Kanye West Launches a Presidential Campaign of Christian Morality
The hip-hop star's wild, disjointed presentation offers both red meat and poison for right, left, and libertarian.
West, with "2020" carved along the back of his head and in a huge security vest, said a lot over his hour, some in reaction to audience questions or comments. But one major thread, predictable given his turn toward a 100 percent Christian message on his recent album Jesus Is King, was a robust Christian morality and an insistence that Jesus loves us all, and that spreading that message is more important to him than actually winning the presidency.
The general style and vibe of West's speech was more revival meeting than political rally, with West noting he is "only afraid of God and in honor of God" (while at the same time slyly noting that things he was saying might lose him business deals or even his marriage).
The emotional high point was a story about how his wife Kim Kardashian West had to convince him to give birth to their first child North, with West weeping out loud at the thought that he might have killed his own daughter. He similarly insisted that his own father wanted to abort him and he was saved only by his mother Donda's resolve.
When it came to policy, though, candidate West insisted abortion should remain legal, and that a way to achieve the zero abortions he'd like to see might be to offer enormous amounts of money, even a million dollars, to women who feel pushed toward abortion by lack of resources.
Over the course of the rally, West made comments that could appeal to Americans across the ideological spectrum—and comments sure to make nearly every typically stratified American voter run away.
• For the conservative right: West sincerely repeated the gun rights slogan "guns don't kill people, people kill people" and stated how much fun it is to shoot guns. (He mentioned his ability to fire AR-15s all the livelong day if he wishes on his enormous Wyoming ranch.) He suggested that unilateral disarmament on either the personal or national level just places you at other people's mercy. He said that Democrats have not done "shit" for blacks, and that it is highly racist to insist that Kanye in the race will split the black vote and harm Biden.
While this particular sort of conservatism is too old-fashioned even for most modern American so-called "conservatives," West joined with his fellow earthshaking pop music genius turned hardcore Christian Bob Dylan in calling for a self-sufficient agricultural life as the best solution to most social and economic ills.
We moved to the cities because of the industrial revolution, West insisted, and that's over. He attacks American education for not teaching us about the ease and possibilities of just living on the land and growing what you need from it. He calls on "the original Tesla" for support of the idea that the "Earth is a giant generator" and that "God has given us freedom, you can feed your family and survive on earth, wind, fire and air" with "proper engineering."
• For the progressive left: West called American society white supremacist. He alluded to executions of innocent men, though he did not say he's definitely against the death penalty. (It is hard to pin down a lot of West's precise policy preferences from this speech.) He called out "homeless people in front of a Gucci store" as one of the social ills that inspired him to run. He believes that "it takes a village to raise a child."
West does not make it easy to slot his sayings into standard political and economic categories, but he seems to allude to something like Modern Monetary Theory (the idea essentially that our government can make and distribute all the money it wants with no problems) by declaring that his dream of million-dollar giveaways to mothers can't be limited by worrying about money. After all, he notes, our money is no longer backed by gold anyway, so nothing but will is stopping us from spending.
• For the libertarian: Besides his aforementioned comments on gun rights and the death penalty, West seems to hold the bootstrap notion that not being literal slaves is not nearly enough for black Americans; that they must achieve ownership of business and land in America to be truly free. (Or at least that's the most charitable interpretation of his odd comment that Harriet Tubman "just had the slaves go work for other white people.") He called out major companies for depending on black ideas or customers but having no blacks on their boards, even insisting that if the likes of Adidas did not fix that, immediately, he'd stop doing business with them. He noted that too many American blacks are "worried about embarassing themselves before an all-white country that we work for and don't own anything in it." He stands up firmly for maximal black participation in capitalist culture through ownership and control.
In general, in a meta-libertarian yet also Christian angle, he insisted that most of our problems were those of personal choice and personal sins, from reliance on porn to reliance on Percocet to choosing to fire a weapon at another person, and that true freedom will come through obeying God's laws, not through politicians, whether they be "Trump, Biden, or Kanye." (Later, he grandiosely declared that if his campaign is over, "the country is over." Hey, it's Kanye.)
• For radical kooks across the spectrum: West spoke often from a general sense of occult foreboding about the way the world works, intimating he was literally risking his life doing what he's doing, alluding to "real powers" that no one knows about or speaks about. He said outright he doesn't want to say he's against Big Pharma because they have the will and wherewithal to murder him. He alluded to establishment conspiracies to fill the black community with both guns and drugs.
He displayed a general sense that media in modernity is a sinister mind control and manipulation machine. (On the other hand, when he was invited to speak against George Soros he admitted he doesn't "know much about George Soros, in all honesty" so "I will not bear false witness" by condemning him.) Because of all the weird things that have happened in 2020 America this year, West thinks there is no change, no matter how radical or weird it might seem, that might not be possible.
West had previously been a MAGA hat-wearing Trump fan, though not one loudly and publicly for particular Trumpist policies. One of the things that dazzled him about Trump was the very improbable nerve of a political outsider running in a very unconventional manner and winning. As I quoted West in a February 2019 Reason story, he thought Trump's victory "proves that anything is possible in America….I'm not talking about what he's done since he's in office. But the fact that he was able to do it."
This is the Kanye willing, in a campaign-opening political rally, to admit that he would drive his Maybach "to Calabasas high as a motherfucker" on Percocets he feels doctors pushed on him. (He then joked about his dad getting mad when he hears West saying this on Fox.) This is the Kanye willing to refer, while speaking of how Jesus loves everyone, to people "controlled by demons." This is the Kanye whose last words before leaving the stage were "That was extremely good! That was extremely bad!"
He may not be like any other politician, but I'm willing to bet all that makes him more like more other Americans than any other American politician is. While his ability to get on any ballots other than Oklahoma remains unknown, that is an approach to campaigning that is at the least gripping and interesting.