On several occasions, I’ve documented Melissa Harris-Perry’s outrage at Smiley and West over their criticism of President Obama. Even though both Smiley and West have consistently argued that their issue with Obama is his inability to substantively address issues that impact the poor, Harris-Perry has derided both men as having hurt feelings. She pretends to read their minds and speak to their intentions.
In a May 2011 article in the Nation, Harris-Perry had this to say about Smiley’s motives;
“But anyone with a casual knowledge of this rift knows it began during the Democratic primary, not after the election. It began, not with a puffed-up president but when Cornel West’s “dear brother” Tavis Smiley threw a public tantrum because Senator Obama refused to attend Smiley’s annual State of Black America.
And Harris-Perry added this bit about West;
“West’s sense of betrayal is clearly more personal than ideological. In Hedges’s article West claims that a true progressive would always put love of the people above concern with the elite and privileged. Then he complains, “I couldn’t get a ticket [to the inauguration] with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration…. We had to watch the thing in the hotel.”
What’s obvious to Harris-Perry isn’t obvious to the rest of us. Because what’s obvious to me is that Smiley was suspicious of Obama even before the election, and he made it known by pressing Obama to attend his forum. With regard to West, what’s even more obvious is that West was using the inauguration tickets as an example of how quick Obama is to use African Americans (West made of 60 campaign appearances on behalf of Obama) and then toss them aside.
Which leads me to the bone I have to pick with all of Harris-Perry’s stalwart defenses of Obama; they’re ALL speculative. All based on her belief that West and Smiley harbor animosity toward the President. And you know what, she’s at it again. Only in her most recent piece, she’s maligning all white liberals as racist for losing faith in her much beloved “O”. If you’ve lost faith in Obama’s ability to lead the country out of this double dip recession, then according to Harris Perry, you’re a racist.
Harris-Perry in her own words;
President Obama has experienced a swift and steep decline in support among white Americans—from 61 percent in 2009 to 33 percent now. I believe much of that decline can be attributed to their disappointment that choosing a black man for president did not prove to be salvific for them or the nation.
The problem with Harris-Perry’s criticism is that Obama’s numbers aren’t just sinking among whites, but among blacks as well (How do you explain that sista gurl?). And since she was the first to jump on West for challenging Obama’s blackness – or fear of a strong and free black man – it would seem that she’d be reluctant to make any racially charged, and totally unfounded, accusations. Harris-Perry’s vilification of white liberals is 100 percent unsubstantiated by any polling or data.
This is grasping at straws in the worst way. Harris-Perry has homed in on race at the expense of other dissatisfactions such as the looming double dip recession and sky high unemployment. And by focusing in on one arbitrary set of criteria at the expense of all others, she is engaging in exactly the same type of demagoguery of which she accused Smiley and West.
Pot, meet kettle.
- Chris Matthews: Do White Voters Hold Black Politicians To A Higher Standard? (mediaite.com)
- Obama’s White Liberal Problem (theroot.com)
- president obama begins work on brown agenda, still no word on black agenda (breakingbrown.com)