Ye or Nay? Kanye, Third-Party Candidates and the 2020 Election
This week, democracy-ish goes full Kanye. As if 2020 couldn’t get any crazier.
In his latest effort to agitate Taylor Swift (or, just lead the nation?) Kanye West announced he’s running for president. On Twitter, naturally.
If Black progressives are disappointed by Democrats, is it okay to consider a third-party candidate? (Maybe not this year.)
Polls suggest that Biden’s ahead in the 2020 race. Can we even trust polls anymore?
In our continuing coverage of our disillusion of American democracy, Danielle and Toure re-assess the presidential race with just four months to go until the election.
First up: Kanye West throws his MAGA hat in the ring. But he’s not actually in the presidential race … right?
“He hasn't filed the paperwork,” says Toure. “He hasn't gotten any of the signatures. His name will not be on the ballot in any state. Yet pollsters are asking people: Would you vote for Kanye? And 2% of America is saying yes.”
Does Ye present a problem for Joe Biden’s bid to dethrone the Orange Menace? Polls suggest that Trump is losing, but we know how imperfect they can be. And speaking of third-party candidates, will it ever be a good idea for progressives to reject the Democrat and go in for a ‘non-binary’ choice?
Perhaps millennial lawmakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represent a new wave of power that’s actually of, by, and for the people. Will Black folks finally get some respect within the Democratic party?
Grab a cold drink; the hot takes are coming fast.
Episode Highlights –– Kanye Won’t Save Trump
Flashing (hazard) lights
“Are you freaking out about a Kanye candidacy?” asks Toure.
“I fucking hate Kanye, okay?” Danielle replies. “I cut off Kanye the same way that I cut off R. Kelly; the same way I don't listen to Chris Brown. I can't stand any of these narcissistic self-serving motherfuckers.”
But she’s not really worried: “He hasn't done a goddamn thing except make an announcement on Twitter.”
Earlier this week, a Texas poll put Biden at 48 points and Trump at 44. Add in Kanye and other third-party names, and Biden stays at 48, but Trump’s numbers drop all the way to 39.
“I’m annoyed by the fact that pollsters don't have anything more important to do,” Danielle says.
“As if fascism hasn't arrived on our shores, there aren't children in cages, Roger Stone wasn't just pardoned, and we don't have a pandemic that has infected over 3 million people and killed 136,000. But yeah, let's focus on Kanye –– and Kim Kardashian as possibly another nude first lady.”
Toure thinks Americans can walk and chew gum at the same time.
“People are still in the streets protesting for BLM. People are still dying of COVID, and others are still fighting to not wear masks. But we are in a sort of stasis point, in terms of the election. Joe Biden has not yet announced a vice president. There's very little campaigning. People are bored. So when someone like Kanye––”
“Bored? People are BORED?” Danielle interjects.
The race hasn’t really changed much lately, Toure says.
“When Biden announces his VP, the race will have new energy. But right now, it’s sort of a sleepy time. So for a Kanye to say –– conveniently, right before he puts out another album –– that he’s running for president, people seize on it.”
As a longtime music critic, Toure thinks Kanye is still interesting –– at least musically, even though his last two albums were “doo-doo trash,” he says. “The worst of his career.”
But in the realm of politics, “he’s a right-wing figure,” Toure adds. “He hasn’t been able to articulate why he likes Trump. But he's been standing with him fairly consistently … We understand him as a race traitor, like Candace Owens or Diamond and Silky.”
“Or Herman Cain, or Ben Carson,” Danielle pipes in.
She sees a parallel between Kanye and Trump: self-absorption and outsized egos to match. She finds it chilling that Kanye, the son of a teacher, shares Trump’s apparent distaste for education.
Toure argues that Kanye-for-president is “the ugly outgrowth of something that was once beautiful.”
Over years of reporting on Kanye and even interviewing his mother, Dr. West, he has grown to understand Yeezy’s psyche.
“His father left when he was pretty young,” Toure explains. “Kanye and his mom were a single parent/single child unit for a long time. She told him, you can do anything … she made him feel entitled … and there's something beautiful about a Black person who truly believes they can accomplish anything.”
We love artists “who dream outside of the box that society has placed them in,” she says.
“I think about Beyonce's ‘Lemonade’ and [her forthcoming visual album] ‘Black King.’ I think about what it means to be able to create, and exist, outside the constraints of white supremacy.”
Next stop, Yeezy-land
It seems that Kanye’s ambitions aren’t limited to the Oval Office. He’s expressed the desire to design hotels and maybe even to create a “Kanye world” akin to a Disney theme park.
“These are grandiose ideas that are actually not out of his realm,” Toure notes. “They could be really interesting experiences.”
“I think Kanye imagining a world he creates around himself –– because he sees himself as the sun –– is incredibly narcissistic and insane,” Danielle says. “But Walt Disney did the same thing.
“You're an artist. Dream big for us. Allow people to see what it is that they can move beyond. But stay the fuck away from actually having real effects on people's lives.”
Toure agrees: “When you have no political experience, no political ideas and no political know-how, you should not be playing around with the presidency,” he says.
Neither of our hosts think that Kanye, even if he was seriously running, would pull votes away from Biden. “He's not the Jill Stein of this moment,” says Danielle.
The tangled webs we weave
With an album about to drop, Kanye “wants to continue to be entangled with people –– to be in the conversation,” Danielle argues. “He’s the August Alsina of the 2020 election.”
Entanglement is the word of the year, at least for Black America, says Toure.
“Kanye's entanglement with the presidential election will not last into August. See what I did there?”
But Jill Stein does make Toure think about another issue.
“Let's say we are real progressives and we are not feeling like the Democratic Party is truly speaking to us, in this moment. Obviously, we hate Trump. Is it acceptable to consider a third-party candidate? Do we have to compromise and vote for the Democrat? Or is a third-party choice just throwing your vote away?”
“It's not throwing away your vote,” Danielle replies. “It's throwing away your life and that of your family and your friends. This is not hyperbolic.”
Three’s a crowd, at least for now
Toure agrees that Trump poses an existential threat to Black and Brown and queer lives.
But he wonders that –– if given a less dangerous dichotomy than Trump versus, well, anyone –– can Black progressives take their votes elsewhere and embrace a third-party candidate?
“Democrats are taking us for granted by stuffing moderates down our throat,” he says. “We never get what we really want, and need and deserve.”
“I think that, if we did not have to suffer between one or the other –– if we had a multitude of choices, there would be more possibilities to get things right,” Danielle says. “But that is not how America was created.”
Right now, we’re on the brink of imminent disaster, she adds. “So I don't want to waste the time.”
But eventually, Toure says, Democrats need to stop assuming Black voters will always vote for them.
“The progressive movement is rising, and yet it's sort of stuck at the congressional level right now. Are we taking hold at a senate level? Are we going to be able to get [more] truly progressive Democratic nominees?”
Danielle is hopeful that the Squad and like-minded members of Congress are willing and able to claim their Democratic Socialism, “coming for those moderate Democrats who’d been sitting in Congress for 20, 30 years doing nothing right,” she says.
“Is AOC a serious threat to knock off Kirsten Gillibrand?” Toure asks.
Danielle thinks that she will be.
Toure does, too. “And I point at Gillibrand and not Schumer, because I suspect Schumer is propped up by the Democratic establishment of New York in a way that she is not.”
He also thinks that an eventual senate run is on AOC’s list of big-picture goals. If she were to do it a few years from now, “Schumer will be damn near retired by then.”
Danielle argues that Schumer is part of the problem.
“Any middle-of-the road Democrat who has been horse-trading on our backs for decades, shouldn’t be comfortable in their seat … I do think that the AOCs, the Ritchie Torreses, the people who are coming up, are hungry already. They're showing us we have another option.”
I kente even
Toure concurs: Schumer’s leadership is lacking, especially in the age of Trump, Mitch McConnell, and COVID-19.
“Obviously the Republicans have control in D.C. But Schumer and [other Dems] could have done much more, just in terms of presenting big ideas.”
He thinks that the party should have pushed for more economic relief –– via cash payments.
“That’s what many other countries have done to help themselves get out of this crisis,” he explains. “Just pay us to stay home. Don't give it to corporations. Give it to the workers so we don't have to worry about getting by.”
Plus, he can’t erase the vision of Chuck and Nancy kneeling on the Capitol floor “in fucking Kente cloth.”
‘Polls don’t vote’
The latest polls suggest that Biden has the edge over Trump by eight to 10 points, says Toure.
“He's close in Texas. He's destroying in Michigan. He's winning with seniors. Almost every single metric shows Biden winning in a significant way.”
But, Danielle counters, “we cannot get caught up in the polls. The polls don't vote. We have to understand that this is a snapshot of where we are at this moment.”
It’s not just a snapshot, Toure says.
“We've seen this trend line consistently for a while. Biden has been beating the shit out of him over and over for months.”
Danielle warns that a lot of people get really caught up in polls and get complacent. And in the midst of a pandemic, they might think: I don't have to risk it and go vote. Biden’s gonna win anyway.
“We all need to start acting and speaking and understanding that we are running against a fucking criminal organization,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what the polls are saying … when you're running against the Mob.”
Get your souls to the polls
Toure has heard a lot of folks express fear about how Trump and company could commit fraud in the upcoming election: They’re criminals. They’re in bed with Russia. They will try anything and everything.
“I know from a lifetime of watching and playing sports: You can cheat and win a close game. But when you're getting blown the fuck out, cheating will not save you,” he says. “Right now, we’re trending toward a blowout.”
Danielle will believe that when she sees it. And we can’t just hope and pray that the presidential race represents the one line Trump won't cross.
“I keep telling people that this election will be about stamina. Get prepared … this is war.”
On that note, our hosts will be back next week, “assuming there is a country, and Kanye's not running it,” Toure says.
You don’t even have to wait until Sunday. Just pray about it.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!