In July of this year, musical artist Kanye West announced his candidacy in the highly anticipated presidential election. However, minimal follow-up on this declaration occurred in the subsequent months, so voters were reluctant to take his campaign seriously. Last week, though, West tried to reinsert himself into the conversation. On Monday, Oct. 12, he released his first campaign video on Twitter, less than a month prior to the general election.
Now featured on his campaign website, the video highlights his largely religious platform. West declared his conversion to Christianity in late 2019, preceding the release of his first gospel album “Jesus is King,” so the influence of these beliefs on his platform does not come as a shock. Nonetheless, his release of the campaign video with so little time before the election and his apparent attempt at a legitimate presidential campaign is dangerous to the American political system. The candidacy of celebrities with no political experience and highly unreasonable platforms for political office delegitimizes the offices for which they run, and it puts the legitimacy of the American government as a whole at risk.
West’s debut campaign video focuses mainly on his Protestant beliefs and his plan to integrate them into American society. In the video, he claims that the American people “will revive our nation’s commitment to faith,” “are called to a greater purpose than ourselves,” “have to act on faith” and “will be the kind of nation and the kind of people God intends us to be” by “turning to faith,” all while standing in front of a waving American flag. He does not, however, discuss any political strategy or policy ideas he plans to implement. Frankly, one watching the video cannot help but laugh; he fails to reference other candidates, important issues or any specific ideas. Perhaps he intended to release media endorsing his presidential campaign, but the execution comes across as more of a sermon.
West’s video comes at an interesting time, not only because the election is approaching so quickly, but because, as I wrote about only a few weeks ago, church and state in the American political system are hardly separate anymore, and West’s campaign illustrates it all too well. His website features 10 bullet points highlighting his ideas for his presidency, each including an applicable biblical quote as religious support. Other than these vague conceptions, though, West’s campaign website does not display any policies he supports or plans he wants to implement, only campaign merchandise available for purchase and places for people to donate.
If West is to be considered a serious candidate for the presidency, his platform embodies a complete integration of church and state and thus contradicts the Constitution. He plans to lead an America “committed to faith,” disregarding the “free exercise of religion” he ironically cites as evidence supporting this notion. However, West should not be considered a serious candidate for the presidency. He possesses no political experience or related education, has no plans to address America’s biggest issues and most likely views the contentious election as an opportunity to debut his born-again Christian persona, not to support the American population.
West’s ploy is ridiculous and irresponsible, but it isn’t new. It seems to have become popular in recent years for celebrities to run for political office, including Roseanne Barr and President Donald Trump, and Kanye West has now joined the list. Many of these celebrities, though, do not have political backgrounds or strong policy stances, only seeing elections as a popularity contest and a method of improving their social status.
Roseanne Barr, an actress famous for her work in sitcoms, ran for president in the 2012 election. In an interview, she told Jay Leno that “(Democrats and Republicans) suck and they’re both a bunch of criminals,” so she created the Green Tea Party and ran as a member. She also chose “the taxpayers as (her) vice president.” Judging by the impracticality of her campaign, it seems as though she believed life to be a situational comedy and herself to be the star, creating her own political party and refusing to select a legitimate running mate.
Not coincidentally, though, she announced her campaign while also promoting her new show on television. Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” experienced a surge in viewership during his first discussions of running for president, so Barr likely campaigned with the idea that she could replicate the trend.
Similar to Barr, West created his own political party under which to run, the Birthday Party, and has something to promote: the new, openly Christian version of himself. By running for president, West contributes to the precedent being set that the presidency is not a sacred institution and does not require political understanding, experience or strategy.
The American political situation has become too dire for celebrities to continue toying with political office. It’s important that we leave these jobs to politicians, who have the education and experience necessary to do right by the American people. They make mistakes and can be susceptible to corruption, but they know the job, which is more than can be said for Kanye West.
Ilana Mermelstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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