If the star actor in the 1954 classic “Cattle Queen of Montana” can go on to become Commander-in-Chief, and The Terminator can get elected to run the 8th largest economy in the world, is it really that hard to imagine successful producer, musician and entrepreneur Kanye West living it up in the Oval Office?
Kanye’s announcement that he would be running for the Presidency in 2020 has been met with such immediate ridicule you might be confused into thinking that Presidential elections are something that Americans take seriously. In reality, the fine citizens of the United States have a propensity for electing slightly mad individuals, including one with a fetish for having vaseline rubbed onto his head during breakfast and another who frequently exposed himself in high-level Cabinet meetings.
The good news is there are more reasons to get behind a Kanye 2020 campaign than the fact that he’s probably saner than some of the alleged war criminals who have had access to the nuclear launch codes.
While Kanye’s biggest singles are his more mainstream pop and dance hits “Gold Digger” (released 2005) and “Stronger” (released 2007), he has a long and continuing history as an artist unafraid to tackle social issues. He doesn’t constrain his political perspectives to his music either, famously stating on national television in 2005 that then U.S. President George Bush “Doesn’t care about black people”. Bush later highlighted that moment as “the worst in his Presidency” – which as far as I’m aware should immediately cement Kanye’s position as potentially the greatest Presidential candidate in U.S. history.
But let’s delve into some of Kanye’s more potent, politically charged lyrics and try and understand what might be driving his foray into politics, and what his agenda might be.
He gets what is wrong with contemporary America
“The system broken, the school’s closed, the prison’s open”
– Power (2010).
“You know the kids gonna act a fool / when you stop the programs for after-school”
– We Don’t Care (2004)
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.2 million current inmates. Comparatively China, with a population roughly three times that of the U.S., has 1.6 million people incarcerated. Kanye’s making the pretty simple point that spending up to five times as much on locking people up compared to educating kids is a pretty silly way to run a country. A President who wants to spend more money on education than on locking millions of people in jail? The guy is too damn sensible.
He’s sick of gun violence
“I feel the pain in my city wherever I go / 314 soldiers died in Iraq, 509 died in Chicago”
“It’s time for us to stop and redefine black power / 41 souls murdered in fifty hours”
– Murder to Excellence (2011)
The United States leads the world in mass shootings. While the U.S. has only 5% of the world’s population, it is the location of an extraordinary 31% of mass shootings. Political paralysis and fighting between state and federal governments has made gun reform almost impossible, but the interesting thing about Kanye’s attitude to violent crime is how frequently he looks deeper into the root causes of violent crime. To Kanye, addressing gun violence isn’t just about limiting access to weapons, it’s about tackling a culture that glorifies violence and fighting poverty. That’s the kind of policy rigour missing from D.C..
He called out former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for tax evasion
“Mitt Romney, don’t pay no tax, Mitt Romney, don’t pay no tax”
– To The World (2012)
This one is pretty self-explanatory, but Kanye has a solid history of taking digs at Republicans. On “New Day” he rapped about making his future son a Republican “So everybody know he love white people”. Hating Republicans is a sound basis on which to base a progressive Presidency.
“Been a don, praying for the families lost in the storm / Bring our troops back from Iraq, keep our troops out of Iran”
– Power Remix (2010)
Not only does opposing the Iraq War put Kanye to the left of Hillary Clinton, he’s pretty much against military adventurism in the Middle East of any kind. While the threat of war with Iran has receded significantly since President Obama’s landmark nuclear deal, for a while it looked almost inevitable. Props to him for taking such a firm, coherent position opposing invasion.
He’s pro-drug law reform (probably)
“And if you’re losin’ your high then smoke again”
– Get ‘em High (2004)
With more and more public figures declaring the war on drugs an abject failure, who better to lead the drug law reform campaign from the White House than a President who admitted to being stoned when he announced his candidature.
So now we have decent idea of the kind of policy agenda a Kanye Presidency could entail. But if the thought of an anti-war, drug and gun law reforming President who prioritises spending on education and hates Republicans isn’t enough to get you on board team Kanye consider the potential context in 2020:
Donald Trump has been President for four years and declared war on pretty much everyone who isn’t white, rich and a man. He’s expanded military intervention in the Middle East and tripled the prison population by locking up undocumented migrants. Meanwhile education and health funding has been slashed in order to build a giant wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. Luckily, there’s one man with the ideas and vision necessary to take on President Trump. Kanye isn’t just the President we deserve, he’s the President we need.