Kanye West held his first campaign rally this week in South Carolina. The clickbait headlines splashed across the internet are characterizing the event as “bizarre,” “chaotic,” and “rambling.” But Americans might want to take the campaign seriously, even if they shouldn’t take the man himself seriously.
Since West announced on July 4 that he was running for president of the United States, most people are still treating it as if it were a big joke. But that would be a huge mistake. After all, our democracy and the elections later this year are no laughing matter.
Let’s be clear; I am not suggesting that Kanye is likely to emerge as the winner. However, that is not really the point. Ross Perot was never expected to win, either, but he ended up playing a role in elections held in 1992 and 1996.
With the road to victory blocked, Kanye could still end up having a very sizable impact on this year’s election, and we should carefully consider the implications of his campaign. West is not the only political novice and A-list celebrity to throw his hat into the presidential ring.
Recent history provides some evidence of how the unexpected can play out in American politics. In fact, we need only cast our memories back four years to 2016. At that time, an insurgent and unconventional candidate captured America’s attention. Ultimately, Donald J. Trump became our 45th president.
In the earliest days of his campaign, people underestimated the billionaire businessman and failed to take him seriously. In the end, his remarkable ability to connect with the American voter enabled him to overcome flawed polling and finger wagging pundits who decreed that he didn’t stand a chance.
Think Kanye is just out to score some social media followers? Think again.
If you want proof that people do not know what to make of his presidential run and are genuinely baffled, simply take a look at the news. Just days ago it was reported that West had dropped out of the presidential race. Less than a week following these rumors, he held his first campaign event. Campaign Kanye: tumultuous, erratic, and yet potentially impactful.
While most Americans may be puzzled at present by West’s unconventional run, it would be wrong to dismiss him out of hand. West has that one thing most political aspirants deeply covet: name recognition. His reach is enormous. With almost 30 million Twitter followers and fans eager to track his every move, he dominates the media.
All West needs to do to get in the news is walk down the street with a new pair of sneakers—or post a photo to his social media. West’s influence is tremendous, and he is undeniably a force of nature.
Adding fuel to his fire is the fact that West’s wife is influencer extraordinaire Kim Kardashian West, the woman who famously broke the internet. She wields a stunning 180 million followers on Instagram. Everything the family does is fodder for hundreds of millions, thus anything that Kanye chooses to do can be amplified exponentially in mere seconds.
Kanye West is outspoken. He’s interesting. He’s dynamic. And he can capture people’s imagination and attention like few others on the planet. But he is also nuts, to put it mildly.
It’s hard to know where his interests lie since his policies and priorities are anyone’s guess. He told Forbes he was running under a new third-party banner dubbed “The Birthday Party.” Strange as that may seem, he could actually pull some of the Black vote from Joe Biden, making the run infinitely harder for the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.
The Washington Post recently reported that pollster Terrance Woodbury at a recent focus group with young voters heard a Black man in Milwaukee express a sentiment that the pollster could have sworn was also a West quote. “He said, ‘My mama voted for Democrats, my grandmother voted for Democrats, my granddaddy voted for Democrats…and my ‘hood has been the same for 50 years. So why the hell would I keep voting for Democrats?’”
All it would take is for West to draw a mere 5% of the vote from the youngest Americans and it could sway the election away from Biden and toward Trump. It’s remarkable to consider when you recall that West previously endorsed Trump and created a media circus by visiting him in the Oval Office.
If there is one thing that we all know about Kanye West, it is that he lacks neither passion nor energy. West’s campaign is reportedly working to gather signatures in multiple states to get him on the ballot and he has announced that additional campaign rallies are in the works. Though he already missed the filing deadlines in some states, he has already qualified for the General Election ballot in Oklahoma.
We are living in a time of great instability, where young people impassioned by the Black Lives Matter movement and other social crusades are eager to rush headlong into radical pursuits based upon their already stoked emotions.
So, listen up America. Keep your eyes on Kanye and ignore him at your own risk. He could end up being an election trump card…for President Trump.