Seriously! Tavis Smiley for President!
One in four black and Hispanic workers is underemployed. (January 2010 headline, still true)
Tavis Smiley, the syndicated talk show host who has been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s policies on behalf of African-Americans, will bring his national “poverty tour” to Chicago this weekend, putting the spotlight on economic hardships in the president’s hometown. …
The events … come on the heels of the deal approved Tuesday by Congress to raise the country’s debt ceiling while allowing for at least $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years. Smiley called the legislation, signed by the president, “a declaration of war on the poor.”
“I don’t understand how the president could agree to a deal that does not extend unemployment benefits, does not close a single corporate loophole and doesn’t raise the taxes on the rich,” said Smiley. “The poor are being rendered more and more invisible in this country. Nobody, not the president, not the Republicans in Congress, is speaking to the truth of the suffering of everyday people.”*
Sometime between President Obama putting Social Security and Medicare on the table and the final debt deal, the left as represented at MyFDL has lost touch with reality. Quickly then: ‘football back’ not ‘debt deal’ obsesses a lot of Americans right now; the debt deal has pretty much no effect in 2011 or 2012; Social Security and Medicare were left untouched (for now); Elizabeth f$#%kin’ Warren?; and, last but not least, by and large liberals and progressives still heart President Obama (Why Obama’s Base Won’t Revolt).
Nonetheless, our reality is bad, specifically the economy: as bad as it’s been since the 1982 Reagan recession (Great Depression comparisons are not (yet?) reality-based). Worse, the 16.2% underemployment rate economy is stagnant and Obama and the rest of the ruling elite don’t plan to do anything about that. And, yeah, when Obama finally fought hard for something it was for cutting Social Security. Ugh! However, despite how revealed as a right-wing economic know-nothing Obama is — President Obama said Sunday night that the deal “begins to lift the cloud of debt and the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the economy” — and despite how bad “it’s the economy, stupid” is, and despite “Deal traps Obama into helplessness on jobs creation,” I repeat: the opinions polls are emphatic that there is no left revolt against Obama:
Gallup’s latest poll has him at 75 percent approval among liberals. Among “liberal Democrats,” Gallup, [Salon’s Ed] Kilgore notes, finds Obama’s approval rating to be 85 percent, about where it has remained for this entire year. CNN, he notes, finds Democrats’ approval rating for Obama at 80 percent. Seventy-seven percent say they support his renomination, 20 points higher than Bill Clinton’s support in 1994.
Spun optimistically, _maybe_ let’s just say we’re at the beginning of a revolt, but only if we recognize we’re at the bottom and that you and me are responsible for all the hard climbing. And that revolution better hurry, because primary filing deadlines and such hit in November and December. Activists, therefore, have maybe four months to generate a real left revolt against Obama, not just one on the pages of MyFDL.
Some may naively ask, “What’s the hell could be the hold up, then, when there’s 9.2% unemployment?”
Well, here it is: the dynamics of politics and race in this country create these twin realities:
• A left against Obama revolt must neutralize the race issue.
• So, probably the only way for that revolt to happen is for African-Americans to revolt first.
Leftists real quick need to recognize and act on the preceding. The President is certainly doing his part: his economy is kicking African-American asses with, officially, 16.2% black unemployment and roughly 25% African-American underemployment. So, let’s do it: grab a candidate who ‘neutralizes the race issue’ and who would inspire and lead an African-American revolt against President Obama. So, give it a try and say it together: Tavis Smiley for President!
Let’s contrast Smiley to, say, Elizabeth Warren. I mean, what, a Harvard professor to lead your hoped for _populist_ left revolt? (In these times a professor is political death: including (oops) Jamie Galbraith.) No doubt Warren would be a great President, as would Paul Krugman or Dean Baker, but the corporate media immediately marginalizes and disappears no-name-recognition candidates as no-hope protest candidates. We want to make a big SPLASH in 2012, maybe not winning but at least enlightening many millions of Americans to the fact that there is a common-sense left alternative to the Tea Party and Wall Street Republicrats. And since both of those ‘parties’ have been and will be economic failures, Americans will eat up a Keynesian and populist vision that connects to an honorable (and perhaps mythical) better America of solidarity, social egalitarianism, and civil rights.
Smiley would have a real chance at turning attention to that vision and its economic good sense. Why: his blackness mixing with privileged white corporate media guilt and fascination, the dynamics of race and politics, you know, the usual. And Smiley is an exceptional speaker and communicator, both on TV and live, and not (just) to ‘the smart set’ or to professors but to regular folks, ‘the people’ of all races and classes. Yeah, ‘male Oprah’ comparisons are valid. Once Smiley gets a sliver of media attention, he’s the kind of guy who might crack wide open the tightly controlled media space and find himself leading a wildfire populist campaign.
Or not. Of course, he may make one entirely human misstatement and the corporate media will pounce with ravenous force, leaving him just another carcass along our bleak political desert highway. Damn, meant to end this diary optimistically.
P.S. — The Philly Inquirer:
Obama, having weathered the ginned-up debt-ceiling crisis, is again declaring that he wants to “put America back to work,” but those words are hollow. He’s handcuffed by this deal. He and the Democrats won’t have the money to launch any big job-creation programs even if they muster the will to try.
… Polls suggest [Americans] just want to get back to work, by any means possible. Last month, when Gallup asked people to name their most important issue, 31 percent cited the “economy in general”; 27 percent cited “unemployment/jobs.” A distant third, at 16 percent, was “federal budget deficit/debt.”
This is a time when the jobs crisis requires more government spending, not less. Consumers won’t prime the economic pump, because they’re still in a fetal position. Private businesses won’t hire, because they’re still playing it safe.
*Sharp contrast with Obama’s elaborate birthday celebrations and fat cat fundraising noted.