As Republicans witness a parade of candidates in their ranks and Joe Biden appears comfortably in line for the Democratic nomination, dodging a debate with Robert Kennedy Jr, Cornel West has announced that he will seek the White House through a third-party nomination. A historically progressive academic, he claims that the United States is a “patriarchal racist” country and threatens to dissolve NATO if elected.
Born June 2, 1953, in Tulsa City, Oklahoma, he grew up the son of an Air Force administrator and a schoolteacher who became a principal. He spent most of his youth in Sacramento, where he lived in a working-class neighborhood with his family. Gradually he began to forge his academic and progressive personality.
He regularly attended the local Baptist church, and a few blocks away, he came across the headquarters of the Black Panther Party, where he became imbued with the ideology professed by Karl Marx. A few years later, he recalled that he admired “the sincere black militancy of Malcolm X, the defiant rage of the Black Panther Party, and the livid black theology of James Cone.”
With this foundation, he entered Harvard University on a scholarship, graduating with a degree in Middle Eastern languages and literature. He later received a doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University.
The next step was teaching, which led him to teach philosophy, religion and African-American studies at some of the most prestigious universities, such as Yale, Harvard, Princeton and the Sorbonne, among others.
I am running for truth and justice as a presidential candidate for the People’s Party to reintroduce America to the best of itself - fighting to end poverty, mass incarceration, ending wars and ecological collapse, guaranteeing housing, health care, education and living wages for… pic.twitter.com/u3NYGUbG1S
— Cornel West (@CornelWest) June 5, 2023
Opinions about race
Author of more than 15 books, he published his most popular in 1993, “Race Matters.” It is a collection of essays on race and its importance in the United States. According to West, the country is a “racist, patriarchal” nation, replete with white supremacy that remains central to the power structures.
“White America has been historically weak-willed in ensuring racial justice and has continued to resist fully accepting the humanity of blacks,” he wrote, arguing that this “degraded and oppressed people hungry for identity, meaning, and self-worth.”
According to the now candidate, the greatest enemy of the African-American community “has been and is neither oppression nor exploitation but rather the nihilistic threat—that is, loss of hope and absence of meaning. For as long as hope remains and meaning is preserved, the possibility of overcoming oppression stays alive. The self-fulfilling prophecy of the nihilistic threat is that without hope there can be no future, that without meaning there can be no struggle.”
West repeatedly clarified that his ideology is “socialist and not Marxist” and is “distrustful of all forms of authority.” In addition, he is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, where he also served as honorary president.
He claims that his pro-Palestinian views have hindered his academic career, especially after his return to Harvard in 2016. According to him, he was denied tenure for this reason in 2021. “Is Harvard a place for a free Black man like myself whose Christian faith and witness put equal value on Palestinian and Jewish babies – like all babies – and reject all occupations as immoral?” he wrote by way of a disclaimer.
Jailed several times for participating in protests and riots, he was a Bernie Sanders supporter in both 2016 and 2020, going so far as to describe Hillary Clinton as a “neoliberal disaster.”
“When you get in [office], do you have drone strikes? Bush had 45; [Obama] had 560. I called George Bush a war criminal... Now if he [did] 45, and he’s a war criminal, [then] what does that make brother Barack Obama?” | Cornel West on being called a “hater” for criticizing Obama. pic.twitter.com/SIepwvPpIg
— Black Socialists in America (@BlackSocialists) January 30, 2018
Barack Obama? A “black mascot of Wall Street”
Although West supported then-Senator Obama’s candidacy in 2008, he later had some sharp words for the then-president in April 2011. He went from seeing him as a man with “vision” and “freshness” to perceiving him as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”
After the president won re-election after defeating Mitt Romney at the polls, the academic analyzed his campaign and concluded that he was a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”
The philosopher announced his candidacy for president via Twitter, clarifying that he will do so for the People’s Party, founded in 2018. His platform indicates that America needs to return to “the best of itself” through universal access to housing, wages that allow all citizens a way out of poverty, and even by dissolving NATO.
“In these dark times, I have decided to run for truth and justice, which takes the form of running for President of the United States as the candidate of 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 — what I’ve been trying to do all of my life,” he said in the video that accompanied the announcement.
True to his style, he trashed his potential political opponents and the dominant parties. “No political party wants to tell the truth about Wall Street, about Ukraine, about the Pentagon, about Big Tech,” he maintained while describing Donald Trump as a “neo-fascist” and Joe Biden as a “neo-progressive scumbag.”