Kanye West has again proven his ability to draw the attention, fascination and ire of the public — this time with his outrageous antics in the launching of his 2020 presidential bid.
Lost amid all the media focus on Kanye’s wild behavior, however, is something that is demonstrably true — Kanye is the most sane candidate running for the office of president of the United States, for he is the only one who openly (and eloquently) acknowledges his mental illness.
The ongoing fixation on Donald Trump’s cognitive acuity is well-documented to the extent that it’s become literally comical (comedian Sarah Cooper has built a career recently on a bit that involves lip-syncing the President), and it’s a sad joke that Joe Biden’s apparent lack of mental stability can’t even be plausibly denied by his supporters. Kanye, meanwhile, has been anything but shy about sharing the details of his own insanity (on social media, as well on songs such as ‘Yikes’). So he’s actually not insane.
There are other reasons to support the idea of a Kanye West candidacy: his story is the most inspiring — the most distinctly ‘American’ — of any candidate in memory. He began his career in the Midwest as a struggling music producer and wound up making a name for himself with an elite group of musicians in New York. He helped re-define the San Fernando Valley as a desirable residential enclave and subsequently discovered a new level of appreciation for the ‘Real’ United States in Wyoming.
His music itself tells the story of American struggle and reinvention, and it’s no understatement that his art (and his acumen as a fashion designer) has helped unify and create understanding and joy around the world. I would suggest that in 100 years people will definitely still be listening to Kanye West’s music. It’s doubtful that anyone will retain much affection for reruns of The Apprentice.
Kanye’s character is also largely unimpeachable — as he seems to be fiercely loyal to the people he loves and his colleagues. He’s also indisputably hard-working — another strong American trait.
Moreover, Kanye can make a profound and succinct statements within the moments of hypomania that characterize his public outpourings of emotion and ideas. To paraphrase the comedian Neal Brennan: when Kanye said (live on-air with a stunned-looking Mike Myers at a fundraising telethon post-Katrina) that George Bush doesn’t care about Black people’, he accomplished in one sentence what Public Enemy spent decades trying to explain.
It was in fact that same ‘manic’ energy that buoyed his early success as an entertainer. In his quest to get signed to a record deal as a rapper, he was legendary for standing up in the middle of executive meetings — literally standing on restaurant tables and on desks — and declaring the obvious, that he was a genius, a visionary, with a plan to revolutionize music and commerce. When he made his forays into the fashion world, he was doubted, mocked, or written-off as a joke. He wound up establishing a multi-billion dollar brand.
Kanye aggressively followed his own vision to achieve outsized success in those industries. It’s not an exaggeration to say he reshaped the culture he lived in. In a true testament to self-determination and American ingenuity, he diligently proved the doubters wrong. It wouldn’t surprise me if he proves them wrong again today to emerge as the most interesting third-party candidate in the history of American politics.