A recent Newsweek story mused about the possibility that Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West’s constant criticism of President Obama might lead to some trouble for the president come 2012:
Never mind the slings and arrows of Tea Partiers. The most politically problematic criticism of Obama these days is coming from his base. And there’s no question that there is a deep reservoir of frustration, confusion, and even rage among many in the African-American community for [leaders like Dr. Cornel] West to tap into. With unemployment hovering near 17 percent for African-Americans (the national average rate is 9 percent) and 11 percent of black homeowners facing imminent foreclosure, African-Americans have ample reason for anxiety about the coming budget cuts that Obama reluctantly signed into law this month. The Congressional Black Caucus chairman called the recent debt deal “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” that will do little to help communities already struggling.
Dr. Cornel West and his longtime friend, radio host Tavis Smiley, have taken their criticism of Obama to the streets, launching a two-week, 15-city “poverty tour,” aimed at forcing the powers that be to once again focus on the “least among us” and getting the president to “wake up.” Their efforts are increasingly stoking fears among some African-American leaders that West and Smiley could discourage black voters from turning out when the nation’s first African-American president stands for reelection in 2012.
I’m not one of those who thinks that substantive questions about President Obama’s dedication and attention to black America’s problems are out of line. Yes, it’s entirely true that Barack Obama is the President of The United States, not the President of Compton. He can’t solely focus on the issues that ail Black America when we barely comprise 12% of the U.S. population.