Progressive scholar Cornel West announced Thursday he will run as an independent candidate in the 2024 presidential election, abandoning his campaign for the Green Party’s nomination amid criticism from some leading leftists.
West, in a video posted to social media, again promised to “break the grip of the duopoly and give power to the people” but did not explain his break from the Green Party – a move that will likely hamstring his efforts to get on the presidential ballot next year.
The former Harvard professor announced his candidacy in June, saying he was running under the little-known progressive “People’s Party” banner. He soon ditched the group and, with backing from former Green presidential nominee Jill Stein, said he would seek the more familiar party’s support. But in late September, storied progressive advocate Ralph Nader, the 2000 Green presidential nominee who is backing President Joe Biden in 2024, criticized the Green Party’s political infrastructure.
“Cornel West has the most complete progressive agenda. It almost doesn’t have any progressive aberrations,” Nader told The Washington Post. “The problem is that the Greens are not that organized. It is hardly a secret. And you can’t run a presidential campaign if you don’t have local candidates and some kind of organization round the country.”
West campaign manager Peter Daou told CNN that Nader did not reach out directly to encourage West to leave the Greens but that West holds Nader in the highest regard. Daou also denied that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a longtime political and ideological ally of West, had made any attempt to influence the candidate’s decision.
“Our Constitution provides for Independent candidates to gain ballot access in all states, and Dr. West has begun seeking ballot access as an Independent, unaffiliated with any political party,” Daou said in a statement announcing West’s break from the Greens. “As this movement gains momentum, Dr. West acknowledges and nods in solidarity with the Green Party for their shared values and commitment to justice.”
As CNN previously reported, West’s candidacy on the Green Party line had confused some of his longtime political allies and friends – while also alarming top Democrats that he could play the role of a spoiler candidate for Biden in next year’s election. His candidacy evoked memories for Democrats of the 2000 and 2016 elections, when the Green nominees – Nader and Stein, respectively – were accused of drawing enough votes to help Republicans win key states in the Electoral College.
Most top Democrats, however, have been skeptical of West’s ability to raise enough money to mount an extensive operation and have followed the Biden campaign’s lead of deliberately not engaging with him.
A supporter, surrogate and confidante of Sanders during the Vermont senator’s 2016 and 2020 presidential bids, West is one of the leading democratic socialist activists of his generation.
He taught philosophy at Harvard over multiple stints, before returning to Union Theological Seminary in 2021. He previously held a tenured position at Princeton and has written and edited dozens of books. West entered the public sphere during the civil rights movement and has emerged in the decades since as a voice of radical political thought.
A supporter of Barack Obama during his first campaign, West soon emerged as one of the former president’s harshest leftist critics. He frequently derided Obama’s politics, including his embrace of Wall Street, drone warfare and what West described as a lack of progress on mass incarceration.
“The reign of Obama did not produce the nightmare of Donald Trump – but it did contribute to it,” West wrote in 2017. “And those Obama cheerleaders who refused to make him accountable bear some responsibility.”
After Biden’s election in 2020, West in an interview with the magazine Jacobin summed up the views of many socialist and left-wing activists.
“It looks as if we’ll be wrestling with a neoliberal disaster,” West said. “That’s another way of saying that the rot is there, it’s just that with Biden, the rot proceeds much more slowly.”
This story has been updated with additional information.