Kanye West is running for president, which means that both evangelicals on the right and identity-politics advocates on the left have an alternative they can vote for instead of Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
The rapper, who has already made it onto the ballot here in Oklahoma, is putting forward some interesting ideas. In his first major campaign event, Kanye discussed abortion, saying that his mother almost aborted him and, with tears, said that he had advocated aborting his daughter, expressing thanks to his wife for refusing to. The recently born-again Christian said that while he still believes abortion should be legal, the problem is that women need greater support in having children. His proposed policy? “Everybody that has a baby gets a million dollars or something in that range.”
Now that sounds outlandish, but I did the math: In 2018, some 3.8 million babies were born in the U.S. To pay $1 million for each of them would come to $3.8 trillion.
That would be just under the cost of the various coronavirus bailout packages, $2 trillion + $1 trillion). The Green New Deal would cost nearly twice that ($6.6 trillion) every year. It’s about as much as Medicare for All would cost ($3.2 trillion).
All of these proposals depend on the assumption that modern monetary theory, according to which the government can print all the money it wants with no negative consequences, is true. Although I don’t see how it can be, both Republicans and Democrats seem to think it is.
So Kanye’s million-dollar-baby plan doesn’t seem any more crazy financially than what the more mainstream politicians are proposing and enacting. And his idea would give a quantifiable value to having a baby–their intrinsic worth doesn’t always count for much these days–and would go a long way towards ending abortion. Poor and low-income families would suddenly find themselves wealthy. Many Christians would find their financial struggles solved.
Kanye also said that marijuana should be free. I really don’t think that offer would hurt him with Christian voters, who evidently don’t care about such issues–or any moral issues–any more. His proposal would be a blow to organized crime and to the new legal marijuana industry, which seems to be attracting corruption. Free marijuana would also help elevate the national mood, which is in the doldrums due to the coronavirus epidemic. The cost of the U.S. government providing free marijuana is not known, but it would surely be cheaper than free health care.
Kanye has been a Donald Trump supporter, so he can attract some voters who like what Trump has done but have become disillusioned with his effectiveness. Christians will like Kanye for his new-found faith. Conservative voters often choose candidates for their convictions rather than their ability to govern, so Kanye can attract that vote. He is, in fact, much like Donald Trump, a celebrity and successful businessman with no experience in politics or government, an anti-establishment figure with a colorful personality and some bold ideas.
Kanye can also appeal to those on the left who embrace identity politics. He is black. Both black Americans and guilty white liberals who object to not having a black candidate to vote for in either party in this day of heightened racial sensitivity, now have someone they can vote for.
This can enable Kanye to play the race card, which goes a long way these days. If he doesn’t get invited to the debates or get put on state ballots, he can cry “racism.” I can envision the bumper stickers: “If you don’t vote for Kanye, you are a racist.” If advocates of identity politics do not vote for him–because they disapprove of his proposed Trump-like policies or because they do not think he has the personal qualities necessary to be a good president–they would be admitting that racial identity is not, in fact, the most important political factor.
But, some would say, his candidacy is a joke! He is unqualified! He could never get elected! He has a personality disorder! This is just an exercise in ego! No one can take him seriously! All of which was said of Donald Trump.
True, it is unlikely that Kanye could get on enough ballots to have a serious chance of getting elected president. But he could be an attractive protest vote. He could take voters away from both the Republican and the Democratic base. Those numbers could cancel each other out, or, depending on which side protests the most, they could be enough to throw the election to either Biden or Trump.
Photo: Kanye West by David Shankbone / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons