When Kanye West announced he was going to take a run at the presidency, it barely registered on the shock-o-meter. This is, after all, 2020 — the year of COVID-19, of a race revolution, of Trump in full on “year four” mode…of murder hornets. Frankly, “Kanye running for president” is barely even clickbait anymore.
On the other hand, maybe we should take it a little more seriously. This time four years ago, this writer was laughing at Donald Trump’s prospects. There was no way in hell, in my humble and naive opinion, somebody that immoral, self-centered, and just plain unqualified would be voted in. Don’t ask me to blow on your dice in Vegas.
“It’s self-centered and a publicity stunt,” California music journalist Adrian Spinelli told The Guardian. “In the upper echelons of celebrity, their reality is totally different from ours, so the idea of ‘I’m gonna run for president’ — especially when you’re hanging out with Elon Musk, who’s on the same spectrum — is a great way to draw attention to yourself. But at the end of the day I think he’s self-centered and needs help.”
So it takes a wild imagination, even in this environment, to imagine Kanye having a successful run at the presidency. Many still haven’t forgiven him for his MAGA stunt and the subsequent rant on Saturday Night Live.
Kanye is, though, only the latest in a long line of musicians who have decided to run for office in the States. Usually, they fall on their faces, but not before gaining a ton of publicity (arguably the main aim to begin with).
Self-styled “Jewish cowboy” Kinky Friedman ran for justice of the peace in Kerrville, Texas, in 1986 and then, in 2004, even threw his cowboy hat into the ring to become governor of Texas. He lost both times but the campaigns only served to bolster his reputation.
In 2017, speaking out about his own Democratic party, he told this writer:
“I’ve been a Democrat almost all of my life, and I don’t think these people are real Democrats. I think they think they are. But they’re not. I’ve never heard of a university that won’t listen to both sides of an argument or debate. That they shut down one side because they disagreed with it. I never heard of that in my whole life. That’s a total bastardization of what a university is. That’s the left doing it — it’s not right-wing goon squads doing that. That’s left-wing goon squads.”
One of the rare success stories is that of Sonny Bono, who served four years as mayor of Palm Springs between 1988 and ’92. “Dancing in the Street” singer Martha Reeves was a Detroit City Council member from 2005 to 2009. And let’s not forget that Texas’ Beto O’Rourke was a member of the band Foss alongside At the Drive-In and Mars Volta man Cedric Bixler-Zavala.
A Spokesman article noted, “Novoselic, saying he’s a strong believer in the constitutional right of free association, says it’s a mistake to let candidates describe themselves as members of a particular party, regardless of whether the party actually accepts them. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties have made the same argument for years.”
“My problem is not really with a top-two runoff election,” Novoselic wrote on the Grange blog. “My issue is with the way candidates can appropriate the name of a private group.”
“As president, Waka would immediately legalize marijuana. (Happy 4/20!) He would also ban dogs in restaurants and impose harsh restrictions on the big-footed. He also discusses innovative new policy proposals on education, jobs, Congressional reform and more,” wrote Rolling Stone at the time.
Journalist and musician, Falling James of Los Angeles punks Leaving Trains was on Jerry Springer’s show to discuss a presidential run in 1996. “It seems like a joke that I want to paint the White House pink to have a two day work week and a five day weekend,” James told Springer. “But I’m also serious because I have a lot of friends who are in prison, and 70 percent of the people in prisons are in for non-violent crimes… Living in California, they want to build a Berlin Wall at the border to keep these so-called illegal aliens out — these are illegal aliens who have been there for thousands of years.”
Falling James is clear proof that oftentimes (obviously not always), musicians speak more sense than politicians, and you can usually trust the punks. Dead Kennedys man Jello Biafra ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1979 with the brilliant slogan “There’s always room for Jello.” Anyone familiar with DK’s tunes such as “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” would have been delighted were he successful. Sadly, he wasn’t. In 2000, Biafra ran for President as a Green Party member but that fell away when the party went with Ralph Nader (who Biafra supported).
But in case those paint a rosy picture, we can’t end this without discussing notorious fuckwit Kid Rock’s dabble with a run at the Senate. His self-aggrandising glorified merch promotion is probably the blueprint West is following, and look how embarrassing that was.
We need Trump out in November, and a vote for West won’t help.