When Kanye West announced his presidential run this weekend, most people wrote it off as a stunt.
After all, the rapper has already missed the deadline to be on the ballot in six states: North Carolina, Texas, Maine, New York, New Mexico, and Indiana. And since Saturday, when he announced his candidacy in a tweet, Kanye has not commented on his intentions. Filings with the Federal Election Committee show he hasn’t made it official.
Kanye has never made a bad album. Maybe he can be a flawless president, too.
So what? Kanye has a shot as a write-in candidate. With the possible exception of Donald Trump and Joe Biden — the other two heavyweights running for president — he is the most-known man in America. He’s certainly one of the most polarizing.
This isn’t even the first time Kanye’s made a bid for the job. As far back as 2016, he’s been saying that he’ll run in 2020, most famously on “Facts” (the worst track on The Life of Pablo). He briefly switched that promise to a 2024 run after a bizarre meeting with Trump in 2018. But with all the insanity of 2020, he has little reason to wait.
If he’s serious, Kanye is 2020’s Flight 93 candidate. The entertainer is in 2020 what Trump was in 2016. A vote for him is tantamount to storming the cockpit of Michael Anton’s proverbial plane of state and hoping that the guy famous for saying a mean thing about George W. Bush and wearing a MAGA hat to the White House can land it. What’s to lose? Kanye has never made a bad album. Maybe he can be a flawless president, too.
If Trump is reelected, we know what we’ll get: Four more years of Make America Great Again. Continual promises of conservative judges, and, if Republicans keep the Senate, deliverance on those promises. But if Republicans lose Congress either this cycle or in 2022, we’ll get a partisan gridlock where the president rules through executive orders while Congress whines about it. It would be uncannily similar to Barack Obama’s second term.
If Biden is elected, our prospects are much, much worse. A Democratic victory in November will almost definitely mean a complete partisan congressional takeover, leaving Democrats free to further devolve into an acrimonious civil war over the future of the party. The former vice president will be too old to make his own decisions — and will likely bow to the whims of whoever has the upper hand at the time, whether it be the liberal old guard or the socialist insurgents. Depending on the day, he could be serving up wealth taxes or some refurbished version of the Green New Deal.
But a vote for Kanye! That looks like an escape hatch. A Kanye presidency could be Make America Great Again all over again. Or it could be something completely different. There’s no way to know.
But try to imagine Kanye in the pilot’s seat: How would he handle the coronavirus pandemic? Or the opioid epidemic? Would he make every week Infrastructure Week — does Kanye even know what the Soo Locks are?
Just the thought is thrilling. It’s impossible to predict what a Kanye presidency would look like.
Of course, in 2016 the same was said of Trump. And at the time, it was true. The president was at his best when he was campaigning that first time around. For like any great entertainer, he knew what his audience wanted and promised to give it to them.
But Washington has a curious way of ironing out people’s quirks, and Trump was no exception. For all his bombast, he turned out to be an essentially normal Republican president (except, perhaps, in his verbal commitment to the pro-life movement and his unwillingness to bomb the Middle East). He cut taxes. He attempted to overturn health-care reforms. He printed more money when the economy tanked.
Kanye would likely flatten out, too. Better that he never fully commit to running — to keep the wild hope of President West alive.