Cornel West: Why I Endorse Green Party's Jill Stein Over "Neoliberal Disaster" Hillary Clinton

StoryJuly 18, 2016
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Cornel West

a professor at Union Theological Seminary. He endorsed Bernie Sanders for president last summer and was appointed by Sanders to serve on the Democratic platform committee. He is author of numerous books, most recently Black Prophetic Fire.

Cornel West is heading to Philadelphia next, where he will serve on the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee, but he has announced he won’t be backing the party’s presumptive nominee. West talks about why he is backing the Green Party’s Jill Stein over Hillary Clinton.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You are endorsing Dr. Jill Stein. You were a surrogate for Bernie Sanders. You spoke all over the country for him.

CORNEL WEST: Yes, yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: What made you decide to support the Green Party presidential candidate as opposed to Hillary Clinton?

CORNEL WEST: Well, I’ve never been tied to one party or one candidate or even one institution. And that’s true even with one church as a Christian. I’m committed to truth and justice. And Brother Bernie, no doubt, was the standard-bearer for truth and justice during the primary at a national level, at a highly visible level. Once he endorsed Hillary Clinton, who, for me, is a neoliberal disaster, it was clear—

AMY GOODMAN: What do mean by that?

CORNEL WEST: A neoliberal disaster is one who generates a mass incarceration regime, who deregulates banks and markets, who promotes chaos of regime change in Libya, supports military coups in Honduras, undermines some of the magnificent efforts in Haiti of working people, and so forth. That’s the record of Hillary Clinton. So there was no way—when my dear brother, who I love very deeply, Bernie Sanders said she will make an outstanding president, I said, "Oh, I disagree with my brother. I think she’ll—I don’t think she’ll make an outstanding president at all." She’s a militarist. She’s a hawk. She could take us into war with Russia. She could take us into war with Iran. So, I mean, I think she’s—she’s dangerous in terms of her neoliberal ideology—not as a woman, because I’m supporting, of course, my dear sister Jill Stein.

I think after a magnificent campaign of Bernie Sanders, the next step is a green step. The next step is a progressive step. And when you’re calling for reparations, you’re calling for the release of prisoners who have been historically unfairly treated, especially tied to nonviolent crimes, and then saying they should vote and that vote should never be taken away, when you’re calling—putting people and planet and peace before profits, Sister Jill Stein, for me, is somebody that’s worth fighting for. And she’s not a spoiler. You know, a lot of people use that term "spoiler." If Hillary Clinton can’t make the case to progressives, she doesn’t deserve our vote.

Now, Trump is a neofascist in the making. There’s no doubt about that.

AMY GOODMAN: Donald Trump.

CORNEL WEST: Yeah. Oh, there’s no doubt about that. But the thing is, is that you can’t just be a non-Trump and deserve one’s vote. If Hillary Clinton wants the vote of progressives, she better be real about it. But I don’t think she has the capacity to be real about it. She’s so tied to Wall Street. She’s so tied to the corporate elite.

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you say he’s a neofascist, Donald Trump, the—

CORNEL WEST: Because neofascism in the United States takes the form of big money, big banks, big corporations, tied to xenophobic scapegoating of the vulnerable, like Mexicans and Muslims and women and black folk, and militaristic policies abroad, with strongman, charismatic, autocratic personality, and that’s what Donald Trump is.

And we should know. This is why I salute you, my dear sister. Corporate media has played a fundamental role in the making of Donald Trump—$2 billion free time. They made big profits. They put their profits ahead of the public interest. They covered every speech, every word in Twitter for the last 14 months, just to make big money. Even this convention, even this—they can’t wait. They’re salivating for the profits. And what do they do? They throw out this mediocre, dumbed-down xenophobic-speaking brother, who—I mean, he’s a human being like anybody else, so, I mean, you know, he’s made in the image of God, in terms of my own Christian faith and so forth, but he’s a neofascist in the making. And corporate media is going to have to acknowledge the tremendous responsibility they have of making sure Donald Trump was center stage. If Bernie Sanders had received one-half of that kind of attention, we’d be in a very different place. If they would put more stress on what Jill Stein is saying, the unbelievable fairness, subtlety of analysis, moral passion of Sister Jill—corporate media won’t touch her with a 10-foot pole, for the most part. But it’s changing. It’s going to change.

AMY GOODMAN: What does Dr. Jill Stein represent? What—why are you drawn to the Green Party platform, now that Bernie Sanders has conceded?

CORNEL WEST: Well, one, in the language of Coltrane, she’s a major force for good, accenting the role of poor and working people being center stage. She’s green in terms of trying to save the planet in the face of corporate greed. She’s fundamentally concerned with issues of racial justice, legacies of white supremacy as well as male supremacy. She’s concerned about empowering working people. She opposes TPP, trying to make sure we don’t have the corporate reshaping of the world economy—the kind of policies, of course, Democratic Party has supported, President Obama has supported. 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. And by spiritual decline and moral decay, I mean greed and indifference and contempt in the driver seat among our elites vis-à-vis all working people and poor people. It’s just sad to see so many fellow working people and fellow citizens supporting a pseudo-populist and neofascist like Donald Trump. They’re in pain. The pain is very real, but they’re moving in a right-wing direction.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened with the Democratic platform? You were one of the people on the committee. A lot of people don’t know how this stuff is made, how the sausage is made. Explain what happened. What did you win? What did you lose?

CORNEL WEST: Well, I was blessed to be put on the committee by Brother Bernie Sanders. We had wonderful deliberations. Brother Elijah Cummings was very fair. He was the chairperson. But we lost TPP. We lost Medicare for all. We lost, of course, Israeli occupation and Israeli settlements included within the platform, keeping track while precious Palestinian brothers and sisters—

AMY GOODMAN: What about them? You lost—what do you mean, you lost them?

CORNEL WEST: We lost them, in that we made the case, and we lost the vote.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you looking for?

CORNEL WEST: We were looking to include them within the platform, so at least it was on paper. Now, of course, putting it on paper is different than putting it in practice. A declaration is different from the execution. But we lost over and over again, because the Clinton people lined up and voted against it. That’s why I, of course, abstained, initially, at the move from writing the draft, and then we took it to the platform committee in Orlando. I was also a member of the platform committee. And I had to abstain again, because—even though they didn’t allow for abstention; it was just no or yes. But there’s no way, based on moral grounds, those based on my own moral conscience, that I could support that platform.

And once my dear brother moved into his endorsement, his strong endorsement of the neoliberal disaster that Sister Hillary represents, there was no way that I could stay with Bernie Sanders any longer, had to break with the two-party system. The duopoly has to come to an end. I was hoping we could bring the neoliberal era to a close, because a year ago, populist, Bernie Sanders; neofascist with Trump, or neoliberalism limps on with Hillary Clinton. Right now the Democratic Party still run by big corporations, big lobbyists and so forth, from AIPAC to a host of other lobbyists of big money, and it looks like they want to hold on for dear life. And it’s a sad thing to see, because the country is having a nervous breakdown. And you just hope that there can be enough people with compassion and courage to hold onto justice, keep the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edward Said and Dorothy Day alive.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, when you look at what Donald Trump is calling for—the wall on the border with Mexico, banning Muslims from coming in—barring Muslims from coming into the country, hesitating to disavow the support of the white supremacist David Duke and other issues—for those who say it’s only Hillary Clinton who could defeat that, what is your response?

CORNEL WEST: My response is, and when you actually look at the mass incarceration policies, when you actually look at the reinforcement of the new Jim Crow and the segregation of our educational systems and so forth, that occurred under Democrats. It would persist under Hillary Clinton. What Donald Trump talks about in the abstract has actually been concretely enacted under neoliberal regimes of the Democratic Party.

Same would be true in terms of foreign policy. Foreign policy, for me, is very, very important in terms of the no-fly zones in Syria that can lead toward war, the kind of encirclement of Russia. I mean, can you imagine Russian troops in Mexico and Canada? What would the U.S. response be? Oh, my god. Well, that’s very much what NATO troops are vis-à-vis Russia. Now, we know Russia is run by autocratic Putin, but that kind of provocation for Russia, who has nuclear arms, is the kind of thing that Hillary Clinton, of course, supported. And her connection to the Robert Kagans and Henry Kissingers, of course, are just frightening in regard to militaristic orientations.

And so, this idea that somehow we’ve got to opt for a neoliberal disaster as the only option vis-à-vis the neofascist catastrophe, as a blues man, I appreciate you playing that blues, said I can deal with catastrophe, not by panicking and being driven by fear, but I can look the catastrophe in the face and still tell the truth and still go down swinging with a smile and, most importantly, love, Coltrane’s love—and for me, Jesus’s love—at the center of how we proceed.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there, but we’ll be talking to you through the week, Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary. He endorsed Bernie Sanders for president last summer and was appointed by Sanders to serve on the Democratic platform committee, author of a number of books, most recently Black Prophetic Fire, now is endorsing Dr. Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Istanbul and stay right here to talk about the attempted coup over the weekend. Stay with us.

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