Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to rethink your ballets for 2020.
After a long history of support for the Trump Administration and a visit to the White House in October, Kanye West suddenly tweeted that he has, “been used to spread messages,” that he doesn’t believe in. This was followed by the popular artist vowing that from now on, he’s going to be staying out of politics.
What does this mean? It’s always hard to answer that question when talking about Kanye West, but I don’t think we need an answer. Nobody even needs to ask the question. It doesn’t matter what Kanye is saying about his involvement in politics because Kanye was never in politics to begin with.
First of all, this is Kanye West we’re talking about. This is a man who has deleted and reactivated his Twitter account on numerous occasions. This is a man who famously stated “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a TV fundraiser for Katrina victims, and just over ten years later called for the abolishment of the Thirteenth Amendment. He is a man with a history of erratic behavior, and the prospect of him staying out of politics is about as likely as Kim Kardashian getting a job at Burger King. Why speculate and give attention to this most recent chapter of his political story when it will just end with him deleting his social media accounts, reactivating them, and then going back to tweeting about slavery?
Second, and more importantly, this is Kanye West we’re talking about. It isn’t Mitch McConnell or Diane Feinstein saying they’ll be leaving the political arena, so does it really matter? Sure, plenty of influential celebrities with no background in politics have gotten political over the past four years—our commander in chief in particular—but the difference is that they had politically relevant things to say. Colin Kaepernick has voiced concern over civil rights for African Americans, Leonardo DiCaprio has issued a rallying cry to save the planet, and Donald Trump has mobilized Americans behind a vision of an “America first” driven isolationism. Kanye West has told black people to “stop focusing on racism” because “the world is racist,” called slavery a “choice,” and implied the Thirteenth Amendment should be abolished because it’s an unlucky number.
It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on; paying attention to Kanye’s ridiculous commentary distracts from real, political issues. If people spend time complaining that Kanye believes he and Trump are “brothers” because of “dragon energy,” then they’re spending less time focusing on Trump’s actual policies. Kanye inserted himself as a controversial go-between blocking us from the heart of the issue, making outrageous comments just to be the loudest narcissist in the room. The more we fall for it, the more his noise blocks out what's important.
People get angry that Kanye wears MAGA hats and supports Trump, but they should ignore him and focus their anger on Trump himself. Conservatives, who may be happy that a celebrity is supporting their candidate, should be hesitant to put too much stock in a man who is famously inconsistent and whose most positive compliment for Trump is his "dragon energy." Celebrities, especially erratic ones, should not act as substitutes for the real objects of our political disdain or admiration.
This isn’t to say that celebrities aren’t entitled to a political opinion; of course they are. We just aren’t required to care. When they use their platform and their influence to advocate their beliefs in a way that is positive and makes sense, it contributes to the political spirit of the United States and may spark discussion about policies and candidates. When they make political comments without representing any coherent political opinion, however, they simply inspire speculation.
Kanye West doesn’t prompt discussion…he is the discussion. He hogs the conversation by dropping inexplicable statements and instead of asking ourselves “what is he even talking about?”, we try to guess what his comments mean about his political leanings. It would be like, if at Thanksgiving dinner, your family spent the entire time arguing about what your crazy Uncle Cyril thinks and says about Trump, instead of arguing about Donald Trump.
Kanye is like your crazy uncle. His opinions may be confusing, entertaining, and frustrating, but in the end, you just have to ignore him and try really hard to get him to talk about something else. I think it’s infinitely more productive to concentrate our efforts on advocating for and developing our own respective political views—whatever they may be—than to analyze Kanye West’s. After all, we’re all perfectly capable of engaging in a political discussion that isn’t facilitated by a member of the Kardashian family.
Whether or not he successfully stays out of politics, Kanye’s views as an independent American citizen are up to him. They are also inconsequential to the larger political scene…unless he runs in 2020. Then all bets are off.