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The radical intellectual and progressive activist Cornel West announced his candidacy for the 2024 Presidential elections Monday evening. The 70-year-old public figure and ally of independent Senator Bernie Sanders presented his bid for the Oval Office as a fight for ‘truth and justice’. Despite enthusiasm from organized labor and the left, critics fear West’s efforts will only end up chirping away at the Democratic votes and improve chances for the MAGA-era Republicans to secure their first significant victory since 2016.
West is a long-time political activist and academic philosopher nationally known for his hard progressive views on issues ranging from healthcare and civil rights to race and unions. He derives from a long pedigree of African-American thought, Protestantism, and Black theology. West has unabashedly articulated his progressive ideas for decades on platforms as wide-ranging as late-night talk shows, televised debates, and hip-hop music to non-fiction books and the podiums of Harvard and Princeton.
The People’s Party, West’s platform for Presidency, was founded in the aftermath of Trump’s unexpected 2016 win by Nick Brana, a staffer for Bernie Sanders. West himself had strongly put his support behind Mr. Sanders during the 2016 and 2020 election campaigns. As a first-time candidate, West hopes to further the Party’s mandate of “building a major new progressive populist party in America.”
In a dramatic announcement of his intention to run, Cornel West posted his first campaign video on a Twitter thread Monday, explaining that he had “decided to run for truth and justice.” The famous intellectual argued that: “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.”
Apparently anticipating the accusation of separatism, West criticized both mainstream parties: “Neither political party wants to tell the truth about Wall Street, about Ukraine, about the Pentagon, about big tech. Do we have what it takes? We shall see.” West rejected Biden, the likely Democratic candidate for 2024, as a ‘milquetoast neoliberal’, and described the Trump populist platform as ‘neofascist’.
The video outlined key moments from West’s activism over the course of decades. It also included interview clips from Joe Rogan and Bill Maher’s political talk shows, as well as documentaries in which he has made an appearance. Finally, the viewers were redirected to the campaign resources, and presented with the major platform issues, such as universal healthcare and reduced military spending.
West represents the radical wing of American progressivism, and twice ended his tenures at Harvard in public feuds with the liberal administration. This has led to fears that West’s involvement will only dampen the enthusiasm of Democratic voters amidst next year’s contestation with either Donald Trump or governor DeSantis.
Many presidential elections in the past, including the 1992 and arguably the 2000 elections, have been shaped drastically by third parties. While never strong enough to actually compete on a national level, third parties have sometimes decisively tilted the balance in favor of one of the two dominant parties.