As the 2012 presidential elections draws closer, the arguments for and against President Obama grow more heated. Last night, an outright shouting match between two of America’s most notable Black leaders—Cornel West and Al Sharpton—gave an indication as to just how important this election will be.
West, a Princeton professor and author, and Sharpton, a controversial civil rights icon, sat on a panel of experts on the Ed Schultz-led special program A Stronger America: The Black Agenda. The talk soon turned to what African-Americans can and should expect from Obama. Sharpton, whose recent National Action Network conference saw an Obama cameo, believes people are being too hard on the president. West vehemently disagreed.
In response to the sharp criticism Obama’s gotten from Blacks who say he’s not done enough for the minority community, Sharpton said, “Too many of us are putting it all on the president. If I see a [Paul] Ryan in Congress, where is the counterpoint to Ryan? That’s not President Obama’s job.… He shouldn’t lead the civil rights marches against himself. Everybody’s sitting around acting like we can’t do anything, Obama’s going to do it. That’s hogwash.”
Interrupting Sharpton, West leapt into the debate: “They [the Obama administration] have a Black constituency and there’s a context in the nation that a criticism of President Obama is an attempt to support the right-wing vicious attacks of Fox News and others,” he said.
West went on to say that the White House ignored the plight of the Black poor, and, in perhaps his most heated turn of phrase, called Obama “another Black mascot of these Wall Street oligarchs.”
Sharpton shot back that people like West like to sit in their “ivory towers” while people like Sharpton are “in the trenches at the labor rallies.” It eventually devolved into an all-out shouting match, with Sharpton being drowned out by West, who shouted, “Where’s the jobs bill?”
Ultimately, not much was accomplished on either side, but it made for exciting television, and it was just a taste of how hot the debates are going to be before voters head to the polls in 2012.
(Photo: Doug Bauman /Landov)
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