When we think about Kanye West, we think about a clown. A big, wacky, neo-minstrel show clown. We cackle with glee when we hear about Kanye’s latest Kanye-ism. When Kanye interrupted Taylor Swift, we played it over and over.
We mocked him for having the gall to compare himself to Jesus, without listening to his albums.
“That Kanye,” we say, shaking our heads. “What a rascal. Did you hear what he did this time?”
Such comments are not completely unsubstantiated. The tone of West’s music, combined with the occasional mediocrity of his lyrics, does paint a picture of an arrogant man, spitting whatever’s on his mind into the microphone. His public persona paints the picture of a man who doesn’t care what we think, a man who certainly likes to make controversial statements.
West’s latest news-making claim came at the end of a slow during a rambling, but thoughtful speech he made while accepting a lifetime achievement award at this year’s Video Music Awards. After implying an apology to Taylor Swift, imploring the crowd multiple times to “listen to the kids,” and assuring the crowd that he wasn’t a politician, West announced that he is running for President in 2020 and left the stage.
Our first instinct here, obviously, is to do the same thing that we do when a racist, arrogant businessman with no political experience runs for president. That is, we mock them. But here we’re only dealing with an arrogant artist with no political experience–if West is an explicit racist, he’s hidden it pretty well. And the fact is, West wouldn’t be the least qualified president to sit in the Oval Office.
Normally, when we think of presidential experience, we want our presidents to have experience working in government. Whether that’s a good measurement of presidential readiness has been criticized lately, especially with the surge of Republican candidates without government experience.
America has had four presidents without governmental experience. Washington gets a free pass, since it’s hard to have experience in the US government before it’s founded, but Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower had only experience leading parts of the military before sitting in the Oval Office.
Yes, the military is technically part of the government, and yes, there is some skill overlap, in terms of vague leadership skills. Presidents do function as commander-in-chief, but they have advisors who can walk them through strategic decisions.
Much of what the president actually does without any intermediaries is politicking, in terms of being able to get people with strongly differing opinions to work together. Whether they’re working with Congress or whether they’re negotiating with foreign leaders, a great deal of the presidency is interpersonal skills.
We want a president to be able to communicate effectively and have others agree with them, and West has a wealth of experience in this area. A great deal of West’s pedigree is in hip-hop production and fashion design–two fields that demand a great deal of compromise, communication, and deal-making. Also, as one of the most polarizing pop culture figures of our time, West likely has more experience dealing with people who disagree with him than the average politician.
I won’t claim to understand Kanye West perfectly. But from what I do understand of Kanye West, he is both incredibly serious about this bid and has no intention of becoming president.
This all isn’t to say that West would make a fine politician. He would not. His public persona is far too unstable for most voters to take him seriously, and while he has communication skills, he’s used to working in the art world, a far cry in terms of protocol from the buttoned-down field of politics.
However, we seem to think that, because he’s not a politician, he would be a bad president, and that’s not necessarily true. Besides, all he has to do to not be our worst-ever president is to not commit genocide, and I trust West to do that. I’d take Yeezy over Old Hickory any day.