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If We Call Obama "Progressive," Are We Ignoring His Record?

Broadcaster Tavis Smiley and professor and activist Dr. Cornel West discuss President Obama’s re-election, and what kind of president we have on our hands.

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AMY GOODMAN: That was Bill O’Reilly, Tavis Smiley.

TAVIS SMILEY: Yeah. Well, you asked a moment ago whether I was watching Fox on election night, and the answer is no. This is precisely why I wasn’t watching Fox on election night. It’s also why I don’t watch a lot of MSNBC, either. I don’t like being spun to the right, and I don’t like being spun to the left. What I prefer is to get at some truth, and that’s why I appreciate  Democracy Now! and other programs that are trying to get at the hard truths that Americans don’t want to deal with.

I don’t know where to start in terms of deconstructing and dissecting what I just heard. I will tell you this: this is precisely why the Republicans lost. And if they think this is the narrative that’s going to help them win into the future, then they need to put down the crack pipe. They’re stuck on stupid if they think this strategy is a winning strategy. The reality is simply this—and you’ve discussed this on this program, so this is nothing new, obviously: in the most multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic America ever, that dog just won’t hunt. If they cannot figure out a way to expand their base, the GOP is going down.

Now, I don’t like the two-party system. I surely don’t want to live in a one-party state. So I appreciate competition. I wish there were more parties, obviously. But again, if this is the narrative they think they can sell to the American people into the future and help them win elections, I don’t know what they’re thinking. So, this is a—it’s tragic to listen to. It’s really—it’s an echo chamber to our right, because this really sounds like Mitt Romney on the videotape that came out about the 47 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh recently claimed that President Obama and Vice President Biden want to grow the portion of the 47 percent who are, quote, "wards of the state." This is from the October 9th edition of  The Rush Limbaugh Show.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Whatever number of the 47 percent are wards of the state, they’re happy. Not all that 47 percent wants to be in that group. But the people in the 47 percent who are content to be there, Biden, Obama would love to grow it. The more people dependent on government, the better. The more people angry, resentful of the rich, the better, as far as they’re concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: Tavis Smiley?

TAVIS SMILEY: Well, again, if that’s the kind of rhetoric that they’re going to continue to engage in, go for it. I have no problem with Fox or Bill or Rush continuing to push that kind of agenda, because, again, it is not a winning strategy in this country to attack Hispanics, to attack African Americans, to attack women, to suggest that we’re all a part of a welfare state, that we’re all dependent on government. And in nowhere—at no point in either of those diatribes did you hear the truth, which is that the majority of Americans on welfare are white Americans. They are not black. They are not Hispanic. And so, that truth just gets lost in the matrix.

This was a campaign for the White House of extremes, a campaign of extremes. Too much money, as Dr. West already said—morally profane that we’d spend $6 billion, so too much money.

Too much time. I think, you know, we’ve got to get to a point of rethinking how we do presidential politics in this country, from the Electoral College to the money, to the debates, but too much time is spent on the campaign. It used to be that the campaigning would stop and the governing would start. Now there’s no line between the two.

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