Cornel West, the left-wing academic and third-party presidential candidate, said Thursday that he will not seek the Green Party’s nomination for president, running instead as an independent.
The West campaign gave little explanation for the move, which appeared counterproductive to his goal of getting his name on ballots nationwide, but noted his desire not to be constrained by a party platform and the complexities of the Green Party’s nominating process.
“The best way to challenge the entrenched system is by focusing 100 percent on the people, not on the intricacies of internal party dynamics,” his campaign said in a statement.
The decision is likely to be a welcome one for Democrats, who have in the past fought to keep Green Party candidates off state ballots. The Democratic Party is facing the prospect of a 2024 election in which multiple high-profile third-party candidates are on the ballot, and are likelier to sway voters away from Joseph R. Biden than from a Republican challenger.
Although Mr. West remains a candidate, he will now have to navigate the complex and time-consuming project of qualifying for the ballot in individual states, without the support of the Green Party.
Prominent Democrats such as David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, and Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, have criticized Mr. West for running, warning that he risks enabling a Republican victory. Even some longtime allies on the left outside of the Democratic Party, like Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, have said that the stakes of the 2024 election have led them to support Mr. Biden.
Mr. West, a best-selling author, would have been the highest-profile candidate the Green Party had fielded in a presidential election since Ralph Nader, whose candidacy many Democrats still blame for Vice President Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in 2000.
The number of votes received by the party’s 2016 nominee, Jill Stein, in three battleground states would have been enough for Hillary Clinton to defeat Donald Trump in the election — although exit polls in one of the states, Michigan, found that only a quarter of Ms. Stein’s voters said they would otherwise have voted for Ms. Clinton.
When Mr. West announced his candidacy in June, he said he intended to run for the nomination of the People’s Party, a minor party run by veterans of Mr. Sanders’s political organization. In an interview last week, Mr. West cited the Green Party’s superior ballot access as one reason for his switch.
“The main thing is, they had assets in one state,” he said of the People’s Party. The Green Party was ultimately able to get on the ballot in 30 states in 2020, including three of the eight most competitive battleground states. It says it has qualified for access to the ballot in four of those states for 2024: Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and Florida.
The process of qualifying for the ballot varies widely from state to state, but often requires gathering thousands of signatures. Legal challenges are common. The Green Party faced lawsuits in four states in 2020.
Peter Daou, Mr. West’s campaign manager, said that the West campaign had weighed these likely complications against other factors, such as the Green Party’s highly decentralized nominating process.
“You have to consider the pros and cons, and he did,” he said. “And he came down on the side of wanting to be 100 percent laser-focused on people as opposed to the party process.”
In an interview before Mr. West’s announcement, Mr. Nader, who ran for president as an independent again in 2004 and 2008, said he was skeptical of the Green Party’s ability to adequately support a presidential candidacy. “The Green Party has a lot of organizing to do,” he said.
But an independent candidacy, Mr. Nader said, came with far more hurdles. “The Green Party has an identity,” he said, noting that the party was also on numerous ballots already. “If you’re going to do it independent, you have to be an organizational genius as well as a great speechmaker. And you’ve got to raise a lot of money.”