He may not have a chance, but he’s offering something precious: Hope.
In the matter of rap artist Kanye West’s presidential campaign, the two storylines that most preoccupy the media are, a) Is he crazy? and b) Is this all a Republican plot to drain black votes away from Joe Biden?
Yet there’s a third question that could be asked: Does West have something valuable to say?
To answer that question, we might consider his presidential campaign platform, which he released on August 9. Right away, the title grabs one’s attention: “Creating a Culture of Life.” That phrase, of course, is borrowed from the Catholic Church and embraced by the Right to Life Movement.
Indeed, if one had to identify one particular issue that West seems most focused on, it’s strengthening the family in general and opposing abortion in particular. As the rapper said in an interview in October 2019,
Bro, we brainwashed out here. Come on . . . this a free man talking. Democrats had us voting Democrat for years . . . taking the fathers out of the home, Plan B, lowering our votes, making us abort our children. Gosh, they’re now killed.
It’s well known that, in recent years, West has undergone a religious conversion. He has led a gospel tour of the nation, including Sunday services in prisons.
That tour also took him, in November 2019, to Joel Osteen’s giant Lakewood Church in Houston. In his onstage conversation with Osteen, West seemed both faith-oriented and at least somewhat political. Standing in front of a banner that proclaimed, “Jesus is King,” West started by saying, “I know that God’s been calling me for a long time, and the devil’s been distracting me for a long time.”
Okay, that’s familiar Sunday stuff, but then West veered into quasi-political material, when he denounced extramarital sex and alcohol, urging parents to be serious about “protecting your kids from the indoctrination of the media.” And then the audience heard a clip from his song, “God Is,” which includes the words, “Jesus brought a revolution.”
We can pause to observe that of all the prominent mega-preachers, Osteen might seem to be the most apolitical, and yet, in his own quiet way, he could prove to be the most revolutionary. That is, unlike most preachers of any race, Osteen enjoys a large, multiracial, audience.
And from such diversity, one could find political strength. That is, a political movement based on homey wisdom—leaving out ideological exotica—that could strike a chord in red, purple, and even blue America.
So now if we examine the West political platform, we see that it is barely more than 400 words—and that’s a sharp contrast with the Democratic and Republican platforms, which run into the tens of thousands of words. As such, few people actually read the major-party platforms; indeed, most of those interested in the platforms, are focused only on the language that concerns “their” issue, heedless of the overall engorgement of the document. As such, over the decades, the major party platforms have sedimented into a repetitive jumble of jargon.
By contrast, West’s platform is clear, concise, and meant to be read—or, who knows, maybe rapped. In fact, because it’s so brief, in its ten, er, commandments, it’s worth seeing in its entirety. And as we can see, in addition to mostly center-right prescriptions about personal values and societal verities—each one anchored in a Bible verse—the West platform includes, in points 4 and 8, very specific adjurations against “foreign quagmires” and military “aggression”:
- Restore faith and revive our Constitutional commitment to freedom of religion and the free exercise of one’s faith, demonstrated by restoring prayer in the classroom including spiritual foundations.
“We will not hide the truth from our children, but will declare to the next generation His praises and wonder.” Psalm 78:4
- Restore the sound national economy. Reduce household debt and student loan debt.
- Provide leadership to restructure our country’s education system to serve the most at-risk and vulnerable populations allowing the widest possible range of educational and vocational paths to job opportunities and career success.
- Maintain a strong national defense, fully prepared, but not so quick to tie up our country’s young men and women in foreign quagmires that do not advance our national interest, and which last for decades.
- Reform the legal system to provide true justice, equitable for all citizens, regardless of race or ability to defend oneself in court. Recognize the disparity in verdicts and prison sentences, caused by the lack of financial resources or legal assistance.
- Reform the approach to policing in a manner that treats all Americans the same, regardless of race, color, or ethnicity. Refocus police forces on real crime. Eliminate federal sentencing guidelines that tie the hands of judges, resulting in ridiculous sentences for the most minor offenses.
- Take care of the environment, diligently pursuing clean air and water as a national security priority and making renewables top priority.
- Ensure that we always place Americans’ best interest first and foremost in dealing with foreign affairs. We must project strength, not aggression. We want trust, but we must also verify. We want fair trade, not one-sided deals that hurt American workers.
- Support faith-based groups to provide vital local services, giving communities a shared purpose in government.
- Creativity and the Arts can be an important source of innovation and development of other national strengths and resources.
The point here is not to argue that West should be president. After all, a man who calls his political party “The Birthday Party” might be judged as lacking, shall we say, the requisite seriousness for the post. And of course, many of his utterances might disqualify him in the minds of many, such as his on-air declaration, in 2005, that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” Also, who can forget his onstage antics that led Barack Obama to call him “a jackass”—twice.
In addition, of course, there’s the issue that he has never been elected to anything—and the presidency is probably not the best place for a newbie politician to start his career. (On the other hand, six presidents, including the incumbent, did, in fact, come to the White House with no prior elective experience.)
We can further observe that a heavy reliance on the Bible as a platform is not always a formula for political effectiveness. For instance, there’s the notorious case of W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, which provides an object lesson in what one does not want in an elected leader. O’Daniel was a Texas country singer and biscuit pitchman who was so popular on the radio that he ran for governor in 1938; his platform was the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. He won in a landslide, and later, in 1941, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. But his act soon wore thin, forcing him into retirement. Historians regard him as one of the worst-ever Texas office-holders.
Yet if we ease up on the political calculations, we might step back and admire the cultural and social artistry of West, a man who pledges a kinder and gentler America. He’s a man who seeks an America where parents love their children—including their unborn children—and where foreign policy is about defense, not offense.
He’s a man, also, who speaks in language that crosses racial lines—indeed, a man whose very own family (he is married to Kim Kardashian) transcends racial categories.
West may never get to the White House as anything other than a guest. Nevertheless, he’s offering something precious: Hope.