Hip hop icon turned presidential candidate, Kanye West’s insertion into the presidential race has caused an already bizarre and unprecedented election to turn into a near political explosion.
Although his presidential campaign has only consisted of one rally and two interviews with Forbes, that hasn’t stopped West from successfully filing to be on the ballot in nine states, where he could win a total of 88 electoral votes. He also filed in a tenth state, New Jersey, but removed himself from the ballot ahead of a hearing on whether the signatures submitted were forged. There are 19 states where he can still file, with a total of 190 electoral votes at stake. West himself told Forbes that his campaign is more of a “walking” for office rather than a running for office, indicating that he has no true intention of winning the campaign, but rather to attempt to take African American votes away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Perhaps more disturbing than West’s actions are the actions of many Republican operatives who are intent on getting West on the ballot in an attempt to sabotage Biden. Gregg Keller, the former executive director of the American Conservative Union and a well-known conservative operative based in Missouri, signed on to be the campaign point of contact when West filed to appear on the ballot in Arkansas. Keller, who was under consideration to be Donald Trump’s campaign manager in 2015, has also been linked to the West campaign’s effort to get on the ballot in Ohio. Lane Ruhland, the West campaign’s representative when the rapper filed to appear on the ballot in Wisconsin, signed a legal filing in federal court as a lawyer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign just one week before filing West’s petition. Rachel George, another Republican operative based in Colorado, was helping West recruit electors as part of his effort to get on the ballot.
Many of Kanye West’s electors, those responsible for casting electoral votes on his behalf if he wins their state, are active Republicans. One of them, Catherine McGervey of Cleveland, Ohio, told Intelligencer that she was attracted to West by “his new Christian values” and noted his “kids were baptized in rite of the Catholic Church.” McGervey is a stern believer in pro-life, has stated “I think we need somebody more focused on God. Trump took us a long way — I think Kanye can go farther.”
The amount of Republican support that West is currently receiving is staggering. Perhaps more mind boggling is that he has been receiving this support even after the fact that West was having a bipolar episode during his campaign rally was publicized by Kim Kardashian West. But the true impact of West’s campaign won’t truly matter until election day, and West’s possible impact as a candidate is still unclear.
Prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz argues that West’s run won’t make a difference among conservative voters, but that he would be able to secure the votes of “young African American men,” and that even though West has a “relationship with Trump, I don’t think he’d pull a single Trump voter. He would pull a few Biden voters.” Conversely, Tom Bonior, the CEO of Targetsmart, a top Democratic data firm, sees it differently. “The best guess I can come up with is his best demographic will be the small subset of young, nihilistic, mostly white voters, who probably voted for Trump the last time around anyhow.”
If West’s mission to pull votes away from Biden is successful and Trump is reelected, that would indicate that the American voters will have failed in using their voice to elect an individual who will have their best interests at heart. Those who voted for West who would have voted for Biden would have been deceived, tricked, or just flat out lied to that voting for West would be a good idea.
However, given West’s controversial remarks regarding slavery and his staunch pro-life stance, it seems unlikely that a wave of young, democratic voters will be ready to put their trust on West. In fact, the states he will be appearing on the ballot of as of now are largely Republican, indicating that he is will most likely be receiving votes from Republicans who share his religious beliefs.
The presidential election of November will undoubtedly be one of the most, if not the most unusual elections in the history of the United States. Just as likely, the transition of power from the current administration to the next, if it should happen, will be the worst transition of administrations in American history. Barring a landslide victory for either side, there will likely be calls for recounts, attempts on both sides to de-validate some of the votes, and in the most extreme of circumstances, perhaps a scenario in which two or more individuals claim to be acting president of the United States.
West won’t be elected president come November, but his involvement in the race will surely complicate the race beyond current comprehension. Despite the result, the presidential election of 2020 will be one that will be studied time and time again in the future with the help of hindsight by political scientists and philosophers, just as the election of 2016 is. Voting for West will provide absolutely zero solutions to the myriad of problems that America faces today, as his campaign is literally being used as a tool to attempt to divide the democratic voting base.
Whether one is conservative or liberal, one should exercise one’s American right to go out and let one’s voice be heard though voting. However, one should not use their vote on a candidate who has no interest in being president, serving the American people, or any idea how to actually do either of those things. In 2016, America put their faith in someone who has let racial and economic disparities further divide the country rather than unify it. Four years, a global pandemic and an economic recession later, perhaps America is ready for new leadership. Only time will tell who the American people choose to put their trust in next.