Kanye West declared Saturday night he’s running for president with the tweet: “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.” I can see it now: Kanye as president, his wife Kim Kardashian as first lady, his pal Elon Musk as attorney general, Khloe Kardashian as secretary of state and the rest of us moving to Canada, Mexico or any country that will give us asylum.
West, who famously in 2009 snatched a microphone from Taylor Swift’s hands at an MTV awards show, went on nine years later to deliver a long diatribe in the Oval Office in front of Donald Trump that included such memorable lines as, “Trump is on his hero’s journey right now. He might not have thought he’d have a crazy m*therf**ker like (me).” West is a Trump supporter who’d have to get through numerous procedural hurdles to get listed on the November ballot. But this isn’t the first time he’s said he wants to make the White House home. His wife and Musk have already endorsed him. I don’t drink alcohol, but I’m rethinking that right now.
This could well be just another West publicity stunt. Yet on some bizarre level, a West candidacy makes sense. It feels like America as we know it is near its demise thanks in large part to Trump’s horrific handling of everything from the Covid-19 crisis to the economy. There’s a reason why a recent Monmouth poll asking whether Americans believe the nation is on the wrong or right track found a stunning 74% saying our country is on the wrong track. So who better to captain the ship as the nation finally goes under than another unqualified, self-centered celebrity?!
Speculation about West’s announcement filled social media Sunday. Some say he’s running to hurt Joe Biden by trying to peel away Black voters from the presumptive Democratic candidate. Others argue the opposite, noting West could attract some of the small percentage of Black voters who like Trump or those who supported Trump because they want to “burn down the system.” Some say West isn’t really running, just promoting his new album. Others, probably rightly, note that West may be doing this simply for attention, much the way Trump does.
That’s the greatest concern. West has every right to run for president. And sadly, the media — like they mostly covered Trump non-stop — will cover West (at least at first) because he’s a celebrity and will likely get ratings and clicks. But this isn’t a game. We aren’t at an MTV awards show. Nor are we living in a time where West could be seen as fun distraction. Rather, we are living in dangerous times that demand thoughtful, informed leadership — not another celebrity fueled by his own ego to get attention.
We have lived through that scenario for the past four-plus years. It’s been a nightmare for our country with Trump treating his presidency like a reality show detached from facts, even during a deadly pandemic. In fact, Trump on Saturday stated a straight-up lie in his July 4th address, declaring that “99%” of coronavirus cases in America are “totally harmless,” misleading Americans at the peril of their own health. (As CNN’s Dana Bash noted Sunday correcting Trump’s lie, the CDC noted that only one third of Covid-19 cases are asymptomatic while the World Health Organization found that 20% of those who contract the virus will need hospital care.)
A West run would likely take even more media coverage away and muddle the waters further surrounding a virus that is now spiking across the country. The nationwide rolling 14-day average for new Covid-19 cases in America is up by 85%, according to The New York Times. Florida just recorded its most infections in a 24-hour period ever with 11,458 new infections.
And worse, we are alarmingly seeing hospitalizations spike with Arizona, Montana, South Carolina, Mississippi and California all hitting new highs for hospitalizations. Houston’s Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, actually exceeded its ICU capacity on Saturday because of the virus.
Beyond the health concerns, the US also finds itself in the midst of a painful recession. Our current unemployment rate of 11.1% is higher than the worst of the Great Recession, which hit 10%. And while the unemployment rate dropped from May’s 13.3%, the new 11.1% doesn’t include those the Labor Department says its data collectors misclassified. If they’d been counted, the unemployment rate would have been as high as 12.3% in June.
Adding to our economic woes is that the recent spike in Covid-19 cases has resulted in additional re-closings of businesses by governors in some hard-hit states such as Arizona, Florida, California and Texas. That means unemployment is expected to rise again.
Nothing in West’s background as a Grammy-winning singer — with a history of erratic behavior — says he is ready for the job as president, especially not in the current situation. That means his run would be simply a dangerous distraction at a time Americans are dying daily from a deadly pandemic and desperately struggling to make financial ends meet. It’s obviously West’s call, but for the good of our suffering nation, my hope is West sits this race out and fulfills his need for attention in more constructive ways.