My hands down favorite part of Dyson’s horrifically jealous screed – when he claims he “was just as critical” of Obama as West has been, which is complete and total BS. Dyson’s role in the Obama-era is to use his time on MSNBC as the porn equivalent of a fluffer.
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” is the best-known line from William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride. But I’m concerned with the phrase preceding it, which captures wrath in more universal terms: “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned.” Even an angry Almighty can’t compete with mortals whose love turns to hate.
Cornel West’s rage against President Barack Obama evokes that kind of venom. He has accused Obama of political minstrelsy, calling him a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface”; taunted him as a “brown-faced Clinton”; and derided him as a “neoliberal opportunist.” In 2011, West and I were both speakers at a black newspaper conference in Chicago. During a private conversation, West asked how I escaped being dubbed an “Obama hater” when I was just as critical of the president as he was. I shared my three-part formula for discussing Obama before black audiences: Start with love for the man and pride in his epic achievement; focus on the unprecedented acrimony he faces as the nation’s first black executive; and target his missteps and failures. No matter how vehemently I disagree with Obama, I respect him as a man wrestling with an incredibly difficult opportunity to shape history. West looked into my eyes, sighed, and said: “Well, I guess that’s the difference between me and you. I don’t respect the brother at all.”
West’s animus is longstanding, and only intermittently broken by bouts of calculated love. In February 2007, West lambasted Obama’s decision to announce his bid for the presidency in Illinois, instead of at journalist Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union meeting in Virginia, calling it proof that the nascent candidate wasn’t concerned about black people. “Coming out there is not fundamentally about us. It’s about somebody else. [Obama’s] got large numbers of white brothers and sisters who have fears and anxieties, and he’s got to speak to them in such a way that he holds us at arm’s length.” It is hard to know which is more astonishing: West faulting Obama for starting his White House run in the state where he’d been elected to the U.S. Senate—or the breathtaking insularity of equating Smiley’s conference with black America.
Despite West’s disapproval of Obama, he eventually embraced the political phenom, crossing the country as a surrogate and touting his Oval Office bona fides. The two publicly embraced at a 2007 Apollo Theater fundraiser in Harlem during which West christened Obama “my brother… companion and comrade.” Obama praised West as “a genius, a public intellectual, a preacher, an oracle,” and “a loving person.” […]
West remained allied with Obama until he took the White House and, in football parlance, faked left and ran right. “[Obama] posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit,” West complained in an interview with Salon. “He acted as if he was … concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality, and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair.” It’s worth noting that the president’s actions were in keeping with the demands of his profession: Like most recent Democratic politicians, Obama nodded in a progressive direction while campaigning but toed a more centrist line when it came time to govern. What distinguishes West is that he assailed Obama’s insufficient leftism and proclaimed it a racial betrayal. “I would rather have a white president fundamentally dedicated to eradicating poverty and enhancing the plight of working people than a black president tied to Wall Street and drones,” he told The Guardian. …
West’s fears of his narcissistic tendencies seem to have come true in his fight with President Obama. Hedges also used the language of the jilted lover in describing West, noting that he “nurses, like many others who placed their faith in Obama, the anguish of the deceived, manipulated, and betrayed.” West admitted to Hedges in their interview that he went “ballistic” about Obama because he had been “thoroughly misled”; or, put differently, he was crushed that Obama had ideologically cheated on him.
West’s narcissism in this matter is not exemplified by his sense of being jilted but in the way he has personalized his grief. And the longer West has nursed his resentment, the more he has revealed parts of himself that even he may not understand or be able to explain, since political disappointment in a politician’s behavior rarely provokes such torrents of passion, such protracted, dastardly, and sadly, such self-destructive hate. The volatility that West said roils his personal relations may also mar his political ones. Now he lumbers into his future, punch-drunk from too many fights unwisely undertaken, facing a cruel reality: His greatest opponent isn’t Obama, Sharpton, Harris-Perry, or me. It is the ghost of a self that spits at him from his own mirror.