Cornel West says that a distinctive feature of America "is the lack of institutional capacity on the left – the absence of a political party that swings free of Wall Street and speaks to the dire circumstances of poor and working people."

IT WASN'T SO LONG THAT Dr Cornel West was being embraced by American liberalism as the country's most influential black public intellectual. But that love affair ended when West slammed President Barack Obama as "a Rockefeller Republican in blackface." Said West:

 "Obama is a centrist. And a Rockefeller Republican in the 60’s and 70’s was in many ways very much what Obama is now. He’s calling for cuts with little bit of revenue increase with the tax from the well-to-do, but it’s going to be very modest, he keeps saying. There’s no serious talk about a massive investment, private or public, for jobs, for decent housing, and for education. And his foreign policy is not only continuous with Bush but in some ways even worse."

The schism between West and the corporate and centrist establishment of the Democratic Party deepened when West threw his weight behind Bernie Sanders bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Of Hillary Clinton he said: “the Clinton train — Wall Street, security, surveillance, militarism — that’s not going in the same direction I’m going . . . she’s a neoliberal.”

After Bernie Sanders conceded to Hillary Clinton, West switched his support to the Green's presidential candidate Jill Stein.

A lifelong member of the Democratic Socialists of America, West has concluded that the Democratic Party is unreformable and irredeemable. In an essay published in The Guardian last year he wrote that the Democratic Party was not capable of providing the progressive vision that America needed:

"The corporate wing has made it clear that the populist wing has little power or place in its future. The discipline of the party is strong on self-preservation and weak on embracing new voices. And party leaders too often revel in self-righteousness and self-pity rather than self-criticism and self-enhancement. The time has come to bid farewell to a moribund party that lacks imagination, courage and gusto. …

We progressives need new leadership and institutional capacity that provides strong resistance to Trump’s vicious policies, concrete alternatives that matter to ordinary citizens and credible visions that go beyond Wall Street priorities and militaristic policies. And appealing to young people is a good testing ground."

Cornel West will be speaking at the ASB Theatre in Auckland on August 17th.


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