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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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And thirdly, too many lies told. And these were examples, again, of the lies that we heard in this campaign. The fact checkers had to work overtime in this campaign to try to get the truth to the American people. So a campaign of extremes. It’s time for us to rethink how we do presidential politics. But again, if this is the storyline that they want to run, let them run it, because they’re going to run themselves into oblivion with this.

CORNEL WEST: You know, but the lie at—


CORNEL WEST: The lie at the center of both of them—Brother Rush and Brother Bill—the white liberal establishment is not a majority. The elite white liberal establishment is a minority. The white poor is not part of that. The white working class is not part of that.

If you really want to talk about being dependent on government, $16 trillion for Wall Street, not one of them gone to jail involved in the criminal activity linked to predatory lending, market manipulation or insider trading. The government protects them. Jamal gets caught with a crack bag; he going to jail. But Mr. McGillicuddy gets caught on Wall Street; he’s protected by the government. Neither administration—Bush, Obama—have any investigations, no prosecutions at all. So the folk who are really dependent, they get interest-free loans from the Federal Reserve. Wouldn’t it be nice if students could get interest-free loans?

So, Rush and Bill, they got to tell the truth: the white elite is very dependent on government. They get welfare anytime they want it, with no strings attached. So that’s the lie at the center of both of their views. And it’s not majority. White brothers and sisters are catching hell who are not part of the 1 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to the issue of the whole discussion that you’re engaged in, pushing President Obama from the left. In September at the Democratic convention,  Democracy Now! hosted a  debate on Obama’s record, with Glen Ford, executive editor of  Black Agenda, and Michael Eric Dyson, the author and MSNBC analyst, Georgetown University professor. This is what Michael Eric Dyson had to say.

MICHAEL ERIC DYSON: The reality is, is that the American left will never be able to participate not simply in the pageantry of American politics and the light and airy stuff that conventions engage in. Of course, the fluff and the desiderata may be absolutely true, as Mr. Ford has indicated. But the reality is, is that Obama is as progressive a figure who has the chance of being elected in America. Friedrich Engels is not going to be the secretary of labor, and Marx will not be the secretary of treasury, bottom line. [...]

But if you ain’t in the game—Miami Heat is playing the—talking about sports—is playing the Oklahoma Thunder. It’s not "I’d prefer it be the Los Angeles Lakers." This is the game we’re talking about. And if the American left can’t be involved in the actual practice of government to offer the critical and salient insights that are available—take—take 2000, when siding with Nader, then Al Gore, who should have been president, who would have prevented some of the stuff that we see now happening, didn’t occur. The left won’t take responsibility for the fact that, with the extraordinary intelligence of a Glen Ford and many other leftists notwithstanding, the reality is that he’s the most progressive president, as Gary Dorrien, an American leftist who teaches at Union Theological Seminary argues, since FDR.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s author, professor, commentator Michael Eric Dyson. Tavis Smiley, your response?

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