A couple of months ago Kanye West came out with one of his trademark WTF-inspiring outbursts, declaring that he plans to run for president in 2020. Now, in any other year this would’ve been met with mockery and laughter before being swiftly forgotten as just another Kanyeism – but this isn’t any other year. This is 2016: a year that will go down in history as the moment that the tectonic plates shifted and the Western political landscape changed forever.
In an election cycle where Donald Trump hijacked the Republican party and, at certain points, looked like he might win the whole damn thing (a terrifying alternate reality that, thankfully, appears to be fading out of the realm of probability and back into the territory of theoretical nightmare), despite peddling outright lies and spouting the sort of blunt racism that would have typically buried any other political career in any other point in recent history, no one could laugh or mock Kanye with absolute confidence.
Not after Trump, not after Bernie Sanders' near-win in the Democratic primaries, not after the British Labour Party's base effectively executed it as a political force with their decision to vote in favor of Brexit. The politics that we knew up until now is over, and the sun hasn’t dawned on this new paradigm yet, so all we can do is sit and wait, speculating in the dark as to what the future holds.
So rather than mock and laugh, some of my colleagues here at Highsnobiety HQ began to ponder the possibility of a Yeezus bid for the presidency. And I can see why: no one thought that Trump’s name would make its way to the ballot last June when he first launched his campaign with a racist diatribe against Mexicans, yet somehow here we are.
If The Donald can somehow reach the final stretch of the campaign despite seemingly encouraging his opponent’s assassination then surely Kanye, who, for all his flamboyant arrogance, isn’t nearly as repulsive, must be in with half a chance. After the year that we’ve just had, anyone with enough money, fame and unshakeable ego has to be seriously considered as a potential presidential candidate. Except that they shouldn’t be. I’m going to plant my flag right here right now and say that 'Ye will never be the presidential candidate for either party. Not in 2020 and not for several decades at least.
What you have to understand is that a very specific set of circumstances lifted Donald Trump to the head of the GOP, a set of circumstances that immediately disqualify Kanye. First off, he has to pick a party, but neither party would pick him. Sure, he could run as an independent, but independent candidates are total no-hopers.
I mean, I’ve been following this campaign so intensely that I feel like I’m about to vomit up all the think pieces and analyses and news reports that I’ve read over the past year, yet I can’t recall a single thing that Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, has said for the entirety of the election cycle. In fact, I have to double check with Google whether she’s even still running – BRB.
Yup, it appears that she is. I still can’t recall reading a single article discussing her bid. The only reason why I can pull up an image of Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, in my mind’s eye is because he made an idiot of himself on national television by revealing that he doesn’t even know what Aleppo is. The would-be leader of our planet’s dominant superpower doesn’t know what Aleppo is. Scratch that: a human being with an internet connection doesn’t know what Aleppo is. Jesus wept. But I digress.
So which party would nominate Kanye? He has no chance of winning the Democratic nomination because the Democrats operate like an exclusive country club. They are a party that’s thoroughly hostile to outsiders and to have a chance of being their standard bearer you need to work your way through the party apparatus, building alliances, scratching backs, sacks and cracks until your fingers smell for all eternity. The last time that the Democrats didn’t pick the Establishment candidate was in 1992, when Bill Clinton was a relative unknown. But even then he wasn’t an outsider, he simply wasn’t the obvious choice.
Arguably the same could be said for Obama in 2008, particularly as he was up against Hillary Clinton, the clear Establishment choice. Still, he was more of an insider than Bill was 24 years ago, but he is a very rare politician: an unstoppable, charismatic force of nature that was simply destined for the Oval Office. Nothing could have stopped him that year because the tides of history were on his side.
Bernie may have exceeded all expectations, but the party establishment did everything they could to sabotage his bid, as leaked emails that led to the resignation of DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, clearly show. And even if he did somehow win the popular vote, the party’s superdelegates, who overwhelmingly supported Clinton, would’ve handed her the nomination. John Kerry was the only choice in 2004, strolling to the nomination with 51 primary wins out of a possible 56.
All major political parties operate on this model. Trump’s candidacy is an extreme anomaly made possible by his vast fortune, which meant he didn’t need the support of GOP donors or bigwigs. Furthermore, a schism existed between the party and its base that made it particularly vulnerable to an insurgency candidate like Trump.
Since the late ‘60s, when Southern states began to turn away from the Democrats as a protest against the 1964 Civil Rights Act (let’s not forget that in the Civil War it was the Democrats that championed slavery, and it was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican president that abolished it) Nixon’s Southern Strategy established the GOP as the go-to party for racists, a reputation that still holds true today: nailing down exact statistics can be difficult, but various sources from across the web suggest that around 90% of black voters lean towards the Democrats.
Even the American Conservative, a publication that can hardly be accused of harboring any sort of pro-liberal bias, puts that figure at 95%. Of course, not all Republicans are racist, but as we've seen throughout this election cycle, many have been all too ready to cosy up with racists, politically speaking. These figures reflect that.
As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, in an era where bigots are treated like lepers, over 14 million registered Republicans picked Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. They voted for him not because he had a plan, not because he was qualified for the job, but because he voiced and validated the hatred that festered in their hearts.
Republicans spent decades stoking racial hatred while demographics shifted against them. America was growing ever-more ethnically diverse, while their base of uneducated, blue-collar whites that had proved so reliable in elections past withered away. Short-term thinking and contradictions rule in the Republican party: they rail against taxes and big government while participating in government. They leverage racial tension for political gains in an increasingly post-racial society.
By the time they were forced to take decisive action it was too late: the GOP establishment recognized after Obama’s second win in 2012 that they need to change tact and diversify, but the party is so wedded to its racist base that it was inevitable that a schism would appear. Trump moved in to exploit that schism, and now he will destroy them.
While figures in the GOP establishment like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush understand that if the party is to survive in the 21st century, it needs to pivot away from its current base, Republican voters feel betrayed, choosing to strike back against the party by putting a far-right extremist like Donald Trump in charge.
These people would never pick Kanye for one very simple reason: because he’s black. No, not because he’s black – but because he’s not white, rather. I'm sure that some rightwing commenter will point out that a black candidate, Ben Carson, ran for the Republican nomination just this year, but he won only 2.75 percent of the popular vote. And Carson is very different from Kanye West: he's a bible-thumping nut job that questions evolution and argues against welfare, making him far more palatable to Republican tastes.
Kanye, on the other hand, is outspoken and opinionated. He has consistently railed against the inherent racism in American society and there's an argument that criticisms of his personality and demeanor amount to little more than thinly-veiled racism.
Yes, there are elected African-American Republicans in government, but of the 25 currently serving in congress, only two come from the GOP. Trump's rhetoric alienates black and minority voters, and there isn't a single reputable poll out there that puts his portion of the black vote higher than the single figures. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight puts it at 2 percent. Some put it at less than a single point.
No, not all Republican voters are racist, but his unquestionably racist rhetoric has convinced a sizable majority of them that he deserves to hold the highest office in the country. That same rhetoric that repels ethnic minorities has attracted Republicans in droves. It's safe to assume that the sort of people who have chosen Trump as their champion would more likely lynch Kanye than vote for him.
The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.