Kanye West: A Tool To Politically Capitalize the Black Lives Matter Movement?
African-American music artist Kanye West stunned fans after confirming he will be running for president in 2020 year’s presidential election. This was no surprise at all, to be honest. For years, West has said that running for president was part of his plans. During the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards he stunned viewers by announcing that he was going to run for president in 2020, and later pushed the date back, saying he would actually run in the 2024 contest. He himself told the American public about his own plans and political agenda. It was not a joke nor a conspiracy theory. It is a fact that he said this prior to the 2020 presidential election campaign.
According to an article published in the New York Times, the Black Lives Matter movement may be the largest movement in U.S. history, on the authority of scholars and crowd-counting experts. Professor Woodly said that the civil rights marches in the 1960s were considerably smaller in number. “If we added up all those protests during that period, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, but not millions,” said Woodly (Buchanan, Bui & Patel, 2020). The still on-going protests peaked on June 6, when half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. Figures suggest than an estimated 15 million to 26 million people participated in the protests.
As Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin found out, the murder of black African-American George Floyd was a trigger for today’s protests, which are distinctly racial in nature. The Black Lives Matter movement is essentially the black American soul uprising against white America, despite all the assurances that American society had achieved equality. If that were the case, African Americans would not rebel with such rage in response to a fairly common US crime, and a movement such as Black lives matter would not be so widespread. Racism is the basis of the American liberal system. In such circumstances, the racial problem in America simply has no easy solution (Dugin, 2020).
American Scholar Samuel Huntington (2004), author of the Clash of Civilizations, once argued that America’s national identity was in danger of being lost because of the influx of immigrants, particularly Hispanics. The truth is that not every American embraces diversity as a strength. In fact, diversity is a weakness for some. According to Jonah Goldberg, there is a growing body of evidence that even if diversity — the kind that results from immigration — once made the United States stronger, it may not be doing so anymore. Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist at Harvard University, found that increased diversity corrodes civil society by eroding shared values, customs and institutions. People tend to hunker down and retreat from civil society, at least in the short and medium term. (Goldberg, 2018). Diverse societies are not necessarily better, stronger, and more stable than uniform societies. Not everyone agrees on that. There is a rising stigma against assimilation. The idea that people of all background should embrace a single conception of Americanism raises serious doubts. By celebrating differences, some Americans feel that they are losing their own identity. Some analysts, such as well-known political commentator Rush Limbaugh, have even warned that the second American civil war is underway, as Cohen (2020) and Bennett (2020) have pointed out.
Rapper Kanye West may face some major obstacles to mount a serious campaign less than four months before the November 3 U.S. presidential election. It is still unclear if this a publicity stunt for himself and his wife Kim Kardashian or a project unrelated to the presidency. Time is running against West, and if he is really taking this seriously, he would have to work very fast to get his name on the ballot alongside Republican Donald Trump, and Democrat Joe Biden. One of Trump’s celebrity supporters, West would have two routes to doing so. He could try secure the backing of a smaller political party, said James McCann, a political scientist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Without a party helping him get on the ballot, another option would be to try to appear as an independent candidate. However, deadlines for registering that way have already passed in a handful of states, including New Mexico and key battleground North Carolina. (Lange, 2020).
Political outsiders are likely to run a populist and anti-establishment campaign. Outsider candidates are said to perform better in polarized political environments. In 2018, a research study done by University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Assistant Professor Peter Buisseret and a coauthor shows that in times of intense polarization, outsiders are more likely to win elections than establishment candidates if they are able to prevail within established parties (Buisseret, Van Weelden, 2018). Andrew Solender (2020) found out that the effect a West run is very likely to result in tipping the scales for one candidate than West himself becoming president. Be that candidate Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump instead. Deadlines to file as an independent candidate for president have already passed in New York, Texas, New Mexico, Indiana, Maine and North Carolina, whose 102 electoral votes would be critical to winning the presidency. Even if he does not succeed this time, he could siphon off votes from both Biden and Trump.
What if West’s announcement of presidential run was not accidental nor is it isolated from the U.S. political and cultural context? Kanye West had already announced in advance that he would run for U.S. president in 2020. The Black Lives Matter movement have had bigger support than expected. It is likely that these are all parts of the same puzzle. The way to run as an outsider is hard and expensive, and West seems to be pretty aware of that. This was not unexpected at all. Think again if you are still thinking this is spontaneous. It may be not. The Black Lives Matter movement may be part of something bigger that has yet to unfold. And Kanye West may be in the long-term a very useful tool to politically capitalize the Black Lives Matter. It’s about marketing. It’s about politics. Amid coronavirus pandemic, this is the world we are living in 2020.
Bennett, J. (2020, May 21). The second American civil war is underway. Only this time, it’s not North versus South. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/michigan-trump-civil-war-coronavirus-fox-news-nancy-pelosi-a9495151.html
Buchanan, L., Bui, Q. & Patel, J. (2020, July 3). Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/03/us/george-floyd-protests-crowd-size.html
Buisseret, P. & Van Weelden, R. (2018). Crashing the Party? Elites, Outsiders, and Elections. University of Chicago. http://harris.uchicago.edu/files/crashing.pdf
Cohen, S. (2020, May 13). Rush Limbaugh Predicts A ‘Veritable’ Civil War — Could He Be Right?. Forbes. www.forbes.com/sites/sethcohen/2020/05/13/rush-limbaugh-just-predicted-a-veritable-civil-war---could-he-be-right/
Dugin, A. (2020, June 9). New vectors of the civil war in the US. Geopolitica. www.geopolitica.ru/en/article/new-vectors-civil-war-us
Goldberg, J. (2018, January 15). What if diversity isn’t America’s strength?. Los Angeles Times. www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-goldberg-diversity-strength-20180115-story.html
Huntington, S. P. (2004). Who are we?: America’s crisis of national identity. London: Free Press.
Lange, J. (2020, July 5). What would Kanye West have to do to launch a late White House bid? Reuters. www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-kanye-west-idUSKBN2460S4
Solender, A. (2020, July 5). Here’s Why A Kanye West Run Might Be More Likely To Hurt Trump. Forbes. www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2020/07/05/heres-why-a-kanye-west-run-might-be-more-likely-to-hurt-trump/