[Professor Cornel] West and [commentator Tavis] Smiley aren’t without their detractors, and both expressed concern that personal attacks will get in the way of the work they hope to accomplish through this tour.The two intend to offer a view of poverty distinct from what they describe as "the prevailing public discourse" of, effectively blaming the victim. Whether they will push Our President to move more in the direction of spreading the wealth around, or in the direction of providing conditions conducive to broadly shared prosperity, remains to be seen.
“Get the focus off of us, and put the limelight on our precious fellow citizens who don’t have access to a decent job, decent housing, and decent healthcare,” said West. “I think that’s a challenge for every journalist today, because the problem right now is we live in a country where conservative discourse has made it fashionable to be indifferent or have contempt toward poor people. If you focus on the messenger then you never have to confront the suffering and the misery of the poor people that we are highlighting with our work.”
Smiley also noted the negative reactions they have received for their critique of President Obama.
“I get sick and tired of people who believe that just because you’re pushing the president, that somehow you’re hating on him, or you’re aiding and abetting the other side,” said Smiley. “How do you push a president? You can’t push him by being silent. You can’t push him by not pressuring him on the things that really matter. We are not going to stop pushing, but it doesn’t mean that we hate Barack Obama.”
“What we hate is the contempt and indifference toward poor people that is found in both Republican and Democratic parties—less so in the Democrats, but both parties suffer from it,” West added. “So this issue of class, of poverty, of economic injustice is one that we will continue to highlight in a very serious way.”
A report from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, in noting the absence of reporting on poverty, proposes a perplexing hypothesis.
In the current election year, when neither the incumbent Democratic president nor any of his challengers in the GOP primary have been making poverty even a minor issue, such “rules” are relegating tens of millions of struggling citizens to virtual invisibility.It's unlikely that Our President is going to mention poverty frequently, lest the Republicans' flacks resurrect the food-stamp president meme. The Republican economic message has a different focus: it is the incoherent fiscal policies of the administration that keeps the poor poor, and puts more of the middle class at risk of poverty.