Kanye West dropped a major bomb on Independence Day, announcing his candidacy for President on Twitter. In analyzing West’s announcement, it’s essential to exercise some healthy skepticism. Over the last two cycles, a variety of candidates have seemed ready to throw themselves into the Presidential race only to step back including novelist Brad Thor, Dispatch Senior Editor David French, and Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI.) Billionaire Mark Cuban has also hinted at a bid. Third-party bids are not easy and face long odds, which leaves to many back away from a campaign. West must take more concrete steps before he’s considered a serious candidate.
That said, the impact of a potential West Presidential Campaign cannot be overestimated. Many object to West’s campaign because he’s already missed a lot of ballot access deadlines. He has missed deadlines in only six states, and with COVID-19, there are many lawsuits challenging deadline and signature-gathering requirements, so he might be able to sue his way on to some of those other state ballots. However, West would have to scramble to make the ballot in Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, which have ballot access deadlines by July 16th.
This would be the situation confronting any other candidate announcing on July 4th. Kanye West has a different reality due to his ubiquitous name recognition. He isn’t Evan McMullin. West is a billionaire musician. He’s married to another billionaire who has one of the most popular reality shows in history. He has a talent for capturing free media coverage that is as good as, if not better than President Trump’s.
West could run a write-in campaign and be able to compete. Only nine states don’t allow write-ins for president, and only one state (New Mexico) is among the six whose ballot access deadline has passed. Of the remaining eight that forbid write-ins, West could obtain ballot access by paying filing fees totaling $36,500 in two of them, which West could find under his sofa cushions. In many ways, West is the perfect independent candidate for the COVID-19 era. He doesn’t need as many petition drives as other candidates. Of course, he could make the vast majority of ballots by either petition drives or lawsuits, but he doesn’t have to.
With any third-party candidate, political activists’ immediate question is which major party candidates does West hurt. Biden supporters online launched a pre-mature warning that West could hand the election to Trump. They believe that this election is about saving Democracy, and the only way we can do that is to ensure that voters are only able to pick from the worst possible candidates for the highest office in the land.
However, a CNN Poll from 2018 showed West more popular with white voters (24-50) than non-whites (20-60). Those who approved of President Trump gave him a 40 percent favorable rating, while those who disapproved gave him a 9 percent rating. However, some of the metrics in the favorability are based on his then-strong support of the President, which has been reversed. 2018 might as well have been an eternity ago. America has changed, and so has Kayne, with his spiritual renewal in 2019, and the release of his album Jesus is King.
This isn’t to say a Kanye West presidency would be a good idea. West has a long and troubled history, and his faith, which I believe to be sincere, is still new. Even in recent months, West has still shown moments of arrogance that defined his public career (see his spat with Forbes over his allegation they undervalued his net worth.) The Apostle Paul warned against giving authority to “novices” lest they “become puffed up with conceit” in 1 Timothy 3:6. While this was written about church leadership, wisdom indicates that we should be cautious about giving power to someone who has recently turned his life around.
However, with an election between Trump and Biden, America is fresh out of good options. West may have the opportunity to offer America a risky choice with the hope of a potential payoff. There is a case to be made for West, particularly compared to the President. West is the self-made billionaire Trump pretends to be. West has only been married once. He has been far more stable and rational than Trump over the last two years. Unlike Trump, West is willing to own up to mistakes and be honest about his failings and weaknesses, even going on record as having a mental health diagnosis. This is a brave move. Politically, it means that with West, pundits won’t have to play amateur psychologist and neurologist to offer their diagnosis, as it’s already on the record.
West also has done a lot of charitable acts, including giving $2 million to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arberry, and paying for George Floyd’s daughter’s education. Despite having vacant rooms, Trump’s hotels did not participate in providing low-cost housing to doctors fighting COVID-19. Kanye West is probably more mentally capable of handling the job than the nominees of either major party. That is not a sentence I ever expected to write, but here we are.
To be sure, West comes with a lot of baggage, including a fifty-three percent unfavorable rating in that 2018 poll. Many people loathe Keeping Up with the Kardashians with hatred as hot as a thousand suns. Yet this may help West as a protest candidate. “I’d rather have someone married to a Kardashian than either of those two jokers” is the ultimate expression of contempt for the two major parties.
Much is unknown about West’s potential candidacy, including his running mate and his platform. The state of the Presidential race and the nation itself is turbulent. I could see West capturing a higher percentage of the vote than Gary Johnson four years ago and perhaps substantially more, depending on the campaign he would run and his opponents’ mistakes. Despite his history and flaws, a strong showing by West could serve as a needed wake-up call to the awful political parties who produced dreadful major party candidates.