This past week, the once happily cheered joke of Kanye West 2020 seemed to lurch into a new paradigm of possibility as the eccentric rapper unleashed a tirade of tweets — all of which seemed to please the right-wing MAGA crowd while confusing and irritating the rest of us, including a slew of other celebrities. West lashed out against those he assumed were somehow trying infringe on his free thought, while tweeting out a Trumpian, anti-experience message that’s caused some outcry, to say the least.
West’s escapades have continued, as he published text messages with John Legend, who came across as the best possible human in existence, and then a picture of Parkland survivor Emma Gonzalez. These have stirred up the right even more, subsequently giving rise to historic, watered down, incorrect takes on common knowledge history and thinking in general.
One common theme sparked by a text message tweeted and deleted by West, from an individual named Steve, iterated the go-to that racism deniers in the Republican party often harness — that the Republican party, championed by Lincoln, freed the slaves while Democrats were the purveyors of one of the original atrocities of our country.
But, as many on Twitter have already pointed out, and as anyone who’s ever completed a rudimentary ninth grade U.S. history class can attest to, the parties have since shifted their political dynamics and policies. It was the Republican party that freed slaves, and it was also the Republican party that houses all the lingering racist and abhorrent confederates, and it’s the Republican party who overwhelmingly opposed civil rights in the name of “big government,” also known as masked racism.
In no way does this mean I’m arguing that people of color should only support Democrats. Firstly, as a white person, it is in no way my place to have that discussion, and secondly, Democratic presidents such as Bill Clinton have a long track record of incarceration politics that have had lasting racial and racist implications to this day.
But if we’re able to learn anything from Kanye’s quick dip into political discourse and the clumsiness in adhering to Steve’s purported “facts,” it’s that whether you’re Kanye West or President Trump, not verifying the facts results in remarkably stupid politics.
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West himself is quoted in his pride of not reading books, and reading President Trump’s Twitter feed makes it ever apparent the President of the United States is operating somewhere around a third-grade reading level. But to many, these things seem to be attractive.
In the past two years, one of populism’s central tenets of anti-elitism has more or less morphed into simply being anti-political-experience. Trump’s base bought into the scary idea that having someone with no political experience and no nuance would somehow make a good leader for the most powerful nation in the world. Of course, it’s ridiculous, but it resonates, and comes across to his base as a change of pace, as an institutional cleanse to what they see as a failure.
Both Trump and West’s ignorance derive from two different, but similarly threaded, strings — they’re both drastically out of touch with society. West’s refusal to believe in the “sunken place” (a clever reference to the hit movie “Get Out,” insinuating West’s stuck in another realm altogether) is an indication he believes he, in an individual sense, is somehow absolved from structural and institutional racism, proven by his success in life. Trump’s on the other hand, lives a life of such opulence and riches that they have rendered him completely incapable of understanding the outside world. However, both of these mindsets can be nullified or patched up simply by putting in an effort to better oneself.
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But, such things seem to be paradoxical. Amassing more and more wealth can result in more access to the world’s cultures and any literary work imaginable. Both West and Trump have access to whatever they could wish for, yet instead of pursuing such privileges, they relegate their accumulation of knowledge to half-truths and a-historical nonsenses.
One truly frightening aspect characteristic of both of them is the degree to which people are willing to adhere to such rhetoric. As far-right conspiracy droves attach themselves to West, praising his “free thought” and his disconnect with liberals, we as a society seem to be stuck in a simulation — one which is programming out one celebrity after another to stumble into politics and to somehow seem like a legitimate alternative to experienced politicians.
There’s no point. There’s no productive outcome in being as outrageous and divisive as possible. That, combined with inexperience, isn’t a recipe for success in leading a country. West’s boldness on Twitter hopefully isn’t an indication of a possible 2020 presidential run, but if it is, we all need to have a serious conversation about the relationship of boisterous celebrities and politics, and why that might not be the best idea.
Adam Ramer ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history and political science.