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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: We’re joined by two guests who have worked diligently to get poverty back on the national agenda. Dr. Cornel West is with us, professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary in New York and professor emeritus at Princeton University. He’s a  New York Times bestselling author of numerous books and co-host of the radio show  Smiley & Tavis — Smiley & West with Tavis Smiley. Together they’ve written the new book,  The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Tavis Smiley is a TV, radio broadcaster, philanthropist,  New York Times bestselling author. He hosts the PBS show  Tavis Smiley and two radio shows,  The Tavis Smiley Show on NPR and Smiley & Westwith Cornel West.

So we’re right here in the president’s city. In fact, he just flew out on Wednesday after his re-election. Cornel West, the figures—who is ahead? Who isn’t? As your book is titled  The Rich and the Rest of Us.

CORNEL WEST: Well, one, I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a pretty rough assessment of President Obama.

CORNEL WEST: Oh, that’s what we have. That’s what we have. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on healthcare. Richard Nixon is to the left of him on guaranteed income. And the same policies in terms of imperial foreign policy is at work. And so, I was glad to see that Romney didn’t win. We pushed back a right-wing takeover. We’ve got a right-wing mentality: cut, cut, cut, austerity, austerity, austerity. Where is the serious talk about investment in jobs, fighting the privatizing of education, and the empowerment of trade unions? And so, our battle is just beginning. We have yet to take off the gloves. You know, we’ve been fighting intensely.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama said to Harry Belafonte, according to Harry, "Why don’t you and Cornel West cut me some slack?" And Cornel—and Harry Belafonte responded, "What makes you think we’re not?"

CORNEL WEST: That’s exactly right.

AMY GOODMAN: I want ask you about Bill O’Reilly, Tavis Smiley. I don’t know if you were watching Fox on election night, but this is what Bill O’Reilly had to say about the outcome of the election.

BRET BAIER: So what’s your sense of the evening? I mean, you look at these exit polls. You look at the, you know—

BILL O’REILLY: My sense of the evening is if Mitt Romney loses in Ohio, the president is re-elected.

MEGYN KELLY: How do you think we got to that point? I mean, President Obama’s approval rating was so low. And obviously this is hypothetical: we don’t know who’s—who’s even winning right now, never mind who won. But how do you think it got this tight?

BILL O’REILLY: Because it’s a changing country. The demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it, and he ran on it—and whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them, and they want stuff. You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama, overwhelming black vote for President Obama. And women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things. And which candidate between the two is going to give them things?

 
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