Staff Columnist

Iowa caucus watch: Dragon energy in 2020

Can Kanye West deliver the straight talk Donald Trump promised?

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and musician Kanye West pose for media at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 13, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and musician Kanye West pose for media at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 13, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Make Americans Dragons Again.

Musician Kanye West dominated the political news cycle last week with a series of Twitter messages in support of President Donald Trump. West posted a picture of himself wearing Trump’s trademark Make America Great Again hat, and also wrote, “the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy.”

Quiz: Can you tell the difference between Kanye’s Twitter posts and presidential quotes?

I know Obama was heaven-sent But ever since Trump won, it proved that I could be president

- Kanye West

Ye Vs. the People

Puzzled observers are scrambling to square West’s hot takes of late with years of seemingly contradicting statements about government and politics. Is he trolling the political class, stirring up media attention or perhaps just Kanye being Kanye, part of the artist’s sometimes-erratic series of outbursts over more than a decade of superstardom?

West is a more consistent political philosopher than his critics give him credit for. His commentary is marked by uncompromising individualism, care for the overlooked members of society and an affinity for free markets. That brand of dragon energy, notably different from Trump’s, may be exactly what America needs.

It’s no safe bet West’s pro-Trump messages represent a full-throated endorsement of the president’s 2020 re-election campaign. That leaves the door open for a West White House bid, as the unpredictable rapper has hinted about more than once. If he runs, there are more than a few reasons to believe West could be a formidable prospect in the 2020 Iowa caucuses and beyond.

Make America Great Again had a negative perception I took it, wore it, rocked it, gave it a new direction Added empathy, care and love and affection And y'all simply questionin' my methods

- Kanye West

Ye Vs. the People

For starters, we now have a template for a winning celebrity political campaign, following the Trump 2016 victory. Several other entertainers have launched campaigns for lower office or flirted with future presidential ambitions.

A common rationale from Trump supporters in Iowa during the 2016 election cycle was that he calls it like he sees it, refusing to hold back in calling out Republicans and Democrats alike. If that was an earnest assessment, those same voters will find plenty to like about West.

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The prime example is West’s part in a TV fundraisiner for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005, when he delivered a famously pointed critique of former President George W. Bush’s disaster response.

“America is set up to help the poor, the black people, the less well-off as slow as possible. … George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” he said.

West has repeatedly sprinkled politics in his lyrics and statements. He has talked about police brutality, economic inequality and his qualified support of capitalism. His 2010 single “Power” seemed to strike at the dangers of unchecked executive authority when he rapped, “‘No one man should have all that power.”

West thrives on dismantling others’ assumptions about him, particularly the expectation that pop culture icons must be Democrats. In the newly released track “Ye Vs the People,” he writes, “See that’s the problem with this damn nation. All blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain’t made it off the plantation.”

Trump rode into office promising to disrupt the partisan duopoly, but has ended up filling his administration with more swamp monsters. West could finally give Americans what they voted for — a leader who truly calls it like he sees it, and means really it.

• Comments: (319) 339-3156; adam.sullivan@thegazette.com

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