Although President Joe Biden is facing a legitimate primary challenge from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., some Democrats think the biggest hurdle for the incumbent ahead of the 2024 election will come from a third-party candidate.
Specifically, prominent political activist and professor Cornel West has outlined his plans to run as the Green Party candidate, which Democrats worry could siphon enough votes away from Biden to ensure a victory for the Republican nominee.
Analysis by the polling site FiveThirtyEight recently determined that a West campaign could represent a “nightmare scenario” for Democrats working toward a second Biden term.
Early election surveys show that Biden maintains a slim lead over GOP primary front-runner Donald Trump in many head-to-head matchups. Adding in the option of a third-party option, however, generally shifted the advantage to Trump.
If West were able to strip a small percentage of votes away from Biden next year, it could be enough to decide the election — and high-profile Democratic strategists are clearly taking note of the situation.
In 2016, the Green Party played an outsized role in tipping the election to Donald Trump.
Now, with Cornel West as their likely nominee, they could easily do it again.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 7, 2023
The scenario currently unfolding has prompted some political pundits and mainstream media reporters to second-guess their earlier presumptions about the 2016 election.
Jill Stein, who mounted a third-party campaign that some Democrats said allowed Trump to beat Hillary Clinton, is now acting as West’s campaign manager.
As Vox writer German Lopez concluded: “So maybe the lesson isn’t so much that Stein acted as a spoiler but that Democrats simply didn’t connect with a bunch of left-wing voters that they should have been able to attract.”
West has made a similar case for his own Green Party candidacy, asserting his belief that Biden’s agenda — dating back to his long congressional career — has been detrimental to the Black community.
“Well, I think you’ll think Joe Biden contributed to a crime against humanity when he became the architect of the mass incarceration regime in the 1990s,” West said.
He went on to criticize Biden’s support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, adding: “I’ve taught in prison for 41 years. And the level of barbarity in our prisons has something to do with that crime bill that he put forward. Black folks are low priority [to Biden].” Furthermore, he insisted that it has become “very clear” that the 80-year-old president’s “cognitive powers are in decline.”