Malik Mubashshir: Cornel West’s Quixotic Bid for the Presidency.

Illustration of Dr. Cornel West by Thomcat23
Dr. Cornel West. Artwork by Thomcat23, Copyright 2023

Text by Malik Mubashshir, Copyright 2023


The Impossible (and Unfortunate) Dream: 

Cornel West’s Quixotic Bid for the Presidency.


Cornel West should absolutely not be running for president.  Now, don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against Dr. West per se. He is an accomplished scholar, prolific author, public intellectual, social justice activist, pop culture celebrity icon, as well as a voice on behalf of the oppressed and downtrodden.  

That said, there is nothing in West’s history that suggests that he is remotely qualified for the position of Chief Executive of the United States of America.  Before some of you respond, “What qualifications did Donald Trump have?” allow me to say, you make my point.  Is that where we set the bar of national expectation for this country’s leadership?  Let us look at this situation realistically.  

1. Cornel West is a political novice.  He is a gifted and eloquent intellectual who has never held public office.  A visit to his campaign website: reveals West’s political wish list. If elected, President West goals are “Dismantling the Empire,” “Unleashing Democracy” and “Saving the Planet.”   It is a platform chock full of excellent ethical positions and prophetic passion – with no hint of how he plans to achieve these lofty goals in the hardscrabble game of realpolitik. 

Perhaps one of the early warning signals that West is not ready for political primetime was his affiliation with the People’s Party. Started in 2017 the People’s Party has been bogged down in allegations of sexual harassment on the part of its party leadership, and general organizational dysfunction, including a lack of democratic processes, obscure and questionable finances, ableism and racism, among other things. As if this weren’t enough to give candidate West pause, the People’s Party has no track record and no nationwide ballot access for a serious presidential campaign.  Was West not aware of his chosen party’s liabilities?  As criticism poured in for his association with this group, West soon dropped the People’s Party and decided to work with the Green Party, which at least has a history of running presidential candidates for decades. 

2. Which brings us to the next point.  Third-party presidential candidates, even in the best-case scenarios with widely popular candidates, are doomed to failure and can only serve as spoilers rather than as a viable option. Thus, even if Candidate West were able to mount a successful campaign, that is, able to generate enough popular support for the massive fundraising necessary, able to get on the ballot in every state, and establish a platform with broad appeal to the electorate, he would still – if history is any guide – find support drastically reduced come Election Day. There has been a Green Party and Libertarian candidate in every presidential year in recent elections and they rarely received more than 1% of the popular vote in presidential elections. There’s a good reason why Bernie Sander’s chose to run as a Democrat rather than a Green Party candidate in 2016. He was serious about his run and was in it to win it!

3.This leads me to the very worst thing about Cornel’s ill-timed run for the Oval Office. With Cornel West having slim to no chance of winning his bid for the presidency, what will he accomplish by running?  Simple. He will probably be a spoiler whose campaign will siphon some votes away from the sitting President, Joe Biden.  We have seen this play before with many observers believing that Jill Stein’s third-party run in 2016 took some votes from Hillary Clinton and helped Trump to win the election. Now, to be clear, I have serious doubts that Cornel West has the mass appeal to win over a large number of voters. That said, whether West draws great support or little fanfare, the 2024 election is too critical to take that risk. Even West has said that the country may face a choice of a “neo-facist like Brother Trump” (brother fascist?) or a “milquetoast neo-liberal like Brother Biden.”  Think about that for a moment.  Are we really making a case for the moral equivalence of a swing toward fascism with a business-as-usual-moderate-liberal option?  If ever there was a time for the voters to “choose the lesser of two evils”, this is that time. Of course, we can’t know yet how Trump’s legal problems will affect his run, but he is still far and away the front runner for the GOP. That should tell progressive and moderate voters all they need to know about their choice. Even if the GOP has to lean toward DeSantis, or a similar wannabe Trump, it represents just another cycle of rabid culture wars, racism, sexism, corruption, hypocrisy and the usual fare of today’s Republican Party.  This is the party that wants to gut Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements. That wants to remove the true history of this country and its foundation upon genocide and slavery from school curriculums. The party that is hell bent on taking away women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ trans rights to safety and security. This is the party that wants to make America great again by reversing every civil rights victory won by the struggle, blood and tears of African Americans, and turning the clock back to the 1950s. With so much at stake in the 2024 election, with our country’s future and the future of our seniors, our youth, and the ones who Cornel rightly recognizes as “the least of these,” tenuously hanging in the balance, can we really afford a spoiler’s vanity run? With our nation fighting a close and pitched battle for its very soul, can we really afford Candidate West at such a time as this? 

Revealingly, in his campaign video, West concludes by asking, “Do we have what it takes? We shall see. But some of us are going to go down fighting, go down swinging, with style and a smile.”  

At least he knows he’s going down.  Let’s not go down with him.


About The Author: Malik Mubashshir is a beloved History teacher at Friends Select School, Philadelphia. Mr. Mubashshir is an alum of Harvard University with Master’s degree in Religion and Religious Studies. This is his first contribution to the blog.

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