Kanye West declares bid for US presidency

#2020Vision: The rapper was instantly endorsed by Elon Musk – and by his wife Kim Kardashian. © Getty

Should we take Kanye seriously? He says he is running to be president of the USA. Elon Musk supports him. Politically, it seems unlikely. But this year has been anything but predictable.

He has 21 Grammys. He is married to a Kardashian. He designs sneakers with Adidas.

Worth over $1.3 billion (£1.2bn), the music producer, rapper, and fashion mogul Kanye West declares he is now running for president.

He announced his campaign via Twitter, declaring he wants to “realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future”.

His wife Kim and his friend Elon Musk immediately voiced their support, although political experts pointed out that no official campaign has yet been registered in West’s name.

Despite already being one of the 21st Century’s most acclaimed musicians, ‘Ye’ – as he sometimes styles himself – has long hinted at having political ambitions.

In 2005, following the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, he decried the lack of government support, memorably stating: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

During the MTV Video Music Awards in 2015, Kanye first mentioned that 2020 would be the year he would run for president.

In a wide-ranging interview with Vanity Fair that year, confirming his political intentions, he hinted at a democratising, progressive agenda. “We have all of the information to live in a better world, but we’re always holding information back,” he said.

However, following the election of Donald Trump, he appeared to veer to the right. He wore a Make America Great Again cap and raged against the assumption that “you’re black, so you’re a Democrat”. He referred to Trump as a “brother” and suggested that they shared “dragon energy”.

In 2018, he controversially hinted that “slavery was a choice” and in part due to mental imprisonment. On his presidential ambitions, he suggested that he would remix politics. The “Ye version would be the Trump campaign and maybe the Bernie Sanders principles”.

Kanye West is not the first celebrity whose candidacy has been touted this election cycle. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Katy Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Cardi B have all been mentioned as potential political players.

While many analysts rate the appeal of an outsider in elections, Trump is the only US president in US history without any political or military experience – though there are several examples elsewhere in the world.

In Brazil, a clown called Tiririca won a seat in congress with the slogan: “It can’t get any worse.”

The current president of Liberia is the former Chelsea and Milan player, George Weah. In Pakistan, the prime minister, Imran Khan, used to be a leading cricketer.

So, should we take Kanye seriously?

West Wing?

No. It is merely the ultimate form of self-advertising. He wouldn’t be the first to pull such a stunt. In 2017, US musician Kid Rock launched merchandise and posters hinting at a political campaign. But when questioned, he said, “I’m not running for Senate. Are you kidding me? Who couldn’t figure that out? I’m releasing a new album.”

It could be for real. There is no question about the self-belief of a man whose repertoire includes the tracks: “I am a god” and “I love Kanye”. As the Guardian points out: “After businessman and reality TV star Trump [...], perhaps the idea of Kim Kardashian as first lady could be written in the stars.”

You Decide

  1. Who do you think better represents the USA? Donald Trump or Kanye West?
  2. Is there anything wrong with celebrities running for office?

Activities

  1. Imagine you were running to be leader of your country. Write a short speech declaring what you would campaign for. Film yourself reading it out.
  2. Kanye West needs your help writing the lyrics to his latest track about running for president. Make sure they rhyme!

Some People Say...

“How can you say all this stuff about running for president in 2020 and then say sweatshirts are important? But they are. Just mark my words. Mark my words like Mark Twain.”

Kanye West, American rapper, music producer, and fashion designer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
West sent out his tweet on 4 July, US Independence Day. He technically still has time to register to be on the ballot in most states. We know that he has had a truly transformative impact on the industries he has worked in so far. A New York Times review describing his effect on hip-hop, says he “widened the genre’s gates, whether for middle-class values or high-fashion and high-art dreams”.
What do we not know?
Whether West would stand affiliated with any political party. Therefore, it is difficult to guess which of Biden and Trump (the current candidates) have the most to lose from a West campaign.

Word Watch

Grammys
The most prestigious award in the US music industry. The trophy is shaped like a gilded gramophone. Last year, Billie Eilish won most of the main awards.
Mogul
An important or powerful person, especially in the film or media industry.
Progressive
In a political context, the belief that society can be transformed in the interests of ordinary people. It is normally associated with the politics of the left.
Bernie Sanders
The most prominent left-leaning politician in the US. He was front-runner to be the Democratic candidate to take on Trump in 2020, until the last moment in the race.
Candidacy
The fact of standing for a position or status, especially in an election.
Touted
Talked about repeatedly.
Repertoire
All the skills or remembered performances.

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