Is Kanye West a Viable Presidential Candidate?
July 4th, 1776: The day the United States declared independence from Great Britain.
On July 4th, 2020, a much different declaration was made as Kanye West announced he would be running for president, staying true to his quote on his critically acclaimed 2016 album, The
Life of Pablo, in which he stated, “2020 I’ma run the whole election”.
To many, this announcement may seem like a joke or publicity stunt, as he entered the race so late that his name is only on the ballot in twelve states, which combined have only eighty-four electoral votes. The criteria for becoming president greatly changed after the election of Donald Trump, as he was a “businessman” with no prior political experience. Kanye West is primarily known as a rapper, music producer, and fashion designer. However, he recently earned a spot on the Forbes billionaires list with a real-time estimated net worth of 1.3 billion dollars, making him the youngest self-made black billionaire. According to Forbes, Donald Trump has an estimated real-time net worth of 2.5 billion dollars, roughly double that of Kanye. There are two major differences between the two in terms of business, age, and inherited wealth. Trump is currently seventy-four years old compared to Kanye, who is just forty-three. The other main difference is that according to the New York Times, Donald Trump had inherited a total of four hundred thirteen million dollars. In fact, the Washington Post argues that if Trump invested his inheritance in a typical retirement fund, it would be worth upwards of six billion dollars today. In addition, the Washington Post obtained documents showing that Trump’s companies declared bankruptcy on six separate occasions further adding on to the point that Trump is not as prolific a businessman as he so often claims. Kanye, at just forty-three, has already amassed over half of the wealth that Trump has accumulated. Furthermore, Kanye is completely self-made and was raised in a middle-class household. In fact, if Kanye liquidated his wealth and invested it in the S&P 500, which over the last 90 years has averaged 8 percent returns per year, it would amount to over 14 billion dollars by the age of 74. This is significantly greater than Donald Trump’s wealth today, even after taking into account the effects of inflation.
Donald Trump entranced his supporters in 2016 by speaking his mind without fail, fueling the ensuing populist movement. Kanye has also been known to do this, famously interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 VMA awards, stating “Taylor imma, let you finish but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.” This stunt received great backlash from the media and Swift supporters. Kanye is quoted as saying “It’s not about Kanye West. It’s not about Taylor Swift, there’s a lot of people in America that feel like they don’t have the platform to stand up and express their closet racism.” This highlights his belief in the systemic racial inequities in American society and pop culture.
The two candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, do not have perfect historical records when it comes to race. Throughout the last fifty years, Trump has both said and done racist things. According to Vox, in 1973 Trump was sued by the Department of Justice for violating the Fair Housing Act, as “Federal officials found evidence that Trump had refused to rent to Black tenants and lied to Black applicants about whether apartments were available.” The same Vox article mentioned the case of the “Central Park Five”, where five black and Latino teenagers were accused of raping and murdering a jogger. Trump paid for a full-page ad proclaiming their guilt. The five teens were eventually released as DNA proved they were innocent. However, in 2016, Trump claimed again that they were guilty. This along with a slew of other cases and quotes paints a picture of Trump in a poor light in terms of race. Democratic nominee Joe Biden has a less controversial history in regards to race. However, it is imperfect; he was against bussing ordered by the Department of Education in the 1970s as a method of desegregation and authored the 1994 crime bill. The bill was not intended to be racist; however, it disproportionately affected African-American citizens because of already existing biases and the systemic racism pervasive in the criminal justice system. Despite this, in recent decades, Biden consistently supported minority communities and currently has strong support from many
Kanye is much more polished in terms of race relations compared to the other
candidates. According to the BBC, Kanye donated upwards of two million dollars to pay for George Floyd’s daughter’s college tuition as well as cover legal fees for Ahmaud Arbury and Breona Taylor. Kanye did support Trump in 2016, even meeting with him in the Oval Office. However, Kanye renounced his support amidst the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump's subsequent voyage to “inspect” the White House’s nuclear bunker as protesters moved closer and closer to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Kanye responded, “It looks like one big mess to me. I don't like that I caught wind that he hid in the bunker.” This followed tabloid reports that he faked his support of President Trump in order to help his wife, Kim Kardashian, obtain pardons for nonviolent drug offenders.
While Kanye does not have traditional political experience, neither did Trump when running in 2016, and he was deemed as a legitimate candidate by winning the presidency. Kanye
possesses business acumen, is known to speak his mind, and does not come with typical political baggage, exhibiting that while the idea may sound crazy, it is somewhat plausible and certainly viable.