American rapper and socialite Kanye West has frequently spoken of the possibility of running for President, first in 2015 when he announced his intention to run in 2020, then once Donald Trump won in 2016 he announced he would instead run in 2024. West’s opinion on Trump has changed multiple times over the past four years, coming to a head on 4th July when he announced that he would challenge the incumbent for the presidency this year after all.
Kanye West’s political opinions seem contradictory to an outside observer. The longshot candidate holds both progressive and conservative ideals, and chooses to back both progressive and conservative people. Nowhere has this grabbed more attention than in West’s relationship with Donald Trump. West met with Trump on 13th December 2016, the same day he announced that he would not run in 2020 so as not to rival Trump – a clear move of support. Between November 2016 and February 2017, West tweeted many pro-Trump statements, further clarifying his support. Then West deleted all of these tweets in protest of Trump’s travel ban. However, in April 2018 West tweeted “I love Donald Trump… I love Donald Trump.” Several subsequent Trump-favourable tweets were retweeted by the President. In 2018, West and Trump met again and Trump spoke favourably about West in public. Even as recently as April, West has stated that he will vote for Trump in November’s election. All West has said about his change of heart is that he is unhappy that Trump “hid in a bunker during a pandemic.”
West is very different to those who have gone down the third party candidacy road before. Most candidates are relatively unknown and are considered to have done well if they pick up a few percent of the vote. Indeed, not since 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt, having been denied the Republican nomination subsequent to his two terms representing the party as President, ran as the nominee for his own Bull Moose party, has a third party candidate been a household name prior to the announcement of their candidacy, and had significant influence on the result. This could pose a problem for both major parties, as it is unknown where West will draw votes from. Maybe some Republican voters will like his positive opinion of President Trump and right-wing platform. Maybe some Democrat voters will move to West as he is a popular personality among millennials, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat.
Maybe the main parties wouldn’t have to worry so much if they had election strategies beyond pointing at their opponent and saying “at least I’m not THAT bad.” Or maybe they don’t have to worry at all, as on 14th July it was widely reported that West had dropped out.
But the story doesn’t end there. Despite Kanye’s team briefing the media that he had dropped out, he finally filed the paperwork necessary for candidacy on the evening of 15th July. This was too late to be on the ballot in at least four states, and West is yet to meet other requirements to make the ballot in several states, so it is unknown if he will even be a candidate in enough states to win the presidency. However, his presence in any state could have a drastic effect on the result of an election that has the potential to be very close indeed. Whether he can carry any states, or whether his candidacy will even last until election day, is anybody’s guess. However, with Trump’s candidacy going from laughable to a success in 2016, it would be foolish for anyone to count West out entirely at this stage, however unlikely his road to the White House may seem. As usual, West continues to be one to watch.
Jack Harrison is a political blogger and student at the University of Cambridge. He was the author of the blog Minority 2017 from 2017 to 2019. He can be found on Twitter @JackH1010.