Is Kanye West Really Running for President to "Hurt Joe Biden?"
Kanye West's presidential campaign might be a consequence of a manic episode that deserves sympathy and understanding, but if Kanye gains traction, he has the potential to hurt all of us.
Since he announced his presidential campaign on July 4th, Kanye West has been the subject of endless press, headlines, and speculations—both about his mental health and his ability to harm American democracy.
West's campaign has been a labyrinth of twists and turns from start to finish. After he posted the initial announcement of his campaign on Twitter (and garnered millions of likes and an endorsement from Elon Musk), he described his platform as "anti-abortion" and "anti-vaccination" in a Forbes interview.
West, who has previously expressed support for Donald Trump, appears to be running on his own platform, which he calls "The Birthday Party," "because when we win, it's everybody's birthday," he said.
Though he launched his campaign after the filing deadline in many states, he paid the $35,000 fee to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma and appears to be encouraging people to vote for him, and he seems to be campaigning seriously.
The problem here is that we also have one of the most important elections of all time coming up, and we can't rule out the chance that Kanye's candidacy might present a potential threat to Joe Biden's campaign.
A Tumultuous Rally Leads Kim Kardashian to Call for Grace and Understanding
After an emotional campaign rally in South Carolina, Kanye wrote a series of tweets which led many people to worry about his mental health. West openly discussed his daughter North West and told the world that he and Kim considered aborting her until Kanye received a sign from God through his laptop. "My screen went black and white. And God said, 'If you f–k with my vision, I f–k with yours' … And I called my girlfriend and said, 'We're going to have this child,'" West said. He also maligned Harriet Tubman and said she "never actually freed the slaves, she just had them work for other white people."
Kim Kardashian followed up West's announcement with a call for privacy and compassion.
"As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder," she wrote. "Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand…" She continued, "I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressure of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder. Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words some times do not align with his intentions.
"Living with bi-polar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big or unobtainable they may feel to some. That is part of his genius and as we have all witnessed, many of his big dreams have come true.
"We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most. I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this. Thank you for those who have expressed concern for Kanye's well being and for your understanding."
West then tweeted an apology to Kim:
Kardashian West reportedly flew out to Wyoming for an emotional visit with Kanye following the rally and statement. Tabloids report that their marriage is on the rocks. According to People, the couple has flown to a private resort in the Caribbean to focus on their marriage. "They've decided to travel together so they can be away in private," said a source, "and Kardashian is 'exhausted'." Reportedly politics is off the table for this last-ditch effort to save their marriage.
The Complexities of Discussing Kanye's Bipolar Disorder
West's bipolar disorder has been public knowledge for a while now, and many believe this presidential campaign is a result of a manic episode. Certainly West deserves infinite compassion during episodes, as does anyone struggling with mental illness. "No jokes right now," wrote singer Halsey on Twitter. "I have dedicated my career to offering education and insight about bipolar disorder and I'm so disturbed by what I'm seeing. Personal opinions about someone aside, a manic episode isnt [sic] a joke. If you can't offer understanding or sympathy, offer your silence."
And Nylah Burton wrote, "Having a 'laugh' about how he expresses himself still perpetuates ableism, even while West is incredibly wealthy and famous. And ableism affects people with much less privilege than him."
The situation is, all in all, extremely nuanced. "When Kanye says terrible things about our heroes and about Black people in general, those comments hurt, especially for Black women," writes Jenn M. Jackson for Teen Vogue. "We have to be clear, though, that racism, bigotry, misogynoir, and other hateful language are not related to mental illness." This is, Jackson says, a "both/and" moment: a time where "we must both recognize the complex nature of mental health in Black communities and in society at-large. We must also protect those who are most vulnerable to harm."
The Importance of November: We Need to Take All Campaign Threats Seriously
Over the past few weeks, lawyers with GOP ties have helped West get his name on the ballots in various states. In Colorado, former Republican Congressional candidate Matthew Zielinski helped West qualify for the ballot, and a similar pattern keeps playing out. In Wisconsin, a GOP strategist and lawyer named Lane Ruhland attempted to deliver West's signatures (apparently he was about a minute too late).
All this GOP support for Kanye has prompted concern that his campaign might be an effort to draw voters away from Joe Biden, rumors which West refused to deny.
In a text message correspondence with a Forbes journalist on Thursday, West was confronted with the fact that he's only filed enough paperwork to appear on eight ballots, which will not be enough to bring him to the Oval Office. When asked if his aim was to siphon votes from Joe Biden, West wrote, "I'm not going to argue with you." When asked again, he said, "I'm not denying it; I just told you."
After the quotes aired, West tweeted, "THE GOAL IS TO WIN." Yesterday, Trump appeared to be unfazed by West. "I like Kanye very much," Trump said yesterday. "No, I have nothing to do with him getting on the ballot. We'll have to see what happens."
Even non-viable third party candidates can present threats to major candidates. (Trump won by only 22,000 votes in Wisconsin).
Kanye deserves compassion and understanding—but also, bipolar disorder doesn't force people to run dangerous campaigns. We also all deserve to see Trump ousted this November. So while Kanye's mental illness should be discussed with nuance and grace, his campaign needs to be shut down, lest we be faced with another four years of disaster.
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