Cornel West Is a Great Presidential Candidate, But His “People’s Party” Run Is a Big Mistake

Mitchell Plitnick
13 min readJun 9

The list of public intellectuals I admire with a full, unqualified heart is not a long one. Dr. Cornel West is absolutely among them. Dr. West has, over the many years of his career, shown not just remarkable insight and sharp thinking, but a willingness to engage with people who differ with him with a skill, respect, and directness that I can only aspire to.

Cornel West is one of the finest public speakers of his generation and his ability to turn phrases and engage audiences in a way that allows them to understand his most subtle or nuanced points is marvelous. His political analysis is always profound, and his moral compass is unswerving and unerring.

But none of that means he can’t make a mistake, and his announcement that he is running for President of the United States on the “People’s Party” ticket is a big one.

West is a great presidential candidate, but this is the wrong party

The mistake here is not, as many Democrats will mistakenly and dishonestly claim, that West is running at all. He is a terrific candidate. Given that the system under which our politics operate leaves him no chance to win, the fact that he’s already 70 years of age at a time when we need a younger perspective in the White House and that he has no experience working in public office are moot points. His presence in the presidential race can bring real attention to the awful policies of Joe Biden and the mainstream of the Democratic Party and the even greater fascist horrors of the Republicans.

No, West’s mistake is that he’s doing this as a third-party candidate with the so-called “People’s Party.” The party, which was formed in 2017 in response to the Democrats’ sabotaging of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy, has proven itself to be a terrible vehicle for progressive politics.

The PP has attracted some well-known figures, including West and one of the few figures willing to try to challenge Biden in the Democratic primary, Marianne Willaimson. It also brought in former Sanders campaign co-chair Nina Turner and the well-known journalist Chris Hedges. But its more self-serving, conspiratorial, and irresponsible side also appealed to crank, anti-progressive figures like…

Mitchell Plitnick

Author of "Except for Palestine," with Marc Lamont Hill. President of ReThinking Foreign Policy. Policy analyst for 20 years.