✏️ Catherine Coggan
Last week, Kanye West announced on Twitter that he was going to run for President. The move came as a bit of a surprise, both because he had suggested that his Presidential bid would take place in 2024 and because many of the independent candidate registration deadlines had already passed.
Can he actually win?
The short answer is: no. Some may be wary at such a quick dismissal, particularly when so many refused to take Donald Trump’s campaign seriously in its early stages. However, Kanye West is different.
First of all, he has already missed the ballot access registration date for North Carolina, Texas, New Mexico and Indiana. The deadlines for Nevada, Delaware, Florida, South Carolina, Oklahoma and Michigan are all within the next week and require up to 130,000 signatures, which is a pretty tall order for a campaign team that consists only of Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian-West.
The cover for Kanye West’s 2005 album, ironically named ‘late registration’.
Presuming that he doesn’t manage to get on the ballot for those states by the end of July, West is going into the election having already lost 207 electoral college votes (keeping in mind there are a total of 538 and you need 270 to win), so the chances of him actually winning the presidency are pretty much negligible.
Can Kanye take the Presidency away from Joe Biden?
This is more complex. There have been suggestions that West may play a similar role to that of Jill Stein and Gary Johnson did in 2016, who stood as third party candidates for the Green and the Libertarian party respectively. So, there is a possibility that West could end up winning no states, but take enough away votes from Biden that Trump ends up winning key swing states and securing his re-election.
Third-party candidates have had a considerable impact on elections in the past. In 1992, Ross Perot ended up getting 19% of the vote overall, which helped Bill Clinton to win the Presidency. While third party candidates benefit when the electorate is unhappy with the candidates put forward by the major parties (which can be seen through Ralph Nader’s moderate success in 2000) but this is less true in re-election bids which tend to be a judgement on the current president.
Kanye West will have difficulty securing a firm base of voters. His comments against abortion will drive away pro-choice democrats, though he may have more luck with younger progressives or those who are not that interested in politics. However, America has a low voter turnout rate, around 55%, so it’s possible that those who don’t care that much about politics may just not turn up.
The fear that West may harm Biden’s chances and help the President’s may be misguided. This belief stems mainly from the idea that Kanye will appeal most to (particularly black) democrats who dislike Biden as a candidate. But Kanye’s past comments about slavery may end up costing him many potential black voters who may have considered West a viable candidate.
West in a 2018 TMZ making his controversial remarks about slavery
Will it affect Trump’s chances
West’s campaign may end up hurting Trump more than Biden. A CNN poll in 2018 found that while democrats had a largely unfavourable view of him, 12% favourable to 67% unfavourable, republicans had an even split of 35% to 35%. If West does have success with black voters, he might be taking them from Trump’s base, attracting those who agreed with Trump’s policies but disagreed with his stance on the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is also worth noting that Trump appealed to voters, in part, because he talked about bringing jobs back, putting ‘America first’ and an end to political correctness, which helped him connect to citizens who had been badly affected by automation, globalisation, the financial crisis, and had fears of more immigration and the loss of social standing. Kanye West, who is running as part of the ‘Birthday Party’ (“Because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday”) does not offer solutions to those issues.
Crucially, it is important to remember that he may not even run. Even though he made the announcement, he then told Forbes that he still has 30 days to make the final decision about whether he is actually running. He may change his mind, postpone his run, or this may all be a massive publicity stunt for a new album.
However, despite this, we should learn lessons 2016; giving lots of publicity to ‘joke’ candidates can backfire in a big way. Otherwise we might wake up on November 4th in another beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy.
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