Arts and Entertainment

A Confusing, Dark, and Twisted Political Career

A summary of Kanye West’s baffling politics, culminating in his 2020 presidential run.

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By Saadat Rafin

To say Chicago rapper Kanye West’s career has been tumultuous would be an understatement. Bursting onto the rap scene in 2004 with his debut album “Late Registration,” West has since been an enigma as an ever-changing force and cultural phenomenon. The course of his pursuits, however, has certainly not been linear, as the multi-talented musician has now started one of the most successful designer shoe brands to date, launched a global fashion line, produced a feature film, and contributed millions of dollars to various charities around the country.

That aside, none of these pursuits are quite as infamous as the rapper’s foray into politics. Officially commencing with the announcement of his presidential candidacy in 2015 during a speech at the Video Music Awards, West’s drawn out political career has somehow persisted to this day. The rapper has never shied away from controversial and often politicized subjects (think “Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a 2005 Hurricane Katrina relief concert) and has built up a reputation as a rapper who always speaks his mind. West's free-spoken nature gained greater acclaim as a Trump supporter throughout the 2016 election, during which he donned a red MAGA cap and met with the current president to discuss policy.

While West’s countless rants and speeches have often worked to spark conversation across the political spectrum, they’ve gotten him into a fair amount of trouble throughout his career. The most notable instance was his comments in 2018 about the nature of American slavery. He stated, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years […] for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” While these comments were met with immediate backlash and criticism from celebrities including Spike Lee and, West didn’t seem to learn his lesson, as he’s continued to make similar remarks.

West has never been an easy character to judge, however, especially considering his long standing battle with bipolar disorder, which should not be taken lightly. West’s many ups and downs have often been difficult to classify and led to a widespread disdain for the challenged rapper, partially owed to the “cancel culture” of the 21st century, though his condition is important to keep in mind when looking at his fraught history.

With major buildup from the press and media, it was hardly a surprise when the outspoken celebrity officially announced his 2020 presidential run on July 4, 2020. By July 16, West’s team had filed his candidacy with the U.S. government, and his run was official. While, for most part, West is neither remotely qualified nor prepared to be the next President of the United States, it’s hard to look away from the rapper’s campaign trail, filled with high profile celebrity drama, fraud, breakdowns, and the kind of material the writers for “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” (2007 - 2020) have likely been dreaming of ever since West was introduced into the family.

Perhaps the most notable event thus far from the West campaign was a tearful speech during which the rapper stated various elements of his political platform, including his avid pro-life beliefs. His incorrect comments about Harriet Tubman (“Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves; she just had them work for other White people”) confused and angered people across the political spectrum. This event drummed up genuine concern about West’s mental health, a feeling only bolstered after a lengthy tweet storm in which the rapper made absurd statements that seemed to accuse his own family members of being white supremacists and his wife Kim Kardashian of having an affair with Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill.

When you, however, step away from the flashy drama and headline worthy stunts of the campaign, it’s clear that West’s actual political platform is falling apart. As a self-proclaimed member of the “Birthday Party,” West has only technically made the ballot for less than 10 states thus far and been booted off of the ballots of five states for reasons including signature fraud and ironically, excessively late registration. As the West political campaign begins to show cracks and unravel at an accelerated rate, West’s exact political stance on key issues such as gun control and the environment remain unclear.

Many theorize that the West campaign is just a device to take votes away from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, as the rapper has seemingly gained votes from many Black and Hispanic voters, who have historically voted liberally. Whether West’s candidacy is a political tool, an ego-boosting phase in his career, or a genuine attempt to better this country in a way only “Ye can understand,” it is certainly sparking a discussion about the merits of a strictly two party system in our nation, while also possibly being detrimental to the Democratic party in the long run. What remains important throughout is that West stays mentally well and able to receive the proper care for the dramatic highs and lows of his disorder.

It also wouldn’t kill him to drop an album on time.