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Black Leaders Rebuke Obama

Sharon Kyle; President Obama has the wrong team Cornel West told a reporter. The poor, particularly blacks and browns are suffering under his leadership.
John Conyers

John Conyers

Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), a 24-term congressmember who is highly revered in the African-American community, is openly dissatisfied with the president's handling of the self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis. Speaking of concessions the president is willing to make to avoid a default if the debt ceiling is not raised, Conyers told a reporter that he was angry.

“We’ve got to march on him,” Conyers said. “We want him to know from this day forward that we’ve had it. We want him to come out on our side and advocate, not to watch and wait to see what [lawmakers] are doing in the House and Senate. We’re suffering.”

Conyers and other leaders respected by the African-American community are voicing concern over the impact of the decisions of Obama's Administration. They say the concessions the president put on the table will have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable in our society. Conyers and others are particularly concerned about the President's apparent willingness during debt ceiling negotiations to make entitlement cuts and his lack of action on job creation.

“We’ve got to educate the American people at the same time we educate the President of the United States.” Conyers told a reporter this week. The Congressmember pointed out that the Republican leadership -- neither Speaker Boehner nor Majority Leader Cantor -- called for Social Security cuts in the budget deal. Says Conyers, “The President of the United States called for that, and my response to him is to mass thousands of people in front of the White House to protest this.”

Another esteemed outspoken former supporter of President Obama, Cornel West, a Princeton University professor, has come out strongly opposing many of the positions the president has taken. Dr. West, who campaigned vigorously for the Obama, recently said of Mr. Obama, he is “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats.”

A frequent guest on Bill Maher's program, West recently teamed up with Tavis Smiley to co-host a weekly radio program. The nationally syndicated show, Smiley & West, is produced by Public Radio International (PRI) and is a thought provoking hour of intellectual bantering between the two on issues of social and political consequence.

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Smiley, a respected media personality who has a long history of championing the plight of blacks struggling in America, has been known to be critical of the President's policies. For ten years, Tavis Smiley addressed issues that impact black America politically, socially, academically and economically through a host of black historians and activists that he showcased in his annual “State of the Black Union.” A controversy arose over then Senator Barack Obama's failure to accept an invitation to speak at Smiley's SOBU during the 2008 presidential primary campaign. Hillary Clinton accepted the invitation. Smiley took a lot of flack and was accused of being an Obama hater. But Smiley has consistently shined a light on the struggles of what has increasingly become America's underclass and is a respected figure in the black community.

Now Smiley and West are kicking it up a notch. They are going on a roadtrip to highlight the plight of poor people in this country. They contend that poor people of all races, colors, and creeds seem to have been forgotten, ignored, or rendered invisible during this difficult and dangerous time of "economic deprivation and political cowardice".

Senator Barack Obama enjoyed overwhelming support from African-Americans in the 2008 election. Some reports say 95% of the African-American community voted for Barack Obama, with a large percentage of those being first-time voters.

Representative Conyers and others on the left side of the aisle maintain that Obama is not losing his base but when several noted and respected black leaders voice dissatisfaction with the president, it won't be long before others follow.

While President Obama has found it essential to compromise either because his advisers think this is the best course of action or because he is tempormentally prone to make concessions, the consequences of his decisions fall disproportionately on the shoulders of the poor and the working and middle classes - while at the same time, the wealthy have never had it better.

The Brown Paper Bag Test

All indications are that the people who put Obama in office in 2008 have not benefitted from the policies he's enacted. But 2012 is just around the corner.

Sharon Kyle
LA Progressive, Publisher