Cornel West Plans to Vote for Obama in November and Protest His Policies in February
Cornel West is special. Hes rocks the best afro, has impeccable taste in music, and boasts the unique ability to communicate complex political ideas, as Sly Stone said, “everyday people.” As an activist, author, and public speaker, West has transcended academia to become the moral compass for a country teetering on the political, spiritual, and economic bankruptcy. How can you knock a guy who was the first professor at Yale to be arrested on campus while protesting against apartheid in South Africa? We love him, even if we don’t always agree with him, because he doesn’t bite his tongue for anybody—not even the Commander in Chief.
In an interview with Truthdig back in 2011, West infamously described the president as, “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”With the election suddenly up for grabs since President Obama’s sluggish performance in Denver against Mitt Romney, we hit up the famed professor to uncover his thoughts on the prospect of a Romney presidency, the second debate, and whether he and Tavis Smiley will ever announce a bid for the White House..
VICE: What did you think of Tuesday’s debate?
I said a prayer for brother Barack Obama the first time and the prayer did not kick in. I said a prayer the second time and it did kick in. He was much stronger. I was glad to see him defending himself.
Brother Mitt Romney has a sense of entitlement. With Candy Crowley and the others, he doesn’t listen—he just takes off. Barack really made sure to respond to the actual questions. I thought he did a much better job, but it looks as if the polls are still tight. Regardless, I was glad to see Barack much being more forthright.
Which Obama was more authentic—Obama in debate one or Obama in debate two?
I think that Barack Obama is a shy man. He does not like to be aggressive. The only moment he became angry was when he was accused of using American soldiers, precious human beings, as pawns for politics. You could see the anger in his face. He was very upset. But generally speaking, Obama is reconciliatory. That’s just who he is. When it comes time to fighting in the muck and mire, that’s just not his terrain.
After the polls swung in Romney’s favor after the first debate, did you reconsidered your criticism of President Obama?
We have to prevent a Romney takeover of the White House. No doubt about that. It would be very dangerous in terms of actual lives and actual deaths of the elderly and the poor. Those people who are dependent on various programs would have to deal with the ugly damage of the further redistribution of wealth from the poor and working people to the well to off.
Right. But doesn’t criticizing Obama make all that bad stuff you just said more likely to happen?
I’m strategic. We have to tell that truth about a system that’s corrupt—both parties are poisoned by big money and tied to big banks and corporations. Speaking on that is a matter of intellectual integrity. American politics are not a matter of voting your moral conscious—if I voted my moral conscious it would probably be for Jill Stein. But it’s strategic in terms of what the actual possibilities and real options there are for poor and working people.
That title. Yes.
Cornel West is many things and some of them I do not agree with, but he is not a politically ignorant or stupid man. You can vote for the president and vocally object to the policies he holds, particularly on drone strikes and other foreign policy matters.
But I’ve always believed it’s long past time for the left to support the candidates closest to it while holding their feet to the fire in office. Republicans have done it for decades post-Goldwater.