Joe Biden was not Cornel West’s first choice for the Democratic nomination.
By Mark Sommer, Buffalo News – 11/8/20
That was Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator who the social critic and political activist backed when he ran for president in 2016 and again this year.
But West is firmly in Biden’s corner against President Trump, who he considers an authoritarian destroying American institutions and someone who he fears will usher in fascism in a second term.
“What fascism does is snuff out the very conditions for the possibility of democratic rights across the board. That’s where Trump was headed,” West said.
“That’s why I spent so much of my time making videos and giving speeches, trying to convince my fellow human beings and citizens to vote for somebody I think is mediocre, milquetoast, centrist, moderate and a host of other things.”
“So if Biden does win, it’s two cheers for anti-fascism, very much so,” he said.
West said it was a choice between choosing a “catastrophe or a disaster.”
“Most of us fought for the disaster,” he said.
West, a professor at Harvard University and author of 20 books, including “Race Matters,” is speaking at 7 p.m. Monday by Zoom at an annual Western New York Peace Center event. Tickets are $15-$30. For more information, go to wnypeace.org.
West is no more fan of the Democratic Party than he is of Biden, which he calls pro-corporate, pro Wall Street and pro-militarism. Neither political party, he said, serves the interests of the poor and working class.
As someone on the political left, West is already hearing the left blamed within the Democratic Party for the poor showing in House and Senate races.
Although Trump repeatedly labeled Biden and running mate Kamala Harris “socialists,” it was Sanders who actually ran as a democratic socialist, and he didn’t get the nomination, West noted. Biden ran as a moderate.
He said the running toward the middle strategy should be the one second-guessed.
“The corporate wing of the Democratic Party does not want to examine its own failures,” West said. “You were looking for the center and Trump got even more Republicans after four years of gangster rule.
“Think you can blame the socialist left when it was the neo-liberal wing in the driver’s seat? It’s a misperception, it’s a frustration, it’s desperation. But there is going to be a tremendous battle within the Democratic Party.”
He said the Democratic Party doesn’t know how to talk to Trump supporters.
“If they did there may not have even been a Trump,” West said. “Not all of Trump’s followers are racists or xenophobic. They are people who also can’t stand neo-liberal elites because they are hypocrites too often, and look down on them. They were looking for an alternative, and the left didn’t provide one because Bernie couldn’t come through.”
West isn’t sure Sanders would have beat Trump, but it’s a race he would have liked to see run.
“I would like to think Bernie would have,” West said. “In order to really beat Trump you have to generate tremendous excitement and enthusiasm, you have to bring in new voters, you have to fuse electoral politics with something fresh and something new.
“That’s brother Bernie; he specialized in doing that,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s also true that with the tremendous apathy in the country — people are just so beat down and tired and fatigued, from the pandemic to political paralysis to dysfunctional electoral politics — that you just don’t know if even Bernie could have brought in enough of the new folks.”
West said something needs to change within the Democratic Party — or perhaps through a third party — to confront enormous challenges ahead.
They include a looming environmental catastrophe, an economy that favors the wealthy, unbridled militarism, entrenched poverty and what West considers to be a spiritual crisis.
Still, he said, Biden was the lesser of two evils.
“You have to have a Lincoln or an FDR, but Biden was the best the Democratic Party could do to stop Trump, and that is why I voted for him,” West said.
West predicts there will be mass protests intended to push Biden to the left.
“I think you’re going to have massive street demonstrations from folk who are part of social movements,” West said.
“Black Lives Matter, thank God, is not going away. The Me Too Movement, thank God, is not going away. The feminist movement concerned about Roe versus Wade in the courts is not going away,” he said.
“And the pressure from the street is much more left than even “the squad” often times, he said, referring to progressive congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.