By Valentina Ferraro
Rapper, songwriter, record producer and fashion designer Kanye West is a giant in the music industry. He recently shocked the world by announcing that he is running for the presidency of the United States, catching everyone off-guard.
Not only does he not have a political trajectory at all, but his decision seems quite hasty considering the deadlines to enrol as a candidate have already expired in many states. In four months he would have to register as a candidate, build his campaign, and expect to become a competitive candidate.
During his acceptance speech on the 2015 MTV Awards, he had stated that he planned to run for president in 2020. Almost out of the blue, he said: “yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided, in 2020, to run for president”. I do not think, that many people took such a statement seriously.
However, the hashtag #donotvoteforkanyeasajoke that followed Kanye’s recent tweet shows people’s apprehension towards voting for someone who has absolutely no political background nor experience.
This sudden outburst of concern towards the political sphere is extremely important; it showcases a renewed interest in politics and highlights the public’s awareness that government policies affect them directly, an aspect of the governor-governed relationship which has been historically overlooked.
What is the political strategy here?
Many believe Kanye’s run for President is some kind of strategy to promote his music and increase his sales; however, if this is the case, the effect has been completely the opposite. Kanye’s song “Wash Us in the Blood” dropped from number 2 to number 27 on iTunes, which reveals that the public opinion is not favourable towards him at the moment, according to Showbiz 411.
The strategy here might seem to be to split the Democrat vote. Even though Kanye has recently said that he is “taking the red hat off” and no longer supporting Trump, he aligned himself with the current president many times in the past.
The Democrats now face young voters’ apathy towards Joe Biden. If Kanye is able to split the Democrats, then he will ensure a Republican victory in many swing states, thus helping Trump in his path towards re-election. If West has not totally decided to distance himself from Trump, of whom he used to be a strong supporter, he could register in these swing states and make sure that the Republicans get their victory.
However, Kanye West has clearly stated in an interview with Forbes that he is not at all trying to split the Democrat vote. Referring to when Joe Biden said that Black voters “ain’t black” if they consider voting for Trump, West said: “I was threatened as a Black man into the Democratic party. And that’s what the Democrats are doing, emotionally, to my people. Threatening them into the point where this white man can tell a Black man if you don’t vote for me, you’re not Black”. Kanye may be trying to present an alternative to those who have found this comment severely disrespectful.
It is important to note, that if Kanye splits the Democrat vote, either intentionally or not, he will still be helping Trump, even if it might not be his purpose.
Kanye’s tweet from earlier this month announcing his candidacy is misleading. Not yet registered as a candidate in any state, the reality of his candidacy being successful is a far cry.
He is left only with the options to run either as an independent candidate or a write-in candidate, as his ability to run with a political party passed with the primary elections earlier this year. Both highly unpopular amongst the American public, Kanye’s chances of becoming a competitive candidate are hugely reduced. So, where does he stand?
An independent candidate is not affiliated with any party. The ship may have already sailed for Kanye to run as an independent; having already missed numerous filing deadlines it may not even be an option. According to the FEC (Federal Election Commission), it is too late for him to register in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Candidates in all states also have to fulfil certain requirements before registering – such as obtaining a number of support signatures to back up his candidacy – but, with the clock ticking, these requirements may not be met.
George Washington was the only President elected as an independent up to now, and he was elected in 1789; considering the highly institutionalised US bipartidism, chances are not really promising for Kanye
Running as a write-in candidate means that your name does not appear on the ballot form, and voters have to write down your name in it if they want to vote you. This method is significantly more difficult than running as an independent, as Kanye would depend on the voters’ enthusiasm to literally write down his name on the ballot form.
Not only does this already complicate his chances, but nine states do not allow write-in candidates at all, and from the 41 that do allow them, many require previous paperwork. Once again, chances are really low as no candidate ever has won presidential elections through this means.
Why is Kanye 2020 so important?
Many have seen Kanye’s candidacy as freeing and liberating, perceiving it as a representation of the world of politics opening up to more diversity. Not only does he not have any kind of political background, but he is also a Black man, something that, due to the current state of affairs, could represent a new start for the US.
Additionally, his candidacy could very strongly represent a fresh democratic start in the U.S. by allowing the involvement in politics of people not belonging to the traditional political structure of the country.
Despite controversy and obvious inconveniences, Kanye is still trying to pull through, and has founded a new political party – the Birthday Party. He has initiated a signature board to become a candidate in South Carolina and, last week, he also qualified to appear on the Oklahoma ballot – the first state where he met the requirements before the deadline.
These states are, according to the CNN’s interactive Electoral College map, solid Republican states. This goes against the previous theory that he might me aiming to split the Democrats, and this makes it harder for the public to understand his intentions thus compromising his legitimacy and chances of presenting a competitive alternative.
Even though his announcement was not welcomed by the public opinion, it is of utmost importance. It is now systematically being dismissed by mass media after a source close to his family said to People Magazine that Kanye is once again struggling with his mental health, and is going through an episode of his bipolar disorder. This leads many to believe that he is not actually running, or that he may back down at the last minute.
Regardless of whether Kanye makes it or not, the fact that people are worried about irresponsible voting is extremely promising. For a long time, American politics have been in desperate need of a breath of fresh air and the Kanye incident has brought a new awareness, especially among the young, who no longer see politics as a matter alien to them.