Could it finally be time for a third-party US President? Cornel West thinks so.

Cornel West is running as an Independent in the 2024 Presidential election. He recently became an inpependent after more than 25 years as a Socialist Democrat. He declared he was running for President in June of 2023 under the Green Party. He changed that to Independent in October of 2023. Photo by Alexis Kenyon

Harvard professor and philosopher Cornel West won the nomination to be Colorado’s Unity Party candidate this weekend. The nomination means he will likely appear on Colorado’s ballot. West, who is running as an independent, says he will address systemic issues of corruption and advocate for comprehensive reforms.

Listen to the interview here:

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    04_15_24_cornelwest Alexis Kenyon

 

AEXIS KENYON: So you just won the unity vote in Colorado. What does this mean for you?
DR. CORNEL WEST: Well, it’s just a beautiful thing. It really is. I think it’s a pivotal moment in the campaign. We’ve got the Aurora Party in Alaska. We’ve got the Progressive Party in Oregon. We’ve got the United Citizens Party in South Carolina.

Cornel West spoke to a packed crowd Friday night at Naropa University photo by Alexis Kenyon/KGNU

We’ve got signatures that pushed us across the line in Utah. But now, the Unity Party in Colorado. It exemplifies a momentum that is unstoppable.

ALEXIS KENYON: Do you think a third-party candidate could win?

DR. CORNEL WEST: Well, we’re in such an unprecedented moment in the history of American politics. Both parties, which are part of the corporate duopoly, are in deep crisis.

Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party was the collapse of the Republican Party establishment. The Democratic Party establishment is crumbling.
It has not become as manifest yet, but it’s clear that it also is in deep trouble.

And so, we haven’t had this opportunity for a long time. Almost going back to the 1850s, when Abe Lincoln ran as a third-party candidate, and won as a Republican. It’s very different days and a different Republican Party, but we are in an unpredictable, uncharted moment.

ALEXIS KENYON: So I know that you have worked for the Bernie campaign, and you also worked for Obama. You mentioned that you encountered corruption when it came to, you know, confronting inequality in both of those. Tell me about this.

Listen to Dr. West’s full speech at Naropa University below:
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    Untitled Alexis Kenyon

DR. CORNEL WEST: Well, one of my deep commitments is the abolition of poverty. Martin Luther King Jr., when he died, said the issues of poverty, the issues of militarism, the issues of racism, and the issues of materialism could lead toward the end of American democracy. And I’m very much part of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo by Alexis Kenyon/KGNU

DR. CORNEL WEST: And so let’s say if I’m working with a Bill Bradley or a Bernie Sanders or Barack Obama, I’m raising issues of poverty in each context.

Bill Bradley was concerned about poverty. He and I had deep disagreements on foreign policy. He was concerned about poverty. I couldn’t get Barack Obama to even mention the word.

I couldn’t get Barack Obama to even mention the word (poverty).

He was always talking about the middle class, the middle class, and the middle class. Bernie Sanders is concerned about poverty.
His critique of Wall Street greed.

It was very important to me that I’m able to voice it on my own, I can go full-fledged. I talk about the abolition of poverty in every speech. Every interview and that includes the abolition of homelessness or unhousedness, and it has a whole host of other implications in terms of Medicare for all, you know, quality education available free, and also trying to deal with this housing crisis and fight back this gentrification, the greed of the real estate industry to make sure that citizens have access to quality housing.

And how do you do that? You have massive investment. Where do you get that money? In part from the government. Significant cuts in the military,  62 cents for every dollar for the discretionary budget going to the military You can’t have a healthy society if nearly two-thirds of every dollar is going to weaponry, military weaponry.

You can’t have a healthy society if nearly two-thirds of every dollar is going to weaponry, military weaponry.

You got the kids, you got a working class. 62%, living paycheck to paycheck, and all that money’s going to the military. Biden just authorized $200 billion for B-21 bombers, $200 billion. What could we do for poverty and housing safe communities and so on?

From left: Naropa professors Regina Smith, Ramon Parish, and Dr. Cornel West at Friday’s Naropa rally. photo by Alexis Kenyon/KGNU
Cornel West spoke to a packed crowd Friday night at Naropa University photo by Alexis Kenyon/KGNU

And, of course, when it comes to the ecological crisis, I mean these fossil fuel companies; their obsession with greed is just pushing the whole planet off the cliff. But it’s short-term profit. That’s what they see over and over and over again.

And so that is my view, I put it this way, the conclusion I reached was both parties were beyond redemption. And that’s very much what this campaign is about.

ALEXIS KENYON: So you’ve talked about dealing with and confronting the culture of violence. When you talk about gun control, tell me about, you know, what your stance on gun control is and how you would approach it.

DR. CORNEL WEST: I support gun control laws but we have got to push it as far as we can. We’ve got to deal with the culture of violence. We live in a culture where too many of our fellow citizens believe you resolve conflict in an aggressive way. And we’ve got to, when we see it in schools. We see it on the streets, and we’re seeing it more and more even in public places. And, of course, these mass killings are happening week in and week out. That reflects a certain mentality and a certain sensibility that cuts very deep in American culture.

Even the dominant myth of America’s frontier. What was the frontier? It was a divide between the so-called civilized and the so-called barbarians. You were morally regenerated through violence against the savages.So that’s the history of the country from 13 states to 48 states.

How did that happen? It wasn’t by means of Socratic dialogue. It was violent expansion, vicious attacks on precious indigenous brothers and sisters, the taking of their land, and so forth. Now, our textbooks call it Manifest Destiny. But that’s simply a lie.

How did that happen? It wasn’t by means of Socratic dialogue. It was violent expansion, vicious attacks on precious indigenous brothers and sisters, the taking of their land, and so forth. Now, our textbooks call it Manifest Destiny. But that’s simply a lie.
No, it was human choices out of gaining assets to land, resources, subordinating peoples. And then, the country becoming, you know, what it is 50 states later.

So the question is when we talk about the worst of America, every country, every civilization, every empire has its crimes, just like America does. Russia does. The Ottoman Empire did. The British Empire did, Thge African Empires did. The Aztecs and the Maya did. It’s a human thing. But we’ve got to accent the best. What is the best of America?

What is the best of America? That’s Martin Luther King Jr. That’s Rabbi Heschel. That’s Dorothy Day. That’s Ella Baker. And if we were to move more directly into our own lives, it could be your mother and father who taught you about integrity, honesty, generosity, and treating others right. Or my mom, who stood up when people tried to hate and fought back when people tried to demean and degrade.

That’s the best of America because it’s the best of the human species, the best of the human spirit. What this campaign is about is how we reintroduce America to the best of itself. We’re losing access to that.

ALEXIS KENYON:  Dr. West, I’m curious about what you think about the word terrorist. I know you identify as a Christian. Do you believe there are good people and evil people? Do you think there is a binary?

DR. CORNEL WEST: No, I, I think all of us are wretched. All of us have the capacity to engage in evil if we’re pushed to it, you see. And all of us can be wonderful if we make certain kind of choices.

So, I don’t believe in finger-pointing a name-calling of other people, you see. I think as human beings, we have the worst, and we have the best shot through us. Terrorism is just murder. You’re killing innocent people. Murder is murder. No matter who does it, no matter what color you are, no matter what orientation, sexual orientation, or gender you have, you see.

But when you have organized murder, that’s what armies are. Then you have combatants killing other combatants. That’s war. And you can have a just war. I would have fought against Hitler. I would fight against apartheid in South Africa because you try every nonviolent means of ending it and you’re crushed.
So then you end up going to war.

But when you kill innocent people, no matter who they are, that’s different than war. That’s murder and is murder.

And that’s what terrorism is. Terrorism is the killing of innocent people. And when you have armies that kill innocent people, what’s going on right now in Gaza with the genocide, you see, that is murder.

And that’s what terrorism is. Terrorism is the killing of innocent people. And when you have armies that kill innocent people, what’s going on right now in Gaza with the genocide, you see, that is murder.

You see, those are crimes against humanity. When you’re killing innocent Israelis, that’s murder too.

And I’m critical of any group, any persons who engage in murder. I also understand Hamas in a context in which you’ve had Israeli terrorism coming at them for 75 years.So you have a counter-terror.

But even in counter-terroristic moves, you don’t kill innocent people. You kill combatants. You’re at war with an army, not a group of civilians, no matter what context you’re talking about.

And that, for me, is part of what it means to be a human being, what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a moral and spiritual person, concerned about the humanity of everybody. Even though I am a strong critic of imperialism, and a strong critic of settler colonialism, a strong critic of those structures and institutions of violence and that’s what Palestinians have been dealing with for 75 years: structures of violence every day for years.

Cornel West sign and book at Naropa rally. photo by Alexis Kenyon/KGNU

ALEXIS KENYON: I remember I saw this video of a woman crying about her daughter dying, and then I thought, you know, this feels like how we make terrorists, you know? You can’t say that’s not, that you can’t say that’s just her fault.

DR. CORNEL WEST: Right, right, right. This is in Gaza? Oh my God, I know, I know. Absolutely. But we’ve seen it before. We saw it happen to our precious Jewish brothers and sisters in Germany. We saw it happen with the Tutsis in Rwanda. We’ve seen it happen with Armenians in Turkey. We’ve seen it happen with the Congolese in Africa under the Belgium rule. Sadly, it is a very human thing to engage in systemic murder of innocent people.

That’s part of the wretchedness of who we are as human beings. And we have to call it out. We have to fight against it. And sometimes we have to go to jail. Sometimes we run for president.

ALEXIS KENYON: You have talked a lot about wealth inequality in the U.S. Tell me about how you would tackle it.

DR. CORNEL WEST: Well, first, let’s just start with certain ugly facts. One percent of the population owns 90 percent of the wealth. See, that’s worse than medieval Europe in terms of grotesque wealth inequality. Three individuals have wealth equivalent to 50 percent of the American citizens., 160 million to hree people. That’s worse than medieval Europe, too, in 2024.

So, how do you deal with that? Well, you have to have a plan. You need a fundamental system transformation that allows for that kind of grotesque inequality. So, we’re not just talking about little small reforms. Some people talk about, well, tax the rich, tax the rich. Well, of course, we’ve got to increase taxes on the rich and corporations, but they’ve got smart lawyers with loopholes. Y

ou can go to the Cayman Islands and see all the pockets of tax evasion and so forth. We need more than just tax the rich. You’ve got to have a society in which military priorities are transformed into priorities for empowering everyday people in America. That’s the challenge.

 

Harvard professor Dr. Cornell west. He is running for president of the United States under the independent party. KGNU’s Alexis Kenyon caught up with him this weekend at Justice High School in Lafayette. 

 

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Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon is an experienced radio reporter with more than 15 years of experience creating compelling, sound-rich radio stories for news outlets across the country. Kenyon has master's degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism in radio broadcast and photojournalism. She has worked in KGNU's news department since 2021 as a reporter, editor, and daily news producer. In all her work, she strives to produce thought-provoking, trustworthy journalism that makes other people's stories feel personal. In addition to audio production, Kenyon runs KGNU's news internship program and oversees the department's digital engagement.
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