Kanye West in the White House is likely a ‘long shot,’ experts say

By Alexandra Yetter, Senior Staff Reporter

Shane Tolentino

One day Kanye West is announcing his run for president in a tweet, the next a political adviser is reporting he has changed his mind and the next day West appears to be filing official paperwork and attempting to be on the Florida ballot.

No wonder more than half of respondents in a Tuesday, July 14 survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies don’t think he’s serious about running for office.

Still, pundits could not help but analyze what chances West had and gauge who would support him.

Some speculated that because of his name recognition among young voters, West would have drawn support from that age demographic. But David J. Jackson, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University, said West’s “conspiracy-based” political approach was more likely to appeal to a small number of President Donald Trump’s supporters.

“It’s potentially insulting to young voters to speculate too much that they’re going to flock to Kanye West’s candidacy just because they like his music and they like his fashion,” Jackson said.

The survey by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, a polling firm based in the U.K., found that only 2% of respondents said they would vote for West if he did end up on the ballot in their state, with 18% of Trump supporters stating they would consider him compared to 11% of Biden supporters.

The poll surveyed 2,000 voters and had a 2.19% margin of error.

‘An uphill battle’

The Chicago-native rapper and fashion designer first announced his intention to run in a tweet July 4. Ten days later, political adviser Steve Kramer told New York Magazine’s The Intelligencer that West had approached him to assist in collecting signatures to petition to be on the ballot in Florida as a third-party candidate before allegedly opting out. West has made no official statements on the matter, as of press time.

As of Wednesday, July 15, West appeared to take the first official step in a possible campaign by filing the a statement of organization form with the Federal Elections Commission. However, his campaign will not be official according to campaign finance law until he’s filed a statement of candidacy form with the FEC showing he’s raised or spent more than $5,000 on campaign activities.

With multiple state deadlines to be on the ballot having already passed and no official organization in place, West will face an uphill battle if he wants to be taken seriously as a contender, Jackson said.

In a July 8 interview with Forbes, West espoused a “conspiracy-based” platform, citing hesitancy to take any future vaccines related to the coronavirus and saying he envisions a system of government based on Wakanda, the fictional society in the Marvel film “Black Panther.” West is also anti-abortion, has supported anti-LGBTQ+ figures and has been called a sexual abuse apologist, or someone who defends people accused of sexual abuse.

In the interview, he also noted his political party will be called the “Birthday Party.” Why? “Because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday,” he said.

Until recently, West was a high-profile Trump supporter but his political views have fluctuated since the start of his career. West has donated thousands to the Democratic National Committee and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, though he said he’s never voted.

Kanye in 2020

Veteran music reporter Jim DeRogatis doesn’t “recognize this Kanye” in the recent Forbes interview or the Kanye who supports Trump.

DeRogatis, who has covered West since his debut album in 2004, remembers him as the “hyperactive kid” pushing his mixtape into DeRogatis’ arm at a Common concert and claiming he would be the next big name.

He recognizes West as a “smart” and “passionate” musician with whom he once had a 45-minute interview—after West publicly stated, “[George W.] Bush doesn’t care about Black people”—about community organizing, activism and the influence of his parents. West’s mom was a college professor and his father a Black Panther.

“I think something changed when his mom died and he lost the core people around him,” said DeRogatis, also an associate professor of instruction in the English and Creative Writing Department.

As someone who is around young voters constantly in the classroom, DeRogatis is not convinced they would go for West, especially considering he has to teach his students about why West’s early music was so innovative in his “Music and Media” course.

During a Tuesday, July 14 interview with the Chronicle, DeRogatis repeatedly referred to West as a “mercurial” person who “may well forget he said he’s running for president by tomorrow.” Later that day, reports of West reversing course began to surface.

Rather, DeRogatis said Gen Z’s attention to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Black Lives Matter movement, the Trump administration and the coronaviruspandemic all signal they are informed and plan to vote.

“This generation thinks for itself,” he said. “Every generation has, but in particular, because of the flood of information on social media, the music you like is the music you like, and the people whose thinking you embrace are the thinkers you embrace.”

Odds not in his favor

In order to be taken seriously, Robert Y. Shapiro—Wallace S. Sayre professor of government and international and public affairs at Columbia University—said West would need to make a concerted effort to get on some state ballots and campaign himself as a write-in candidate in other states where deadlines have passed. Illinois’ deadline for independent candidates is July 20.`

Historically, write-in campaigns tend to be inconsequential whereas third-party candidates can siphon off votes from the other two parties and even make or break close elections in swing states, Shapiro said.

Even if West accomplished that, it would still be “a real long shot,” Shapiro said.

Updated Thursday, July 16 at 6 p.m. with more information on the state of Kanye West’s run for president. 

West has qualified to appear on Oklahoma’s presidential ballot after paying $35,000 for filing the necessary paperwork, but it is still unclear whether he is actually running, according to the Associated Press.

Updated Wednesday, July 22 at 10 a.m. 

West has filed petitions Monday, July 20 to appear on the Illinois 2020 ballot—right before the deadline, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.