Kanye West’s “Wakanda” America

Imagine United States government officials crossing their arms and chanting, “Wakanda Forever!” before addressing the public. While that may not be his exact vision, Kanye West has announced his plan to model the White House after the fictional setting of Wakanda from Marvel Comics’ movie, Black Panther.

On July 4th, 2020, rapper and songwriter Kanye West broke the internet by announcing his presidential campaign. Despite having no political experience, West took to Twitter to argue the need for unity in our country under his own political party: the Birthday Party. Shortly after, his reality television star wife, Kim Kardashian West, and CEO of SpaceX, Elon Musk, endorsed West’s campaign.

Since his declaration, West has revealed his political stances and plans for the future. Specifically, one of his top priorities is to end police brutality by enforcing better laws, demonstrating sympathy towards current cops in America. West also stated his opposition towards the death penalty and abortion, citing religion as an underlying moral foundation for his life and presidency. He desires to “clean up the chemicals” that are “in our deodorant, in our toothpaste” that “affect our ability to be of service to God.” West also shared the importance of reimplementing religion within the public school system, while warning American citizens that vaccines, especially ones for the coronavirus pandemic, are dangerous and can place “chips inside of us,” which will block us from “crossing the gates of heaven”. However, West has commented on his lack of opinion and need for more research regarding taxes and foreign policy.

West’s announcement surprised many. Was he actually going to spend millions of dollars and a massive amount of time and energy to take Trump out of office? Or, was this just another publicity stunt to promote a new album or boost his ego? Personally, his controversial past and infamous scandals make it difficult to take his campaign seriously. In fact, when asked about the Birthday Party’s origin and significance, West responded, “Because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday.” His trivial and nonchalant attitude already demonstrates how lightly he takes the election.

Selecting Kanye West on a ballot is simply unreasonable. First off, it takes votes away from the two leading candidates. In close elections, such as the 2016 election, just a couple thousand votes in swing states can determine the winner. As of now, studies reveal an increasingly close upcoming election, so all votes are crucial. Simply put, every single vote counts. (Read more about this in “Is Voting Third Party or Independent a Waste?”) Furthermore, with West announcing his campaign in July, entering the prime-time of an election, his chances of winning are near impossible. No candidate other than the top two contenders have ever won the presidency, so a vote for West can be viewed as a vote against Biden or Trump.

While his ridiculous strategies may seem harmless to the public, West has already disrupted media coverage. Clearly, West’s campaign is a popular, controversial topic. Almost the entire nation fled to social media platforms as #Kanye2020 trended on Twitter and thousands of media outlets released articles capturing the nation’s reactions. This publicity takes away from real, immediate issues on hand. Articles on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have become a second priority. Instead of focusing on Biden or Trump’s plans, segments of West’s next moves are aired on the daily news. West and American citizens must understand that a presidential election is incomparable to a music awards show. Our country cannot afford a reality television setting with cameras and paparazzi chasing after West in such a crucial time.

West’s absurdity may lead to a positive outcome, however. As one of the world’s leading artists and well-known celebrities, West has immense influence, especially within the youth. By engaging in politics, more and more people will become aware of the presidential process. Nevertheless, there are more effective methods of promoting political education than announcing a presidential campaign. Take, for instance, singer and songwriter Taylor Swift’s impact in 2018, when she encouraged her millions of Instagram followers to register to vote. In just 24 hours after her post, Vote.org received more than 65,000 registrations, 10,000 more than in August 2018. Furthermore, in a study done at Northwestern University, researchers discovered a positive correlation between Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama in the 2008 election. According to their findings, Obama received unexpected levels of electoral success in areas with greater concentrations of Winfrey’s fans. Simply put, celebrities have a unique platform in which they can reach millions of people across the country, so they must use their status to push for higher voter turnout rates and improved political education.

Kanye West has a demographic of people of multiple age ranges and political party affiliations from across the nation and the globe. His hip hop and rap songs have become some of the most recognizable sounds in music history, so his popularity is undeniable. Instead of spending money and energy towards a virtually useless and seemingly juvenile presidential campaign, West can utilize his platform to encourage political education in a more reasonable manner. Perhaps, he can encourage residents of his hometown, Chicago, Illinois, to vote, especially considering Chicago’s record-low voter turnout in 2018.

Ultimately, celebrities who utilize their platform to encourage others to vote and share their perspectives with evidence deserve praise. Not many people, even journalists and news outlets, possess the power to galvanize such a mass number of people to research and learn about our government. However, people like Kanye West, who exercise their authority to claim that slavery was “a choice” and flip-flop between support for Trump, must be careful of their actions within politics. The fact that he has never voted and constant scandals demonstrate his ineptitude as a presidential candidate. Rather, a simple tweet urging for more youths to head to election polls will serve as a more efficient and effective improvement towards American society.

My name is Ohnyu Che, and I am a Journalism Intern for Meadowlands Media and the Meadowlands Chamber. I am currently a senior attending Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro, New Jersey as an Automotive Engineering and Design student, and I hope to pursue journalism in my future college endeavors. The below portfolio represents the full body of my work taken from Meadowlands Media as well as my voting advocacy blog, Raising the Sixty (raisingthesixty.com). I can be contacted at ohnyuche@gmail.com.