Glenn Ford says, with eloquent heat, exactly what I was thinking: that Michael Dyson’s brutal character assassination of Cornel West in the historically racist pages of the New Republic was, above all else, an application for a job in the upcoming Hillary Clinton administration. Ford writes:
But, of course, there is method to Dyson’s meanness. The true purpose of his elongated smear of Dr. West is to demonstrate to Hillary Clinton’s camp that Dyson remains a loyal Democratic Party operative who is available for service to the new regime. Having observed how hugely Al Sharpton prospered as President Obama’s pit bull against Black dissent, Dyson offers unto Caesarius Hillarius (“We came, we saw, he died,” as she said of Gaddafi) the iconic head of the nation’s best known Black dissident. …
Dyson has resorted to icon assassination because West’s highly visible critique of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy is an embarrassment to the administration, to the Democratic Party as an institution, and to the sycophantic Black Misleadership Class that has been more loyal to Obama than to Black people as a group.
There is much more in Ford’s piece; do read the whole thing. Meanwhile, Tarzie has also been on the case — one of the first out of the gate, actually — with an analysis that notes how useful West’s dissent has been to the Democratic Party … and why the Establishment, represented by Dyson, has now decided to tear him down. (Tarzie also comes up with one of the best encapsulations of the Democratic dynamic — especially regarding our earnest Digbian/Kossian progressives — that I’ve seen: “Of course, anguished support is the bread and butter of the Democratic Party, without which it would cease to exist.” Anguished support covers it all; the hand-wringing our progressives do as they are forced to support a politician who happily, eagerly oversees a global death machine and the most intensive, intrusive, pervasive surveillance operation in human history, who bailed out the banks instead of the people and left tens of millions submerged in debt and despair. Oh, how anguished they are, as they write millions of words in support of their leader and millions more in relentless attacks on his enemies and critics. The Israelis have another apt term for this sort of thing: “shooting and crying.”)
To answer “why now?” it’s important to understand that despite all of his public handwringing over Obama, West has been a good partisan soldier when it counted. He counseled people to vote for the president, not simply the first time around, but in 2012, a year after he’d concluded the president was “a Black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a Black puppet of corporate plutocrats.” Of course, anguished support is the bread and butter of the Democratic Party, without which it would cease to exist. So people like West, who qualify their tactical support with a blistering critique from the left, are uniquely useful to legitimizing the process and suckering the people most likely to sit out the election back into the booth.
The problem is, when they’re not acting as role models of irrational compliance, people like West are simply a pain in the ass and a risk, ungratefully injecting things like class, oligarchy, imperialism, capitalism and white supremacy into the insipid national “debate.” …
West, on the other hand, seems to be getting genuinely less compliant as the years go on … That West is more and more identified with Black Lives Matter — something that is surely giving people in high places hives — only adds to the risk he poses as a Black public figure potentially sitting out Hillary’s coronation. History shows that there is nothing more terrifying to the ruling class than resistance to racism tethered to left rather than liberal politics. From a ruling class perspective, Black Lives Matter goes from skin rash to cancer the moment liberals and libertarians lose control of it. The widely respected West challenges that control in ways that thoroughly marginalized ANSWER and CPA members don’t, especially given his unwillingness to overlook liberal opportunists on the grounds of solidarity.
If it seems I’m overthinking this, you really don’t understand how few risks the political establishment takes, the extent to which it fears Black radicalism, the importance it places on elections, nor the extent to which marginalizing genuine lefts is the primary function of liberal Democrats and the thing they do best. Every election year features at least one heavily signal-boosted attack on recalcitrant lefts that comes from an ostensible ally. In 2012, Rebecca Solnit did the honors with her famous, and widely reproduced, Letter to My Dismal Allies of the US Left, which provided the talking points for hippie-punching that year. Dyson’s offal goes well beyond that, by viciously singling out a widely venerated individual for ostracism. Since this person happens to be Black, it is a twofer of ruthless political discipline, instruction to both the media establishment and the rank and file, that resistance from Black people and radicals must not be tolerated.
UPDATE: Cornel West has responded to Dyson’s attack:
The escalating deaths and sufferings in Black and poor America and the marvelous new militancy in our Ferguson moment should compel us to focus on what really matters: The life and death issues of police murders, poverty, mass incarceration, drones, TPP (unjust trade policies), vast surveillance, decrepit schools, unemployment, Wall Street power, Israeli occupation of Palestinians, Dalit resistance in India, and ecological catastrophe.
Character assassination is the refuge of those who hide and conceal these issues in order to rationalize their own allegiance to the status quo. I am neither a saint nor prophet, but I am a Jesus-loving free Black man in a Great Tradition who intends to be faithful unto death in telling the truth and bearing witness to justice. I am not beholden to any administration, political party, TV channel or financial sponsor because loving suffering and struggling peoples is my point of reference. Deep integrity must trump cheap popularity. Nothing will stop or distract my work and witness, even as I learn from others and try not to hurt others.
But to pursue truth and justice is to live dangerously. In the spirit of John Coltrane’s LOVE SUPREME, let us focus on what really matters: the issues, policies, and realities that affect precious everyday people catching hell and how we can resist the lies and crimes of the status quo!