Cornel West and Jill Stein’s Campaign Against Clinton and Trump


Some of the smarter Democrats who can read polls are getting worried. With Hillary Clinton as their presumptive nominee, they will “have to be prepared for a close election,” as their dilemma was understated by Senator Bob Casey. In his keystone blue state of Pennsylvania, which cast its hefty electoral vote for Democrats in the last six elections, Donald Trump is polling ahead of Clinton.

Superdelegates and other Democrats might have taken similar polls into consideration during the primary/caucus season when Sanders, but not Clinton, from the beginning consistently finished well ahead of Trump. If they want to stop being “freaked out,” as another Democrat described their problem, they only need to change their candidate. The margin of victory for Republicans is composed of people who will not vote Democrat because they specifically dislike and distrust Clinton. The original purpose of superdelegates was to correct for the folly of nominating a loser like Clinton, when a popular winner like Sanders is available. With Servergate swinging open, and the Republican base calling to “lock ‘er up” as their loudest single demand, Clinton’s prospects are unlikely to improve.

The clock is ticking for the Democrats. Sanders could still be nominated, even though he is planning to support Clinton, for unpersuasive reasons. What Democrats need to do to win used to be called a “draft.” Though Sanders already capitulated, he could still be drafted to accept the nomination.

If they would like to avoid the risk of electing Trump, instead of continuing their death march over the Clinton cliff, these party leaders can still organize their fellow Superdelegates to help nominate their newest party-loyalist. The Superdelegates only need to abstain from the first ballot. This would release enough of Clinton’s pledged delegates for a majority of them to nominate Sanders on the second ballot. The superdelegates only need to stay out of the nomination process, until the pledged delegates themselves discuss and decide the most prudent course for Democrats.

To make it easier for the professional Democrats to get off the fence and opt for victory rather than risk defeat with Clinton, Cornel West and Jill Stein should announce that they are running a joint campaign for President and Vice President. They stand for the same progressive themes that Sanders promoted in the most exciting primary contest for generations. But Sanders decided, in the end, to pursue those issues through a professional activist issue organization rather than through 2016 electoral politics.
The Vice Presidency is a demeaning job having no purpose. Between two honest mutually respectful people who are trying to serve the public and not themselves, a deal could be made to equally share the office of presidency and thereby revitalize the Vice Presidency to become a co-presidency. This can be done within the terms of the Constitution, See Art 25(3). All significant presidential decisions would be made jointly, and resolved by the cabinet in the unlikely case of a deadlock. This arrangement would rival the Clinton’s reprise of their “two-fer the price of one” co-presidency, which remains one of Clinton’s few actual “qualifications.” The time may also have come to implement the often-suggested idea of choosing a cabinet as part of the election process, so the public would also know who the tie-breaking team will be.

This progressive ticket should initiate its campaign by announcing at West and Stein’s first appearance as a joint ticket, their intention to terminate their third party effort and instead throw their support to Sanders if the superdelegates, instead of selling out to Clinton, do their job next week and allow the pledged delegates to choose the candidate who will win. They would ask Sanders to reciprocate the favor by sharing his famous mailing list with West and Stein so that they can get a jumpstart on their campaign, West and Stein; Stein and West. Both are qualified by their personal accomplishments, West as an academic, writer, and the nation’s foremost public intellectual. Stein is a community activist and medical doctor who has studied the issues and organized at the grassroots. She engages in politics as a concerned mother. Both thus share Donald Trump’s only outstanding quality to be President, that he is an outsider to politics with no experience in governing the corrupt system at all. West, like Trump, has also spent a lot of time in front of the camera and behind the microphone with Tavis Smiley and on many other programs. But this progressive team has none of Trump’s bad qualities, like “lying” and an “absolute lack of interest in anything beyond power and money.” West and Stein have forgotten more than Trump ever knew about government, other than exactly how to pay off an influence peddler. They could beat Trump, just as Sanders could beat Trump, by starting where Sanders left off.

In 2016 Sanders proved it was possible to run a campaign by delivering over and over the same speech he has been giving for forty years and by thus establishing his apparent authenticity in backing a clearly progressive and very popular agenda. Then he stopped short of the goal without good reason. West and Stein are both more authentic than Sanders proved to be and more progressive on such core issues as civil rights and imperialism. This is easily said of West, who has had a productive academic and a long public life. West is as authentic as any public figure. Unlike Sanders, West is painfully honest about the great deceiver, Obama, whom he accurately and early called a “puppet of corporate plutocrats,” while absorbing personal attacks from Obama surrogates for telling the truth. He then without hesitation also refused to follow Sanders into the safety of embracing the corrupt Clinton-Obama party, walking away from the prestigious Platform Committee seat his endorsement and campaign for Sanders had earned him. The reason he exited Sanders‘ “hot air filled progressive tent” was, he said, because “there’s no way in good conscience I can say ‘take it to the next stage’” by embracing the party of the Clinton, Inc., Democrats. “That’s not my calling. I’m just being truthful. It’d be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience.” With these words West distinguished himself from, and stepped into the leadership role vacated by the hapless Sanders who, having made his separate peace with plutocracy, now has a book deadline to meet.

West chose the fresh air of the only progressive electoral alternative, Jill Stein and her Greens. West is the visible connection to Sanders’ campaign. If he brings with him only a small fraction of Sanders’ followers, he could still multiply Jill Stein’s now modest support. Greens have an opportunity to revive their flagging fortunes and merge with the progressive Sanders movement by adding West to their ticket.

West’s endorsement of Stein should be good enough for us progressives to accept Stein’s co-leadership. As he says: “It’s hard to find somebody at the national level who provides a certain kind of hope, given the unbelievable spiritual decline and moral decay.” From what Stein has demonstrated over a far shorter time than West in national life, one would happily anticipate her debate with Clinton and Trump as much as West’s own confrontation of corruption with virtue.

Stein demonstrated her gritty commitment when she was arrested and handcuffed to a chair for eight hours in 2012 for trying to get access to the plutocratic debates that she correctly labeled “”this mock debate, this mockery of democracy.” In 2016 progressives can adopt this priority example of Stein’s “real solutions … pushing for open Presidential debates.” This is a progressive demand that helps to delegitimize the plutocrat media by highlighting that they would bar truthful voices while instead privileging those whose voices a majority of the American people do not trust and are probably tired by now, or soon will be, of even hearing any more. Open the debates to the fresh and honest voices of West and Stein!

Some want to engage in argument about what the Greens are, or have been. But 2016 is about the future not the past. What the Greens can be is the means by which Sanders supporters can continue the struggle for progressive politics. Sanders was a useful catalyst, but proved an unreliable leader by embracing plutocracy in the end. Greens will have the only progressive ballot line in the general election, but it needs Sanders supporters to make it relevant.

When West endorsed Sanders in August 2015, he said: “What we really need is a progressive to hit issues of Wall Street domination of the government…. But we’ve got to always let [Sanders] know that we keep the pressure on him.” At that time Sanders had increased his share of Democratic voters to 27% from only 5% four months earlier. Stein has less than four months to get to 34% of all voters from a starting point of only 16% who are even “somewhat familiar” with her, and the 4% who support her. Cornel West should be able to help with that.

In the last couple generations of national decline, Americans have tried a B-movie actor and a silver spoon CIA director, a crooked sexual predator and a pious dancing fool, and finally a brilliant fraud. None of this has worked as the rich got richer, the country turned ever more plutocratic, and its military fought incessant imperial wars of value only to plutocrats.

The Sanders campaign demonstrated that people might, for a change, be looking for good leadership in 2016. But they have instead been offered a choice between a sociopath with the attention span of a Kindergartner and the representative of a corrupt political machine whom a majority believe should be indicted. West and Stein appear to be, most fundamentally, good people. From all appearances, as a religion scholar West has crafted a life based on the best of Christian values. He is the only public person for whom everyone is a brother or sister. West speaks truth without personalizing controversy. If Americans want good leadership why not try a couple known good people. Stop making apologies for and electing one flawed character after the other who have collectively explored various ways of being a bad president, until Obama. Obama in many ways appeared to be the best of them in character, but then performed the worst as Wall Street’s ultimate confidence man at the very time when the plutocrats most needed one. His plutocratic policies, including support for Clinton, turned populist protest to the right, of which Trump is the now main beneficiary. Thanks Barack.

It is a fateful coincidence that West and Stein together also happen to undermine Clinton’s only windowdressing for her own life of service to plutocracy. The Obama/Clinton platform is identity politics – diversity crumbs and symbolism from the table of corporate liberals. Under Obama “black folk don’t know what happened.” though they lost ground on all economic indicators, according to Tavis Smiley, they have remained “too deferential to this president.” No different result can be expected of Clinton identity politics. Since what is under decision in 2016 is the perpetuation of Obama’s fraudulent identity politics under the auspices of a new identity, no one could more fearlessly and truthfully challenge this false narrative than Cornel West.

Though the Green Party, unlike the Democratic Party, is not an identity politics organization, it is fortuitously led at this time by a woman, who can challenge perhaps Clinton’s most authentic qualification. She is smart. But Obama proved that intelligence in the absence of honesty is no qualification at all, yielding little better results than the overt stupidity that preceded him. Clinton may have more experience than Stein, but it is all bad experience, accomplishing no more than punching her own ticket, while doing nothing for the country. She is considered even less honest than Trump.

West challenges Clinton’s appeal to people of color. He campaigned to win over black voters to Sanders but had the liability of backing a candidate who was as strategically incompetent on civil rights as on anything else, even in the midst of the current civil rights crisis which calls for effective solutions. Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report performed a useful service by naming as identity politicians the corrupt “entrenched black leadership that serves only itself” and plutocracy, but able to deliver different black constituencies to the Clintons. The purpose of Dixon’s article was to show how Bernie Sanders failed to penetrate this problem so badly that he did not even “knock on the door” to where the solution could be found. Working with Stein, West should have far greater strategic flexibility to make demands and offer policies that will directly appeal to black constituencies’ need for more than the symbolism offered by Obama and Clinton.
Between these two progressives, support for Clinton’s identity politics could seriously waver as they mount a more effective progressive attack against her corrupt influence peddling to her plutocratic supporters than Sanders did. Finally, unlike Sanders they can clearly distinguish themselves from the corrupt Democratic Party by joining their voices to those of Republicans who are calling to “lock her up” for the crimes of Servergate.


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Rob Hager, a Harvard Law graduate, is a public interest litigator [Agent Orange, Bhopal Disaster, Three Mile Island, Silkwood, Joe Harding, Parks Twp., Avirgan v. Hull. (am'd. compl. & mot. to dis. only), etc.] who filed amicus briefs in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation with the United Nations' and other development agencies. Rob Hager's most recent book, “Strategy for Democracy: Why And How To Get Money Out of Politics,” is currently available as a free ebook.