A growing number of Democrats are worried that third-party presidential candidate Cornel West could siphon voters from President Joe Biden and derail his reelection efforts.
West launched his campaign in June 2023, running with the People’s Party, painting himself as a progressive alternative to Biden.
“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, health care for all, de-escalating the destruction of the planet,” West said in his launch video.
Weeks after launch, West switched his party affiliation to the Green Party, reminding Democrats about 2016 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.
Analysts have suggested Stein contributed to former President Donald Trump’s victory against Hillary Clinton by capturing enough voters in three battleground states.
West, a philosopher and prominent civil rights activist, has a record of fighting for progressive causes and has previously aligned himself with far-left politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently praised West’s record but expressed concern with his candidacy.
“I think he has a very long record of service and academic thought leadership,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Hill last week. “I think just right now, given the Electoral College, it’s very difficult to square the very real threat of a Republican presidency … [with] the risk of giving up the very small margin of electoral votes needed to ensure that President Biden wins.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called West a “thoughtful guy” but said the “stakes are too high” for him to run this year.
“The stakes are too high this year, especially if Trump is the nominee,” McGovern said. “I think everybody, including the most progressive elements of our country, need to protect our democracy by stopping Donald Trump and supporting Joe Biden.”
McGovern then said he is worried that West may persuade voters away from Biden.
“I worry about those things because Cornel West is a very effective speaker and can be very persuasive. I am not here to question his motives or bash him, because I’ve followed him for many, many years, but I just wish he wasn’t doing it,” McGovern said.
New Hampshire-based progressive activist Cullen Tiernan criticized the progressive Democrats who have already rallied behind Biden’s reelection effort.
“To progressive lawmakers who prefer to name-call and to label him as a spoiler candidate, please take a moment to remember that votes are always earned and never given,” Tiernan said. “Too many of these lawmakers have changed from, ‘We will push Biden left,’ to now, ‘We will endorse anything he does.’”
“As Dr. West says, ‘You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people,’ and I ask: Who are you serving by trying to eliminate voices from a democratic process?” Tiernan added.
There has also been a concerted effort by left-leaning organizations to stop groups like No Labels from courting a moderate third-party presidential candidate. No Labels has caught the attention of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who attended one of their recent events in New Hampshire.
“It is clear that most Americans are exceedingly frustrated by the growing divide in our political parties and toxic political rhetoric from our elected leaders,” Manchin said last month.
The center-left Third Way and progressive MoveOn are two Democrat groups trying to stop No Labels from gaining traction. These two organizations launched an anti-“No Labels” campaign to convince Democrat politicians to sign a pledge calling No Labels to “halt their irresponsible efforts to launch a third-party candidacy.”
West recently fought back at accusations that his candidacy is siphoning votes away from Biden.
“When somebody chooses to vote for you, you’re not pulling votes away. You see, Biden doesn’t own any votes. He’s got to earn it. He’s got to earn it,” West said in an interview with Tavis Smiley in June.
“If the Democrats are putting out mediocre, milquetoast, neoliberal politicians who can’t say a mumbling word about militarism, can’t say a mumbling word about a serious response to poverty, can’t say a mumbling word about serious White supremacist practices,” West said. “I mean, Biden himself said America is not a racist society. I said, ‘Get off the crack pipe.’”
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