West is ready to turn his back on the Democratic Party.
Polls indicate that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got a four-point bounce from the heavily scripted Democratic Party Convention. But it is hard to know the depth and intensity of support from Sanders activists passionate enough to earn themselves a place at the convention. Those are the kinds of activists that could help Clinton the most come November. Yet, an informal survey of dozens of Bernie delegates indicates a lack on enthusiasm for the Clinton cause. No doubt, the decision by prominent Bernie booster Cornel West to go for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein won’t help.
However successful Clinton was in racking up impressive wins in the primary cycle, her actual vote totals were higher in 2008, when she faced off with then-senator Barack Obama.
As early as March, Super Tuesday results made it clear there was a potential enthusiasm gap when the vote totals from 15 states showed 3 million registered Democrats who had come out in 2008 had decided to stay home. In Texas, turnout dropped by 50 percent. In South Carolina, there was a 40-percent drop in the African-American turnout from the watershed 2008 primary.
Consider the key swing state of Ohio. In the 2016 primary election, Clinton only garnered close to 680,000 votes, compared to the nearly 1.1 million she polled in her victory in 2008.
In 2012, Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County, was one of three urban locales where a wave of young minority voters carried the day for Obama, delivering the three states he needed to win. (The others were Philadelphia, and Florida’s Broward County.)
The Ohio Battleground
So how are things these days in Cleveland, site of that pivotal Obama win in 2012? Downtown Cleveland is enjoying a robust revitalization, but there are also vast swaths of the rest of the community in which factory buildings lie vacant.
There are close to 6,000 zombie homes — homes their owners believe are in foreclosure, even though the bank that holds their mortgages never completed the legal process to foreclose — a physical legacy of the foreclosure crisis which is still felt here. Some 20,000 have already been torn down, and for the homeowners in the poorer part of town, property values have dropped by as much as 80 percent.
As the Republicans gathered in Cleveland to nominate Donald J. Trump as their presidential candidate, a public policy and social action forum dubbed IMPACT took place at Mount Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, one of the city’s largest African-American congregations. The forum featured Cornel West, the “provocative democratic intellectual,” as he bills himself, as its keynote speaker.
Mount Olivet’s traditions run deep. It was founded in the 1930s and served as the base of operations for Martin Luther King Jr., when he came to Cleveland.
West, professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary and professor emeritus at Princeton University, was one of Senator Bernie Sanders’ most ardent supporters among African-American leaders, and several congregants were anxious to know whether the influential public intellectual was going to support Hillary Clinton in the general election.
But West, who served on the Democratic Party platform committee as a Sanders pick, told his audience he was supporting the Green Party candidate Jill Stein, because of her policy positions, “calling for reparations, calling for the massive release of all prisoners who are there for soft drugs… [She is also calling for
a] massive redistribution [of wealth], a green jobs program…siding with the Palestinians… [and is] concerned about the violation of international law by the United States.”
“I am going to fight against Trump,” West pledged, but “in this case I am opting for third-party Sister Jill Stein.”