December 2, 2009

Flashback: The Mo'Kelly Report/Political Season Debate of the 2008 Campaign

This was just a lot of fun arguing about. Remember back during the campaign when Cornel West got cheesed off at Obama for not going to the King celebrations in Memphis? Well, Mo'Kelly posted on the subject, as did I and I stopped through his blog to comment on it, as that whole incident really frosted my cake. Someone visited the blog from a permalink at that post recently and I reread the debate I had with Mo'Kelly. It was a lot of fun. Read the exchange and at the end, leave your vote in the comments on who you think wins the argument. Flashback.

Political Season

West and Tavis both work my nerves with this kind of "blackness" testing. Obama is busy running a campaign for the nation's highest office. While it certainly would have been nice if Obama could have attended, that he did not go does not change or affect a damn thing of consequence in the lives of black people.

Tavis and West's reaction is no different than the people jumping on Obama for Wright's comments. Its the same logic. So what would they have us believe? That Obama don't care about black folks because he passed on the King events? Is that what we are going to be doing to the brother from here out, jumping in his grill every time he doesn't show up for some purely symbolic stuff and claim he is distancing himself from black folk for political reasons? Because he doesn't come and genuflect at some civil rights icon as the West and Tavis think he should? Its bull.

Obama has got to take care of business. King is dead and he gon stay dead whether Obama came to lay a wreath or not. Stop hating on the brother over BS that is less important than the herculean task he is trying to accomplish.

If Obama becomes president, I'll appreciate it if he shows up for every negro dinner, event and awards show, that will be real nice. But if he never goes to a one, but spends his time being a damn good president and taking care of business in a way that means I as a citizen can take care of business, I will be perfectly fine with that.

As Dyson said at the SOBU, stop hatin on Negroes!

The Mo'Kelly Report said...

Here's a thought...and I'm not trying to "start anything"...but what if Dyson was one of the leaders that Tavis alluded to in his commentary who privately chastised Obama but publicly gave him a free pass (Dyson was in Memphis)...would that change your thought?

Again, this is hypothetical. I wasn't in any of these conversations and in no way am I suggesting that Dr. Michael Eric Dyson had anything negative to say about Senator Obama. I just thought given your end quote and thus your willingness to take "some" comments of Black leaders to heart on these issues...what would you say if Dyson (and/or others) echoed Dr. West's sentiment? Is Dyson, West and Smiley ONLY good enough to listen to when he/they echo your opinions?

Remember, this sentiment was first uttered by Dr. West, a HUGE Obama supporter...someone who still campaigns for him. Tavis' commentary asks the question of whether Obama will get a blank check free pass from Black folks on all such issues. Tavis didn't raise this issue...Dr. West did.

Many people feel Tavis is hypercritical of Senator Obama. But this really isn't emanating from's from Dr. West, a campaign surrogate. Should it be then be dismissed as easily?

Something to consider...

Political Season said
An emphatic yes, it should be dismissed. Whether Obama shows up in Memphis is not critical in any way, shape or form to the issues facing black people. It would have been nice for him to go, but whether he was there or not doesn't matter in the big scheme of life. And that is true whether its Cornel West or Tavis making the complaint.

As I read it, they are complaining that Obama is trying to put distance between himself and race issues, coming off the J.Wright controversy. Lets assume they are correct. SO WHAT!? Obama is trying to win an election, one in which he has to overcome the political impediment of being black. If he were running to be president of black america, then I would say it mattered, but he's not. He's running for POTUS. He's got to juggle and manage the impact of racial dynamics on his campaign, like it or not.

This idiotic idea that he must put his blackness front and center every damn day as apparently West and Tavis want to advance is just plain stupid. First off, the brother can't escape the race perceptions of his actions and never will. That goes for white people and black people. Second, just because he is currently the most prominent black man in America and poised to make history does not mean that he has to sign on for every symbolic black event or thing in order to demonstrate his negro bona fides again and again.

He's got to get the damn job. Tavis and West bitching because he didn't come to the cultural equivalent of a really big Negro chicken dinner is just frikkin stupid. These are the same guys who sat around at the SOBU talking up and down about accountability. Is this the kind of BS they want to hold him accountable for, that he didn't come to the big Negro chicken dinner? When they talked about accountability, I thought we was talking about polices and practices, the rule of law, educational investments, stuff like that. But it seems like what they want to hold him accountable for is proving his blackness by genuflecting before the sacred cows of the civil rights establishment. Thats the kind of BS thinking that produces a moribund NAACP that doesn't get why representing racists at Dunbar Village is wrong, or an Urban League that puts out a compact with America thats little more than a wishlist of government programs that says squat about what black people will do to solve their problems.

This brother is playing for the history books and their big accountability, finger wagging, stern voice of disapproval is because he didn't come to the big chicken dinner? Thats house negro thinking and they should both get their heads out of their ass.

The Mo'Kelly Report said...

OK, Aaron...let's go one step further. I'm clear on what you feel is essentially "unimportant" (paraphrasing you) in the grand scheme of things.

My next question would be this...where is the line. At what point (if any) does Obama manage to offend your sensibilities in terms of his allegiance to African-Americans (who support him 80%)?

If 80% of the unions supported Obama, you can bet Obama would have to answer to them and those most prominent in the unions. If 80% of the Latinos...etc. etc.

At what point is it reasonable to expect, ask or require Obama to come to the table SPECIFICALLY for African-Americans since we support him at a rate FAR surpassing any other ethnicity or specific interest group.

We've made it clear we have an "invested" interest in him. What is so wrong about Tavis (or Dr. West) or others saying in effect...we've invested in you...but let's be sure you're invested in us?

In other words, "at what cost" are you willing to get Obama into the White House? And be mindful, the more you are willing to sacrifice, the more you prove Tavis' point.

Also, how confident are you that Obama (if elected) will THEN do the things that so many of us as Black folks would "like" him to do? We hear the argument "he has to play the game to win." OK, but what about after he wins? Some say, he's not gonna be any MORE in our corner after he wins...if he hasn't had to ALONG THE WAY to winning.

Remember, I'm an Obama supporter. We can't be so blinded with wanting this man to become president that we forsake our core values and core issues in the process. Because if we do now...they won't be addressed later, and it will be too late.

Political Season said...

Mo, you ask some good questions and here are what I think are some good answers....

At what point (if any) does Obama manage to offend your sensibilities in terms of his allegiance to African-Americans.

I blog around the topic of black accountability, its an issue I care about. Obama is going to offend my sensibilities when he knowingly does something harmful to the african american community and when that happens, I'll be among the first to call him on it.

"at what cost" are you willing to get Obama into the White House?

Well, if his non-attendance at the King commemoration or the SOBU earlier this year are examples of "costs" to get him elected, I'll pay those costs all day, every day. That stuff is completely irrelevant to solving real problems faced by real people. Black intellectuals opining or genuflecting at the tomb of fallen heroes does not reduce poverty, crime in our streets, create jobs, safeguard the country or anything else relevant to the day to life of black people. In my view, such things are not costs at all, and its that kind of focus on symbolism over substance among black thought and opinion leaders that explains the moribund, ineffective dithering of the organizations which make up the civil rights industrial complex. For crying out loud, he is trying to become LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD and they are bitching because he didn't come lay a wreath and lament King's passing in Memphis? WTF! Lord save me from such nattering nabobs missing the forest for the grass. He spoke to the King legacy that day in PA, IN or wherever he was. In case somebody missed it, Barack don't have a problem getting an audience. Tavis and Cornel both of late have worked my nerves with an attitude that says that your "black" commitment is suspect unless you demonstrate it at the times and places they deem important. Don't come to the SOBU? Get your black card pulled...don't come to the King event, get your black card pulled and your integrity, blackness and motives questioned. Its bullshit.

What is so wrong about Tavis (or Dr. West) or others saying in effect...we've invested in you...but let's be sure you're invested in us?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with them or others saying that. But for cats that are intellectuals, thought and opinion leaders, if you are going to call the brother on the carpet and question his black commitment, I expect it to be over a substantive issue, not he didn't show up to a symbolic Negro dinner event when he is clearly busy with other serious stuff and the world ain't gon come to an end cause he couldn't make it. Dunbar Village is just as F'ed up today as it was on King day and the day before. Didn't nothing change because they went to Memphis. Ain't nothing magical about Obama going or not going. He's da man, its nice if he can come, but I understand if he don't, cause he is a little busy TRYING TO MAKE SOME BLACK HISTORY, while these guys are in Memphis reliving it. His blackness is an implicit and explicit fact of his being that cannot be evaded or hidden. He is who he is. I don't need him to reassure me of that by attendance at symbolic Negro dinners.

how confident are you that Obama (if elected) will THEN do the things that so many of us as Black folks would "like" him to do?

I don't need him to be the black president. I need him to be The President and do the job. And lets be for real right now. Barack is going to do or not do stuff that is going to be ticking off black people and in particular folk like West and Tavis who can be as race focused as a Jesse or Sharpton. I'm a conservative. Government is not the answer to our problems, and I already got a Savior, Obama need not apply. I don't need him to become President and try to solve every black problem with government solutions. We black folk should want the man to just be a damn good president. How he does that will be informed by his blackness and he is already sensitized to our issues, which does not guarantee he will do what various black folk will want, but should mean we always get a hearing.

At the SOBU, Dyson talked about accountability and to me that means we expect him to do the job and lead the country in the right direction. Not a black direction, the right direction. I support him, but politically, I'm very far apart from the guy. We don't agree on social issues and I think he is a tax and spend, big government liberal. His views are quite left wing. But I plan to hold him accountable. That means, he want to raise taxes on me, I'm gonna oppose that. That means he want to start a stupid big government program or something thats a bad idea, I'm gonna oppose that. It also means when he wants to do something that makes sense, I'm gonna support that.

It doesn't mean, and I pledge right now, that I'm gonna bitch when he don't show for a Negro dinner or don't do some other symbolic, feel good BS. I already know he is black. I don't need that. We don't need that. We need somebody to run the damn country right and that’s the only thing I require of the man. If he handle his business, I can handle the Negro dinners myself.

The Mo'Kelly Report said...

No, I wasn't directly comparing Obama to Bush in terms of lack of empathy for Black people, but I was making the point that seemingly "minor" actions matter.

I agree, Black folks are catching hell on a variety of levels, and that isn't something I think anyone who cares about Black people would debate.

But we as a people are ones who can walk and chew gum at the same time...meaning, the minor issues don't necessarily have to be pushed aside because major ones exist.

It's a contradiction I would say. On one hand you argue that the whole "King thing" is minor, but at the same time, don't concede that if it is truly "minor" then all the more reason for him to acknowledge it in the way that most of America chose to acknowledge it. Not just Black people...most of America.

The point Dr. West was in part trying to make was that King superseded any particular race of people and what he embodied was so much more important than any race for any office.

That was over and above and separate from the superficial connections of race or color. This is not a "lapel pin" discussion. We aren't talking about an empty expression of "patriotism" to Black America. Dr. West was saying, it was the least you could do..."should" do even, given at one moment you're "conscious" and spend 30 minutes on CNN talking about race only.

I think it's disingenuous to pigeon hole or trivialize the concerns of Tavis and Dr. West as only "Black" concerns. There are some core issues which disproportionately affect African-Americans, and many times they are wrongly termed as "Black issues."

As the presidential season moves forward, the discussion for many in the Black community is (or should be) making sure that Barack is in concert with the concerns of the community on issues such as education, healthcare, the future of Affirmative Action (two major ballot initiatives in November) and urban renewal/crime.

It's not to be oversimplified as "this Black man needs to talk about 'The Man' more and do more for Black folks"...not that at all.

This is where I disagree with your "Negro Chicken Dinners" analogy.

It's about making sure that in a consciousness sense, Barack (or any other candidate for that matter) understands the direct connection between policy and Black people's predicament.

The philosophical component to this debate is that in theory, if Obama doesn't hold the things dear to his heart that an overwhelming (not all, but a majority) portion of African-Americans already calls into question whether the policy-related decisions in the future will also be incongruous.

The same argument is made about McCain in terms of his one-time reluctance previously to sign the King holiday into law and his views on continuing the war in Iraq presently. McCain has not been and is not in step with the core issues of African-Americans and does not care about the same types of things that the majority of Black folks do. And no, I'm not comparing Obama to McCain...but I am saying this is my estimation of the thought process behind West and Smiley and their critique of Obama's actions. West and Smiley ask the question in Obama in step with our core issues? Or at the minimum, acknowledge those moments when he isn't.

It's a reasonable, practical and intelligent approach. To respond with any argument about how close Obama is to the White House only proves their point.

That's West's point when he talks about the tension between truth and power. I get this feeling that we're SO caught up in getting this man elected, that we won't be honest enough with ourselves and each other to engage in a legitimate political debate. Not minutia, but legitimate political debate. King I would submit (dead or not) is not political minutia.

I posed some questions but here are MY answers. I do believe that Obama is in step with African-American core issues. And I do believe Obama "should" have been in Memphis. And I do think Dr. West and Tavis were right in expressing either their disappointment in his absence.

To shoot them down because they were disappointed in Barack is counterintuitive to this process. We shouldn't just "shut up" because Barack is running for the White House. It's all the reason to speak up even more. Or as they say, speak now or forever hold your peace. It's not the job of West or Smiley to cheerlead for any candidate or remain silent in the process.

I want Barack Obama to become President of the United States, but not at the cost of disregarding the core issues which affect African-Americans. That's my litmus test and he passes it. But it's more than fair to remind folks we all need to have one, one other than wanting a first Black President.

We would never be this hyper-critical of criticism against in-house criticism of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or even John why get bent out of shape when we hold Barack to the same standard?

If he's truly presidential material, the scrutiny should be both welcome and reasonably dealt with. We need to stop "protecting" him unnecessarily. My confidence in him is such that we don't need to mother him.

I want him to win the presidency the right way...not because of 80% blind support by African-Americans wanting a Black president.
Political Season said....

*Sigh* We see it differently.

it's about making sure that in a consciousness sense, Barack (or any other candidate for that matter) understands the direct connection between policy and Black people's predicament.

The philosophical component to this debate is that in theory, if Obama doesn't hold the things dear to his heart that an overwhelming (not all, but a majority) portion of African-Americans already calls into question whether the policy-related decisions in the future will also be incongruous.

Given the totality of the circumstances, his absence is no basis to challenge his black consciousness in any way shape or form based on the record before us. The man just gave the seminal speech on race in America, but his consciousness is in question because he chose not to attend but to focus on his campaign?

I didn't go to Memphis, most of us didn't, and we ain't made no seminal speech on race lately either, or stand on the cusp of making some black history. Nobody is pulling our black card.

I want him to win the presidency the right way...not because of 80% blind support by African-Americans wanting a Black president.

The 80% or more of black folk supporting Barack are not doing it because he is black. He ain't the first to run. Sharpton has run, we didn't all vote for him. Barack is being supported by us because he is qualified, credible and bonus, he's black.

Winning the right way should not mean that Barack is held to artificial standards of black "consciousness" based on the personal preferences of Tavis and West or whether he makes the proper slavish devotion to civil rights sacred cows.

If we are going to pull his black card, then pull it for something serious. Not because he passed on an event that has nothing but symbolic value. Symbols are fine, but we spend way too much time focused on symbolism and appearance, rather than substance and quality of result. My beef with Tavis and West is that they seem to think that these symbolic things have more importance than they really do. The SOBU is a nice event, but didn't nothing change in the hood after it was over and they been doing it for 10 years. We can commemorate King every single year, but I don't want to just do that in word, I want to do it in deed as well. And to question Barack's commitment to his people because he chose to focus on the election rather than go to Memphis is an unfair, unbalanced, immature way to measure his commitment to his community or anybody else's. Now if thats going to be the standard, then Tavis and West and all other prominent Negroes better have they ass in Memphis every year, or I'm calling them out as lacking in commitment.

Jeremiah Wright has had his entire life of service in ministry and to his country as a Marine boiled down to 60 seconds of video, and his patriotism, his heart and his character are all being questioned based on that 60 seconds of harsh criticism of America. What Tavis and West are doing in this instance to Obama is every bit as unfair and wrong. I think its beneath them and it lowers my opinion of their acumen and their judgment regarding the issues of the day.

So we see it differently Mo. And thats okay.


I'm an attorney by training, so its all about winning the argument with me. So leave your vote in the comments. Who won this debate?