Whether you love her or you're sick to death of hearing about her, Kim Kardashian is, by every meaningful definition of the word, an "influencer." So I was struck by a snippet in her recent interview with Bari Weiss, the New York Times staffer turned Substacker. Asked if she identifies as a Democrat, Kardashian said: "I believe in the rights that the Democrats want, but I believe in the taxes that the Republicans want….I'm a mix of both."
It's a fairly benign thing to say. Or at least it should be: About four in 10 Americans identify as political independents. And yet it's a landmine in our media landscape, where there isn't much room for the politically homeless. Instead we're encouraged to conform to a polarized, nuance-free, one-size-fits-all approach. Her comment to Weiss hasn't attracted much attention yet; it'll be interesting to see if it gets much pushback.
Because if any woman can get away with saying that—and perhaps even teach people it's OK to buck the status quo—it's Kardashian, whose whole life is a lesson in how to leverage the media. She isn't just one of the many influencers flooding Instagram; in some sense, she was the first.
Kardashian's political views have been the subject of tabloid gossip for years, particularly as her then-husband Kanye West transitioned from a supporter of former President Barack Obama to a figure aligned with former President Donald Trump. Kardashian herself raised eyebrows when she worked with Trump in her efforts around criminal justice reform. That ultimately culminated in her convincing the president to release Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent drug offender who received a life sentence without parole. But many people took her willingness to associate with Trump as a blanket endorsement of everything he did—another indication of our broken, fragmented approach to both politics and media.
"I really don't care about the criticism," she told Weiss. "I mean, my reputation over someone's life? Destroy me then. I really don't care. It was not even an option."
Kardashian has gotten quite a bit of flak over her career. A great deal of that, in my view, stems from the fact that she achieved omnirelevance without a traditional path. She was neither a movie star nor a singer. Instead, she carved out something new: influencing.
Being politically homeless isn't new, but it's certainly out of fashion. And if Kardashian has done one thing in her career, it's put things in vogue.