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Cornel West tears into hypocritical "sister Clinton" while filling in for Bernie Sanders at an Iowa BBQ

"Democratic socialism isn't some kind of alien element. It’s organic and indigenous in the history of this nation."


Scott Eric Kaufman
November 16, 2015 10:54PM (UTC)

Whatever your opinion about the outspoken, activist professor Cornel West, it's impossible to deny the power of his rhetoric when his dudgeon is on high, as Esquire's Charles Pierce reminded us with a bit of campaign reporting from Iowa.

Sanders was unable to attend the Story County Democratic Party's annual BBQ at Iowa State University on Sunday, so the campaign sent West in his stead and -- unlike Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O'Malley, who recited pat campaign chat -- West electrified the crowd.

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"What a blessing it is to be here," he began. "With all of my brothers and sisters of all colors here in central Iowa!"

"Brother Bernie and I come from a great tradition," West said, "the tradition of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Einstein; the tradition of Helen Keller and Ella Baker; the tradition of John Dewey -- who is the founder of pragmatism, but he was a democratic socialist, too."

"And my dear brother, one of the greatest folk I've ever met in Iowa," he continued, "his name is Reverend Gil Dawes, who's a Methodist minister, who has been struggling for fifty years and still on fire for justice!"

"The point is that, you see, democratic socialism is not some kind of alien element. It's organic and indigenous in the history of this nation."

"Don't allow the 'ism' get in the way of the love of poor people, the love of working people, the love of people of color, the love of gay brothers and lesbian sisters, the love of the elderly and the children and the physically challenged," West argued.

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"It's a question of what kind of human being do you want to be."

Pierce noted that after an extended argument about the theory of "constancy" in the novels of Jane Austen, West turned to Sanders' main opponent for the Democratic ticket, claiming that "we have to be honest about our dear sister Hillary Clinton -- when it comes to my gay brothers and my lesbian sisters, one year, she says 'marriage is just male and female.' A few years later, she says she's 'evolved.' I say, 'I'm open to evolution.'

"But there's certain issues that should cut so deep," he concluded, "that you don't need to be a thermometer -- you can be a thermostat!"

Listen to the entire speech below via Esquire.

Cornel West Marches With NYC Protest Against Police Brutality


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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