The artist formerly known as Kanye West, now Ye, continues to signal a run for the presidency in 2024. I’m interested in hearing his platform, while acknowledging he’s not ideal for nomination and has personality flaws. The GOP is awaiting the 2024 playing field to come together, but should not be reactive toward every candidate that throws their hat in. It will put Republicans on a path to infighting over figureheads, when the battle of ideas — not personalities — should be the focus. It will all play out, but as it does, there is a gleaming opportunity that presents itself.
Ye was recently described to me as an iconoclast, defined as a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. Certainly, his recent anti-Semitic statements must be acknowledged and addressed. While we can point to controversial statements in a non-secular society, I think those articles have already been written.
He is challenging ideas, dogma, and political correctness. And, that isn’t new. Ye has a discography where he has expressed taboos, and nobody cared because, in hip-hop, anything goes. Ye is tame as far as urban pop culture goes. He’s made two mainstream gospel albums, which have both won awards and criticisms. The point is, Kanye’s message was never too much for hip-hop audiences. In a conversation about who has impacted the modern genre, it would be incorrect to leave Ye out of the conversation. He has always been regarded as a creative genius in these circles. He re-wrote the rules of hip-hop, he uses vocals and sampling in novel ways, he’s merged genres, he’s been… an iconoclast.
I tell you this not as a campaign pitch, (I have no idea what message he will be promoting) but to help those who didn’t follow Ye’s music career to understand what audiences already know about him. His music career was ground-breaking and he did it album after album, each with its own significance. His messages there already resonate.
It is ignorant to purport that Ye doesn’t have anything important to say to a generation that grew up listening to what he had to say, from the time when we bought albums on CD. If politics is downstream from culture, Ye has long held a pulse and platform in culture.
As forever-Trumpers, never-Trumpers, and sometimes-Trumpers battle for the nomination, something equally important is brewing: inspiration.
There is a video that lives rent-free in my head. It’s Elon Musk being asked who inspires him, his answer is, “Well, Kanye West, obviously.” The crowd laughs, because of the perfect comedic timing delivered by Musk.
But, I don’t think Musk was fully joking. Especially with Musk’s relationship with the musician Grimes, with whom he has children, I think Musk may appreciate the art.
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Like Musk, I’m a rational person (if going to Mars reads as “rational” to you) but also a person who runs on inspiration and what we believe can be accomplished. And creativity.
How do you think Ye went from a poor child in Chicago, to a producer, to a musical revolutionary, to having a family with Kim Kardashian, to a Presidential candidate? He is fueled by those same things. A belief in what can be accomplished.
Will Musk get to Mars? Will Ye be in the Oval Office? It doesn’t matter if they don’t. They will breed inspiration and someone will set out to accomplish those dreams.
I write this to warn you to not misread opportunity. The GOP has sought younger and minority audiences to hear their values. They ask why the black community is such a stronghold for the Democratic Party. Then you get a guy like Kanye to show up as a disruptor to the status quo and the knee-jerk reaction is to run ’em off. That’s the worst idea for the GOP.
The faces in the party change, the inspiration does not. I frequently work with people who got their political start as part of the Ron Paul Revolution. The Bernie Sanders crowd took over the Democratic State Party in Nevada, they currently run the party. The Andrew Yang Gang got a ballot measure approved just a few weeks ago in Nevada, moving the state toward ranked choice voting and open primaries. None of those candidates won the nomination for president. But the people they inspired are still in the field doing the work.
So when the Ye Youngsters show up, diverse and empowered to press the party forward, welcome them. Roll out the red carpet. Bump “Can’t Tell Me Nothin'” after you sing the National Anthem. Ask them what policy they would like to see added to the local party platform, explain what it looks like to accomplish that goal. Train them up.
When I look around the room at a Republican event there are some peers of my generation, I guess I’m a millennial, as awkward-fitting as that label may be. But, mostly I see people who won’t be around in a decade. I see retirees. I got griped at by an older member during a party squabble in recent party history. That person passed away shortly after that meeting. It happened that way.
You will make your own bed if you fail to include new people, those are your replacements when you can’t continue in the mission. Get to know them. Find out where you agree. Help them grow and learn from them, too. Forge forward, stronger with them than without. It’s a beautiful day when a hip-hop artist with gospel albums comes to shake up the party, and it’s a beautiful tomorrow when the next generation is inspired to show up.