terrorism also remain important subjects of our national dialogue.

The 2012 presidential election will require us to make some unavoidable choices: How can we raise the revenues necessary to fund the availability and delivery of public services that all citizens want and expect? Should such revenues be raised by "taxing the rich," proportionately more than the less rich? Should needed public services be funded by closing all of the current tax subsidies and loopholes in our tax code? Should we leave Afghanistan sooner rather than President Obama's date of 2014?

Aside from the issue of who in our society should be taxed the most to fund needed revenues for public services, the issues of race, religion, abortion rights, the 2nd Amendment, and Immigration will also influence the debate leading up to the November 2012 elections.

However, hanging like a "sword of Damocles" over the discussion of all these issues is the fundamental question of fairness and equal opportunity, central to the growing "Occupy Wall Street" demonstrations as well as Israel and the Middle East.

The New York Times editorially commented about "Occupy Wall Street."

(P)rotest is the message: income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity.



Extreme inequality is the hallmark of a dysfunctional economy... When the protesters say they represent 99 percent of Americans, they are referring to the concentration of income in today's deeply unequal society.

When "Occupy Wall Street" first started several media and political pundits were dismissively condescending. "What do they want?." There were comments such as "the people involved were just acting out their general rebellion against authority."

For those of us who are blessed with longevity, we remember the student lunch counter sit-ins in the South against racial segregation, the "Freedom Rides" and early peace protests against the War in Vietnam. The "we know what's best for you" attitude is not new, but familiar.

Student sitting in at lunch counters like those early protests against the Vietnam War did not ask permission or seek approval for their actions. Neither do the people initiating and participating in Occupy War Street. (I suggest that critics of Occupy Wall Street, read Theodore Reich's The Greening of America and Eldridge Cleaver's Soul on Ice.)

Against this background of innovative non-violent protest to raise the consciousness of the nation to the consequences of growing wealth disparity and unemployment is the resurrection and reappearance of the religious doctrine police. No, not the conservative theocrats of Islam; but, the religious inquisitors of christian evangelicals. They have authoritatively proclaimed that the Mormon religion practiced by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a "cult," and, not entitled to the respect and recognition as a viable religion in our country. Consequently, they suggest to us that, Mitt Romney is not "religiously" qualified to be a candidate for president of the United States

This incident reminded me of the controversy which also occurred a few weeks among the Black intellectual scholars on the left precipitated by Professor Cornell West's public criticism of the policies of President Barack Obama.

Playthell Benjamin wrote and "Open Letter" to Dr. West and accused him of being a "paid agent" seeking to destroy Obama's presidency because of an op-ed piece he wrote in the New York Times critical of President Obama. Among other things, Dr. West contended:

The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King's prophetic legacy. Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

Playthell Benjamin, quoting African-American New Times columnist Charles Blow, reminded Dr. West that "If everybody who voted for the President votes for him in the coming election, but 10% of Afro-Americans who voted stay at home, Barack will lose! Hence whether you were paid for your role in this or not is a distinction without a difference. The result will be an unmitigated disaster for the least among us...the people you claim to care about the most."

Hence, Dr West and those African-Americans who publicly criticize Obama are burdened with the personal responsibility causing or aiding and abetting Obama losing his re-election. Really?

In an op-ed in the Huffington Post, March 30, 2009 captioned "The Challenges to Black Media under President Obama" I wrote:

Magazine, newspaper, radio and TV reporters of the 'Black Media' continue to appear uncertain, still searching for balance between their celebration and constructive criticism of this country's first African-American president. To date, adulation and celebration seem to be the dominant themes. However, adulation and celebration are no substitute for clinical, objective evaluation as to whether or not one or more of the prominent policies developed and proposed by President Obama are in the near- and long-term interest of the African-American community.



Black Media has its own diversity of political, social and economic commentators in the media marketplace of ideas. The issue is not whether one agrees with a particular point of view. What is important is that points of view more diverse than blind adulation be expressed in this new "Age of Obama.

Efforts to impose Black "political orthodoxy" on African-American critics of President Obama is no less insidious than the religious orthodoxy of christian evangelicals who question the religious integrity or "acceptability "of Mitt Romney's mormon faith commitment. Who anointed Playthell Benjamin and other African-American apologists for President Obama to determine the content of what is appropriate to be written or spoken by African-American critics of one of more policies, actions or inactions of President Obama?

This same Black political orthodoxy seeks to diminish and demean the Republican candidacy of Herman Cain. I disagree with much of Herman Cain's political ideas and philosophy, but I respect his life's journey and experiences that have conditioned his current political points of view and his widespread support by the Tea Party. The worst nightmare of the new African-American intellectual thought police must be the possibility that Herman Cain's would be the Republican nominee for president. The irony of this possibility it that it would probably enable America to have a frank and open discussion about the relevance and irrelevance of race in America, and in politics in the 21st Century.

When Obama was a candidate for president questions were raised by several prominent African-American leaders as to whether or not he was "black enough." Now, the question with Herman Cain, is not whether he is "black enough," but whether his political views make him acceptable and electable. Welcome to Post Racial America!

African-American progress occurred under the leadership of both Dr. W. E. B Dubois and Booker T. Washington. Our progress will likely continue with or without Obama or Herman Cain. "It's not the man, but the plan." "Occupy Wall Street," long-term, may be just as, or more important for the future of African-Americans and the country at large, as President Obama's re-election.

Those who support Obama should address the real challenge he faces: Re-inspiring those who voted for him, as well as potential new voters, with empirical evidence of those things he has accomplished that address their concerns. Re-inspiration, not by eloquently delivered speeches, but a demonstration of presidential leadership predicated on non-negotiable moral and political integrity.