Civil rights activist and academic Cornel West took to Twitter on Monday night to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.
I endorse Brother @BernieSanders because he is a long-distance runner with integrity in the struggle for justice for over 50 years.— Cornel West (@CornelWest) August 25, 2015
Now is the time for his prophetic voice to be heard across our crisis-ridden country. #BernieSanders— Cornel West (@CornelWest) August 25, 2015
West’s endorsement comes at an opportune time for Sanders, who is inching closer to Hillary Clinton in national polls but still trails the Democratic front-runner by about 20 points. Sanders has been drawing thousands of voters to campaign rallies around the country—but he’s also been the repeated target of protests by Black Lives Matter activists who want him to make combating racism and police brutality a bigger priority of his progressive campaign. (For more on why they’re targeting Sanders and not a less liberal candidate, check out my colleague Jamelle Bouie’s piece from earlier this month.)
The BLM movement isn’t a single organization—it’s a loose coalition of groups and individuals fighting for a common cause—and West certainly does not speak for the entire movement. Still, he has taken part in a number of BLM-themed acts of civil disobedience, and was arrested with other activists earlier this month during a protest near Ferguson, Missouri. His endorsement won’t be a panacea for the self-styled democratic socialist’s problems with black voters, but it certainly makes Sanders’ sales pitch a little easier.
West has previously spoken highly of Sanders—particularly his efforts to crack down on Wall Street—but he had stopped short of a full-throated endorsement until Monday night. The endorsement comes as, in what seems like a response to the BLM protests at his rallies, Sanders has started placing a greater emphasis on racial justice on the campaign trail, and after he released a detailed position paper on the topic and hired a young black woman who has been involved in the criminal justice reform movement as his national spokesman.
West supported Barack Obama during the then-senator’s first run for president but grew disillionisoned with him soon after he took office. He has called the president everything from a “war criminal” to the “black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs.” West has also made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t want to see Clinton pick up where Obama leaves off. “I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan at all,” West said in a TV interview earlier this summer. “So if he uses his power to hand it over to her, I’ll be deeply upset.”