America might just need more celebrity presidents
Kanye West is back in the news cycle. Or, rather, he’s dominating the news cycle.
Related: Five albums he’s involved with are due for release in the next six weeks.
The last time the rap star generated so much attention for himself was after his last album, Life of Pablo, came out. West met with then President-elect Trump to talk about, in the rapper’s words, “bullying, supporting teachers, modernizing curriculums and violence in Chicago.”
West eventually deleted all his pro-Trump tweets in response, according to TMZ, to Trump’s so-called travel ban in early 2017, and later he deleted all his tweets and left Twitter … until his return this month.
Since then, he’s mostly tweeted about his music and fashion enterprises. Last week, however, he tweeted that he loved the way Candace Owens, a black conservative commentator, thought.
“Only free thinkers,” he tweeted a few minutes later.
West also tweeted a series of video clips from Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams, a bogeyman of the left for his attempts to explain how Trump used persuasion techniques to confuse mainstream media while making inroads with voters.
In the clips, Adams tried to explain how “people are breaking out of … their mental prisons,” and how Kanye was enabling that process.
In Adams’ view, West’s seven-word tweet about Owens broke a lot of people out of their mental prisons by framing two figures, West and Owens, that people understood to be diametrically opposed politically, within the same conversation.
In these clips, Adams also made sure to point out something that’s been missed by much of the freakout over West saying he “loved” Trump — that he didn’t know what West’s politics are.
West’s praise for Trump focuses largely on style not substance. “He is my brother,” West tweeted. “I love everyone.” West said the president had “dragon energy.” The contrarian West is naturally attracted to the contrarian Trump.
A couple years ago, West suggested he might run for president. The Democratic Party “welcomed” him to the race on Twitter. This time, it’s conservatives half-joking about a Kanye candidacy.
In one way, this celebrification of the presidency started decades ago. With the exception of George H.W. Bush, every president since Ronald Reagan arguably had star power. Clinton played the sax and appeared on MTV. George W. Bush was the son of a famous figure. Barack Obama was glorified as a pop-culture icon.
Given that, Trump’s victory in 2016 should not have been so unexpected. Unfortunately, most so-called political experts wrote Trump off as a sideshow (the Huffington Post famously relegated Trump news to the Entertainment section).
What separated Trump from his immediate predecessors was having no previous political experience. This appears to be the primary gripe about a putative Kanye West candidacy.
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But West, like Trump, is a wildly successful individual. And his success, like Trump’s, was outside of the public sector. The ability to game the government is also far less important in the industries in which West has been successful — entertainment, music, fashion — than in real estate, especially in New York City.
Lack of political experience is no more a predictor of failure in elected office than political experience is a predictor of success.
Politics is full of mediocre parasites; it’s a feature, not a bug. Back in 1946, George Orwell noted that Western politics trafficked in vague language meant to obscure foolish policies.
English, Orwell wrote, “becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
It’s only gotten worse. Mealy-mouthed rhetoric has long been a successful electoral strategy. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, political structures encourage mediocrity, too. You can witness that at your local DMV.
Why is there less outrage for Mayor de Blasio’s potential 2020 candidacy than West’s? Because he won some elections in a heavily Democratic city after spending years embedding himself within the local political machines? The man’s got an under-50-percent approval rating in a city where 68 percent of registered voters are Democrats.
In truth, we should be more receptive to a Kanye-type candidacy than one from Hizzoner. Overall, the shift to candidates from industries other than politics will be good — it can break the political conversation out of stale partisan routines while providing a much-needed reality check for Americans who have, over the past century, come to put too much faith and power in the office of the presidency at the expense of the constitutional system of checks and balances.
As West said, it’ll require free thinkers.
Ed Krayewski writes, teaches journalism and creates comics.
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