Cornel West, focusing on Gaza, has harsh critiques for opponents, former allies

To hear Cornel West tell it, Joe Biden, whom West campaigned for in 2020, is complicit in war crimes occurring in Gaza. Jill Stein, whom West voted for in 2016, is no longer his ally. Donald Trump is a “fascist pied piper” and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presents “evidence-weak” arguments. Even Bernie Sanders, West’s longtime friend, is “just wrong” when it comes to supporting Biden.

West, the 7o-year-old professor, activist and independent presidential candidate who faces very long odds, offered biting attacks of his opponents and former allies in a wide-ranging interview Monday with The Washington Post, pledging that he will not step aside or support any other presidential candidate even if his campaign fails to catch fire.

“The crisis in the Republican Party, the undercutting and the neofascism of Trump on the one hand, and now the Democratic establishment especially around Gaza” mean that he must stay in the race, West said. “We just have to be true to ourselves.”

Dressed in his signature three-piece black suit and gold cuff links etched with the outline of Africa, West dismissed Biden’s consolidating support among progressive leaders, who have argued that even if they don’t agree on everything, a second Biden term is better than a Trump return. West’s salt-and-pepper Afro shook as he decried voters’ options.

“I just see both of them as so thoroughly unacceptable,” West said.

The Biden, Trump and Kennedy campaigns and Sanders’s Senate office did not respond to requests for comment on West’s critiques. Stein’s campaign manager Jason Call encouraged West to reconsider his opposition to possibly joining with another left-leaning candidate to grow support.

West announced his bid for president before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel but said he has since felt that his voice is needed to bring attention to the Palestinians and other issues he prioritizes. While West trails far behind Biden and Trump in national polls, he has established a large following after decades of activism and his high-profile support for Sanders during the Vermont independent’s presidential runs. And West speaks directly to the group of progressive voters — many of whom are young and not White — whom Biden has struggled to court.

Meanwhile, Democrats aligned with Biden have accused West of siphoning Democratic support, thereby helping Trump. West rejected those arguments, saying voters are weary of both Trump and Biden.

“Both parties are beyond redemption,” he said.

West’s campaign said he has qualified for the presidential ballot in five states. In Texas, where he does not expect to qualify for the ballot, West is encouraging voters to write in his name. And he remains hopeful he can make the ballot in other states.

West — who after backing Stein in 2016 supported Biden publicly in 2020 but said Monday he did not vote for him — cited the drastic cut in childhood poverty that was attributed to a pandemic-era relief policy as something he admired about Biden’s presidency. But he said Biden’s constructive domestic policies have been overshadowed by his role in aiding Israel in its war in Gaza.

“It strikes me as too little, too late,” West said.

Melina Abdullah, West’s running mate, who is a professor and Black Lives Matter activist, agreed, saying she didn’t vote for Biden in 2020 but wrote in Julián Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development. This year, she’s heard from campus progressive organizers “looking to vote for something.”

“I think that’s what our campaign offers,” she said.

West’s condemnation of the Democratic response to Israel extended to once-close allies of his who have backed Biden. He said he loves Sanders, who has endorsed Biden, but has disagreements with him. West argued that Sanders, along with other progressives, have simply become cogs in the Democratic machine. In 2016, West campaigned for Sanders, headlining events in Black communities and rallying left-leaning support. But lately, West said he hasn’t been as close with Sanders.

“It’s just love at a distance,” he said.

How far is that distance?

“Vanilla Vermont and chocolate Harlem,” he answered.

Among third-party candidates, West expressed the greatest frustrations with Kennedy’s position on Gaza, citing his comments that Palestinian people are “arguably the most pampered people by international aid organizations” in December and that Israel is a “moral nation” in March. West said Kennedy used to invite him to speak at events about race and the environment. But now West said he doesn’t recognize the other independent candidate.

“He just strikes me as just so far removed from the realities of suffering,” West said.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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