Kanye West gave his Internet-breaking wife Kim Kardashian a run for her money over the weekend by announcing he is running in the 2020 American presidential election.
The election is set for November 3, meaning West has just under four months to get his campaign together.
On Sunday he wrote: “We must now realise the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States!”
This is not the first time West has expressed his desire to run for president, but the timing is surprising. He previously declared he would run for president in 2024, but the 2020 declaration gives him a very short deadline.
But is West serious? Endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk and called a “f***ing clown” by others such as Aisha Tyler, many have been left questioning whether West's run is just an elaborate publicity stunt.
John Owens, Professor of United States Government and Politics at the University of Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy, says it is “difficult to understand what’s going on here.”
We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States 🇺🇸! #2020VISION— ye (@kanyewest)July 5, 2020
Dr. Thomas Gift, Lecturer in Political Science at UCL and visiting fellow at LSE’s US Centre, tells Evening Standard Insider: “For the moment, Kanye’s 'announcement' that he’s running for president looks largely like a publicity stunt.”
“It’s easy to say you’re running for president, but it’s another matter to get your name on the ballot, to fundraise, to form a campaign team, and to develop an election strategy,” he continues. But it may not be impossible.
As one of the most recognisable faces in the world with a career full of highlights (West just signed a 10 year deal with Gap last week for example), the presidency would be another notch on West’s belt. But why is he doing it - and how could it affect the coming election?
What are Kanye West’s politics?
West has previously made a great show of support for sitting President Donald Trump, visiting him at the White House in a highly publicised meeting and donning the president’s official Make America Great Again merchandise.
Although he could be running against Trump now, it will be as an independent candidate as both major parties have already declared their nominees.
Gift says: “If there’s any story here, it’s more that Kanye seems to be breaking publicly with Trump after being a vocal supporter of the president.”
“In 2018, for example, Kanye donned a 'Make America Great Again' hat in the Oval Office, as he hugged the president and proclaimed, ‘I love this guy right here’,” Gift continued.
West gave an insight into the “‘Ye version” of his presidency in an interview with Charlamagne tha God, saying: “The ‘Ye version is the Trump campaign and maybe the Bernie Sanders principles. That would be my mix.”
West’s wife Kim Kardashian has also developed a relationship with the Trump administration and visited the president in a highly publicised meeting, following her calls for criminal justice reform and her efforts to help commute sentences of individuals including Alice Marie Johnson, Crystal Munoz, Judith Negron and Tynice Hall.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)May 30, 2018
Speaking to Reuters, political scientist James McCann also suggested West could potentially find another political party to help him get onto the ballot.
Can West announce a presidential bid this late in the game?
The short answer is yes, though it will be incredibly difficult for him.
Owens says: “It’s not clear whether West has submitted the necessary paperwork to appear on states’ ballots, and therefore whether his 'candidacy' is serious - or a publicity stunt.”
“At this late stage, he will have to run as an independent - and, as such, may not even be able to get on the ballot in many states.”
If West runs as an independent then he has already missed a number of key registration deadlines. States such as North Carolina, Texas, New York and New Mexico for instance have already closed registration for independent candidates.
This would not keep West from running for president however, as he has not yet missed other state deadlines.
However, it would severely scupper his chances at a successful campaign as he has already been locked out of a number of key states - including North Carolina, a swing state.
He would also need to demonstrate collecting thousands of signatures from Americans to qualify. That would require a complex operation and numerous volunteers to help collect them.
Owens predicted West would need to rally 300,000 signatures just to get onto Florida’s presidential ballot, though it would be “reasonably easy” in other states such as Philadelphia and Wisconsin which would require just 5,000 and 2,000 respectively.
Another way West could get onto the ballot is if voters write his name on their own ballot, as many states allow Americans to vote for ‘write-in candidates.’
For example, some of Bernie Sanders’ steadfast ‘bros’ have floated the idea of writing Sanders’ name instead of Democratic nominee Joe Biden while other Republican lawmakers have said they would be writing VP Mike Pence’s name, rather than Donald Trump’s.
How would Kanye West running impact Joe Biden and Donald Trump?
At this late stage, it would be very difficult for West to win the presidency - however he could have an impact on Biden and Trump’s campaigns by potentially drawing away voters.
Owens asks: “Assuming he is serious and can get on states’ ballots (presumably, as an independent), we must then ask what is his objective? In light of Trump’s increasing unpopularity, is he a spoiler? If so, for whom?”
“Most [Black voters] in the US vote Democrat. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed 89% of registered voters planning to vote for Biden; just 7% for Trump,” he continues. “I cannot imagine West who apparently made a rambling speech a couple of years ago - full of questionable language - and referencing alternative universes being regarded as serious candidate and/or peeling off many African-American or other votes from Biden.”
Owens concludes: “Effect on the election outcome? Almost zero.”
Is Kanye West serious about the presidency?
According to John Legend, he is. Legend spoke on Dan Wootton’s Interview podcast previously and said West had “said it multiple times”, adding, “I think he’s serious.”
Though Legend said he didn’t know how West would go about it, Legend continued, “He sees some aspects of himself in Trump and sees that Trump winning makes it feel like he could do it too.”
After West first announced his political ambitions at the 2015 VMAs, then-president Barack Obama gave him some joking 'advice' if he was “serious about this whole POTUS thing.”
He said: “First of all, you’ve gotta spend a lot of time dealing with some strange characters who behave like they’re on a reality TV show. So you gotta be cool with that.”
Referencing one of West’s albums, Obama continued: “Second, this is the second important tip. Saying you have a Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - that’s what’s known as off message in politics. You can’t say something like that. A lot of people have lost their congressional seats saying something like that.”
The Chicago native finished: “And number three, do you really think that this country is going to elect a Black dad from the south side of Chicago with a funny name to be President of the United States? That’s crazy.”
Celebrity reactions to Kanye’s presidential run
Kim Kardashian West
West’s wife simply shared an American flag emoji and the rapper’s tweet.
You have my full support!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk)July 5, 2020
Musk threw his weight behind West’s campaign, saying he had his “full support.”
I can only surmise that a time traveler has accidentally killed a butterfly. https://t.co/MCqAD65V63— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane)July 5, 2020
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane surmised “that a time traveler has accidentally killed a butterfly.”
2Chainz lamented that he had “voted early”, writing "Sh***t I hated i voted early real talk."
Ty Dolla $ign
Ty Dolla $ign joined Elon Musk in endorsing West’s presidential run.
Archer actor Aisha Tyler did not mince words when she wrote, “THIS F***ING CLOWN.”
Yvette Nicole Brown
We have suffered enough. Whatever we did to cause the horrors of 2020, we repent and are BEGGING for You to please HEAL minds and our land.
Please, Jesus, show up on our behalf, we BEG you.
Everyone with the good sense You gave them. https://t.co/Son5QWuO9z— yvette nicole brown (@YNB)July 5, 2020
Community actor Yvette Nicole Brown penned an emotional letter to the higher powers after West’s tweet, asking Jesus to “show up on our behalf.”
I had this on my BINGO card! Yes!! https://t.co/LecKSQhw3T— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei)July 5, 2020
Takei proved he was the only person in the world who had West’s presidential run on his 2020 bingo card.