Dr. Cornel West Jumps in 2024 Presidential RaceBy Barrington M. Salmon, Trice Edney News Wire / June 21, 2023
Dr. Cornel West, a renowned scholar, progressive intellectual and social justice activist, announced on Twitter Monday morning he’s running for president.
“In these bleak times, I have decided to run for truth and justice which takes the form of running for president of the United States as a candidate for the People’s Party. I enter in the quest for truth, I enter in the quest for justice, and the presidency is just one vehicle to pursue that truth and justice which is what I’ve been trying to do all of my life,” West said in a 2-minute 39-second announcement. “I come from a tradition where I care about you. I care about the quality of your life, I care about whether you have access to a job with a living wage, decent housing, women having control over their bodies, healthcare for all, deescalating destruction of the planet, the destruction of America democracy.”
Florida Attorney and activist Dimitra Stathopoulos said while she has a great deal of respect for West, she is deeply troubled by an op-ed West recently co-wrote for the Wall Street Journal. In it, West praised Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his support of the classics, saying that the governor’s support of classical education “has universal merit that transcends partisanship. Education based on values, logic and discipline isn’t Republican – it’s timeless.”
West’s announcement triggered elation in some corners, consternation and puzzlement in others.
Aly Wane – an immigration advocate and peace activist who said his politics is decidedly to the Left – said while he has always loved and supported West, this announcement has left him troubled.
“I’m trying to swallow the news. I went from being delighted to, ‘Oh god, this is not going to be great.’ He’s running on that party ticket which is a non-starter,” Wane said, referring to the People’s Party banner that West is running under. “That party is distrusted because of its leadership and grifter tendencies. It’s really frustrating. I’m most startled by his People’s Party choice.”
Wane said the People’s Party was created out of the frustration some had of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders running as Democrat in 2016.
“I realized they’re not serious about organizing and policy positions,” he said. “There are all kinds of accusations of grifting and workplace and sexual abuse allegations against founder Nick Brana. It’s a mess. As much as the Greens (Party) are disorganized, they have the structure to deal with a presidential run. I would have a little more confidence if West was running as a Green Party candidate.”
Stathopoulos said she learned through a Twitter post from Dr. Crystal Fleming, a professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Stony Brooke University, that West has been a member of the DeSantis’ Classic Learning Initiatives for at least two years, a program that DeSantis just approved funding for all Florida Schools to use.
“This [is] really troubling. It’s sad too because I think it would be great if we had an African American put in right now,” Stathopoulos said. “It’s disheartening. He was a pivotal part of Bernie’s campaign and a supporter of Rev. William Barber. But the man’s all over the place. You cannot pin this man down. I don’t know. Everybody’s opining right now.”
Stathopoulos said she’s fearful that West’s presence in the campaign is a ploy to “muddy up the water” and divide the Black vote. She also said ultimately, it’s all about the money.
“Someone asked why the People’s Party? He didn’t go with the Green Party. I think he’s always been used as a tool,” she asserted. The timing is what gets me. How do you announce and support DeSantis. It’s alarming to me if Republicans are actually using him to split the Black vote. Then is he gonna go all the way or is he going to push anybody to the left or right. I don’t get this except to split the Black vote.”
Alexis Morgan, an artist and writer who lives in Philadelphia, agreed with Stathopoulos’ assessment.
“I have a lot of respect for him as an intellectual and as somebody who has given so much of his life and time to social justice, but I am absolutely bewildered by this mess,” she said. “It was quite wild for me to see the op-ed in WSJ with DeSantis who is a rabid racist and fascist. I cannot reconcile his association with a man devoted to destroying his political legacy.”
In retrospect, Morgan said, she’s actually not surprised with the DeSantis-West connection.
“He has been steeped in academia for a long time. You have to know how to play the game and get tenure,” she said. “They both have an inclination of classical learning. I imagine that there are financial and other benefits to be linked to this organization. I can see why it would hold an appeal for him. They have a shared baseline of academic elitism. It’s gross to me and I consider myself to be a spirit person. I was not raised in the Black church, I’m Jewish, a minority within a minority. It gives me the “hics” that he would allow his religious perspective to ally himself with these people.”
Wane, Morgan and Stathopoulos all agreed that West has no chance of becoming president, citing among other things, the considerable barriers Democrats and the political class generally have erected to ensure that any third-party bid for the presidency dies before it begins.
“Democrats are, and have been, absolutely ruthless in snuffing out any third-party attempt,” Wane said.
West sat for an interview with his friend and colleague Chris Hedges just before he made his official announcement. Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, activist and Presbyterian minister, was effusive in his praise of West.
“Cornel will be a singular voice for serious social and political change in an electoral system saturated with corporate money and rigged to crush third parties,” said Hedges in his Chris Hedges Report. “His decades-long commitment to the oppressed, his fierce opposition to American militarism and empire, his condemnation of the grotesque avarice of the billionaire class, and his determination to halt the ongoing ecocide, will see him contemptuously dismissed by the establishment. For all of these reasons we must support him.”
Hedges said West told him “We’re at such a low point in the American empire. Its spiritual decay and its immoral decadence are so profound that we have to begin on the foundational level of a spiritual awakening and a moral reckoning. Organized greed. Institutionalized hatred. Routinized indifference to the lives of poor and working people of all colors,” West explained.
He said people have to “get beyond an analysis of the predatory capitalist processes that have saturated every nook and cranny of the culture.
“We’ve got to get beyond the ways in which the political system has been colonized by corporate wealth and by monied elite,” he said. “We’ve got to get beyond that sense of impotence of the citizenry. These are all the signs of an empire in decline. The only thing that we have to add is military overreach, and we see that as well.”
Hedges said West was clear on the task before him.
“What we need is a recognition that the corporate duopoly, both parties, constitute major obstacles and impediments for the kind of spiritual awakening and moral reckoning that focuses on poor and working people,” West said.
What West is calling for, Hedges adds “is, in short, for a political revolution and the overthrow of the ruling corporate class.”
“He sees the two ruling parties as ‘parasitical,'” playing off each other in a tawdry burlesque act designed to perpetuate corporate dominance,” Hedges said. “It’s impossible, he points out, in the two-party system to vote against the interests of the big banks, the fossil fuel industry, the Israel lobby, the drug and insurance companies, the animal agriculture industry and the arms merchants.”