The Democratic party is in turmoil. Progressives who still believe in electoral politics collectively agree that more mavericks like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders, and Ilhan Omar are needed to keep the establishment honest. Kanye West has ideated himself one, but his ill-fated “presidential campaign” has taken a backseat to excessive worry that he could be going through a bipolar episode.
To be clear, this article is not about Kanye’s political prospects—it’s about concern over the people who are trying to legitimize his political aspirations in the first place. Seriously considering a vote for Kanye, who has uttered that “racism is a dated concept,” “slavery was a choice,” and has admitted he does not read isn’t funny or daring—it’s plain dumb.
Humoring Kanye’s political rhetoric doesn’t just reflect a lack of education and disenchantment with electoral politics, but the luxury to be apathetic. There’s a privilege in being able to take Kanye seriously. Political experts say he won’t “make a dent at all” in the election. But it’s not about the size of the pro-Kanye contingent as much as their mentality.
The Trump administration’s policies have infringed on the rights of every marginalized group in some fashion. Trump has emboldened white nationalists who were regularly committing domestic terrorism before the quarantine. There are still broken families at the US-Mexico border, and people who had their roots planted in America who are in immigration jails or were unjustly deported. Trans people just got their civil rights taken away by a June federal ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts was able to stave off Trump’s recent anti-abortion efforts, but who knows what the next four years will hold for the Supreme Court.
So many people are in a literal fight for their lives with Trump in office. Still, too many Kanye supporters, especially men, have seriously considered him as a candidate despite having zero qualifications. In a glaringly omissive Forbes interview, Kanye, possibly amid a manic episode, declared that his hypothetical administration would have a “Wakanda framework,” and he would be running for the “Birthday Party” because it would be like “everyone’s birthday” when he won. His running mate is Michelle Tidball, a “biblical life coach” who has admitted she doesn’t watch the news. And while Kanye may have a more coherent political theory in a better psychological state, he’s never indicated it. As he tweeted this past Sunday, he’s seeking to “beat Biden off write ins” but he’s never expressed any coherent political theory.
“Kanye 2020” has been an exercise in attention-seeking since he announced it at the 2015 VMAs. He had the resources and access to become politically competent since that time, but his 2018 manipulation at the hands of Trump and conservative pundits like Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk showed he hasn’t learned much.
In 2018, before the midterm primaries, Kanye met with Trump in the Oval Office and declared the despot a “father figure” who makes him feel like “Superman.” By October of the same year, he admitted feeling “used” by the Republicans and said he was “distancing himself from politics.”
In 2019, his close musical peer GLC said that Kanye wore MAGA hats to ingratiate himself to the Trump administration and help his wife, Kim Kardashian-West, get clemency for numerous people. In June, news of Kanye’s 2015 donation to Hillary Clinton resurfaced on social media, which seemingly supported GLC’s claims. At the same time, Trump asked Meek Mill to join a criminal justice reform panel at the White House, and the Philly rapper didn’t need a MAGA hat for access. Wearing the incendiary cap wasn’t an act of self-sacrifice; it was an act of a childish contrarian. In hindsight, it’s worth wondering how well he was in the heat of his “free thought” era, as he’s apologized for his “slavery was a choice” comment and attributed it to his bipolar disorder.
The idea that Kanye self-sabotaged his career and aligned with Trump as an elaborate ruse sounds like an evil movie plot, but it reflects the reaches his supporters will concoct to make sense of his actions. Despite Kanye having zero qualifications to be an alderman, let alone president, some people have seriously said they would vote for him. Perhaps it’s because he’s a Black man. Or maybe it’s because they like his music’s pro-Black themes, or “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” sentiment. Whatever their reasoning, it says less about Kanye and more about them—and a Democratic party too cowardly to nominate a candidate that can galvanize wayward, apathetic youth. Some people don’t see the use in becoming politically active if presidential candidates will never address systemic issues that affect their day-to-day.
Fellow Chicagoan Chance The Rapper has come under fire for repeatedly defending Kanye’s political aspirations. Chance has been scrutinized for attempting to compare Kanye and Biden as potential candidates, walking his comments back within the same day. In 2018, he defended Kanye’s pro-Republican “free thought” rhetoric by tweeting: “Black people don’t have to be Democrats… Next President gon be independent.” After being criticized for attempting to legitimize Kanye’s nonsensical rhetoric, he admitted, “no matter how much I may disagree with him, it’s hard for me to watch people talk about someone I love—even if they were justified in doing so.”
So much of the pro-Kanye advocacy comes down to that shared love. When J. Cole was criticized for his Noname-challenging “Snow On Tha Bluff,” and his fans clamored to support the out-of-bounds track, Earl Sweatshirt brilliantly questioned, “what if yall are mad at yourselves that you look to cole for more than he has to give? bro just laid his cards down on the table ‘i went to college, i dont know stuff; and hes alot of niggas elected representative.”
People are clinging to the same desperate devotion to Kanye. It’s akin to sports fans believing a past-their-prime athlete can rekindle their glory days. Despite Kanye’s embarrassing Trump-era antics, many fans still perceive him as the boundary-pushing cultural force whose creative ambition inspired their own dreams. If Cole is a symbolic representation, Kanye is already president to so many young people.
Consider the reaction if an average social media user threw Harriet Tubman under the bus; it wouldn’t matter what else they had to say. But because it was Kanye, supporters take to social media and do mental gymnastics to justify his comment. Their Kanye esteem has been a part of them for the past 15-plus years, which makes them wary of admitting he’s a creative genius, but not an intellectual, and definitely not a politician. They’re coddling a very childish, very privileged, very male obstinance. However, there are too many oppressed people who can’t make political decisions based on music catalogs.
Many of the people spouting pro-Kanye advocacy came of adulthood during the Trump circus. Perhaps they think Kanye can be the next celebrity-in-chief up to bat. But it’s time to stop looking for stars to be social justice leaders, especially when uprooting oppression necessitates abolishing their celebrity. Instead of deifying Kanye, people should hold him accountable for veritably stealing $2 to 5 million from small businesses when he’s reportedly worth billions.
If one feels like Joe Biden doesn’t care about the issues close to them and resolves to protest the two-party system by not voting, that’s their prerogative. But they owe the ancestors who died for their right to vote, as well as the women, children, and LGBTQIA people in their lives more than to waste time trivializing such an important election. If you don’t have anything good to say, say nothing at all.
For so many reasons, Kanye’s “presidential campaign” is not funny or interesting. His admission that he’s vying to split the vote with Biden is an act of violence toward all the people Trump is endangering. There are too many people whose lives are being inalterably changed by Trump, who do not find amusement in “Kanye 2020.” Consider them the next time you talk about voting for him or defend his misinformation.