Far Left activist Cornel West announced his decision to run for president as a candidate for the People’s Party on Monday in a Twitter video. West, 70, is a former Harvard University public philosophy professor and a professor emeritus at Princeton University. As crazy as a West candidacy may seem at first glance, it could actually have a profound impact on the outcome of the election.
As a jaunty little tune played in the background, West said, “In these bleak times, I have decided to run for truth and justice, which takes the form of running for president of the United States as a candidate for the People’s Party. I enter in the quest for truth. I enter in the quest for justice. And the presidency is just one vehicle to pursue that truth and justice.”
Kellyanne Conway, who served as a senior counselor to former President Donald Trump, told Fox News on Tuesday that West’s candidacy could decide the race much as Ross Perot’s candidacy cost President George H.W. Bush a second term in 1992.
Conway pointed out, “Even if you don’t become president, you, as a third-party candidate spoiler can decide who is the president.” She noted that Bill Clinton got elected with just 43.5% of the vote. “Why? Because Ross Perot got 19% of the popular vote, even though he didn’t rack up any electoral votes.”
She explained, “If you play to win and you are Cornel West, and you are still not satisfied with the trajectory of the Democratic Party being progressive enough for you under a Biden/Harris administration, then you’re going to run to the left of them. Number one.”
“Number two, he’s going to make a play for people who feel forgotten, who feel abandoned by the Democratic Party and feel like nobody is listening to them and including them. It’s part of how Trump won in 2016, but I think he [West] can do it from the left.”
Conway also cited the 1980 primary battle between then-President Jimmy Carter and challenger Sen. Ted Kennedy, noting that “Carter came out of that very damaged and as an incumbent president, lost to Ronald Reagan.”
Few would argue that West could garner anywhere near 19% of the vote as Perot did in 1992 or win 12 state primaries as Kennedy did in 1980, but the 2016 election showed that far smaller shares of the vote can sway the outcome.
In the 2016 presidential election, for example, nearly 6% of the popular vote went to third party candidates. Some analysts go so far as to say this handed the presidency to Trump. In Pennsylvania, third party candidates won 4% of the vote. In Michigan and Wisconsin, they won 6%. Considering the margin of victory in each of these battleground states was under a point, these candidates made a difference.
Third party candidates played less of a role in the 2020 election when they won only 2% of the vote nationally.
In addition, the well-funded, centrist political group “No Labels” could also become a force in the 2024 election. Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, is the group’s national co-chairman. According to the New York Times, No Labels is planning to field a “unity ticket” and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) tops the list of potential candidates.
A Manchin candidacy would pose an even greater threat to Joe Biden’s reelection bid than the progressive Cornel West because he would likely appeal to a larger slice of the electorate.
And then, of course, there’s Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose candidacy and recent endorsement by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey I discussed here.
All things considered, Biden’s second term is looking less inevitable by the day.