Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

It’s Time for Conservatives to Unite Behind Ye

With Trump a possible one-termer, there's a new celebrity who can lead Christian conservatives out of the wilderness.
Kanye West

Welcome to election month, ladies and gents. It’s a vibrant time of year when we gaze at the softly falling leaves, brush up on our pie-making, take walks in the sunlight, and consider the scorching of our electoral system. What with Trump threatening to take the election results to the courts and Biden’s camp deftly waving away any claims of interference, this doesn’t seem like it’ll end well. And who thought it would? Both camps—bloody-knuckled culture war conservatives and anxious liberals chanting “Trump Bad” each day at the stroke of noon—have let this exact scenario live in our heads rent-free all summer.

For its part, the media seemed to believe, and so very much wanted to convince us all, that Biden would win in a landslide (He did not. He’s up by razor-thin margins.) But then, that’s only because the media, as the media will do, spent the last four years reverting further into its own inane delusions that working-class Americans would really bask in its racialist dronings, gaslighting, and dripping-faucet snark. And if there’s anything we can rely on, it’s that that’s not going to change. It’s tragically funny and horrendously dumb.

So it goes and here we are. What’s our future from here? As the good Saint Peter once queried the Almighty, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” I can’t speak for the Lord, but here’s my Dark Twisted Fantasy: conservatives have every single reason to get onboard with rapper, creator, late-night tweeter, and outrageously capricious oddball Kanye West.

He’s already announced his plans for 2024, the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring. That means we’ve got four years to get this ball rolling and consolidate around the one person who could truly and artfully invigorate a principled, robust, and sustainable conservatism that speaks to this broken and bitter nation of ours.

Yeezy has become an absolute treat. But even if he were incredibly unlikeable, his platform alone is stellar. For those who don’t know—since he was largely dismissed by the media, and even his own wife, as a raving nutjob—Kanye West managed to erect a 2020 political platform that could easily double as a training manual in American conservative political thought.

The guy openly declares that he wants prayer in classrooms, an economy that gives even the young a shot at a secure financial future, a dovish outlook on foreign intervention, meaningful criminal justice reform that could reunite family members, human-centric environmental conservation efforts—the achingly beautiful list goes on. He seems deathly serious about all of this, too. Why did we not pay him more attention?

The answer is twofold. Kanye himself is partly to blame, considering that (to my own great frustration) he entered the race at the eleventh hour, when all of us were damning the torpedoes and going full speed ahead with the two ancients-of-days in suits. By that time, it was too late for him to take a real crack at the election. For most states, he couldn’t even get on the ballot thanks to his inimitable tardiness. Add to that the fact that he didn’t seem to consistently show his new campaign to even be real, and what you end up with are a lot of very surprised and understandably confused would-be voters. I was one of them.

Of course, the vast majority of the GOP cast an incredulous, sidelong glance at him—and then kept right on doing what they were doing. Many of the deplorables, after all, were genuinely thrilled for a MAGA sequel. They didn’t need Kanye. The others were trying their best to just keep their heads above water and not feel completely deflated by the political train wreck that was this summer. To that particular group, Ye’s announcement was odd and unwelcome in an odd and unwelcome election season. And, given his reputation as an erratic, Kanye was a celebrity fly to swat away while they tried their best to keep Trump a placeholder for four more years while they figured out what the hell to do with this party. In the end, they just really didn’t want President Kamala. Well, boys: we might get her anyway.

Now it’s time to regroup.

Fortunately, it looks like our conservative elites know now what the future of the party is. Since Tuesday, the right-wing intellectual set has seemed to agree on a few things, namely that we’ve now got hard data to prove that conservatism should no longer cater solely to homo economicus. And thank God for that. In a brittle world bullishly set on obliterating things that last in this life, we’re seeing a return to a platform of substance—to the embrace of narrative, culture, and faith. Turns out we’re not ready to cast off whatever vestiges of old-world, patriotic identity we’ve got left just to play ball with those who relish only the here and now. Like it or not, that’s why the uneducated morons voted for Trump. And it’s why we’ll vote for Kanye.

It’s also why a lot of other people who aren’t conservative will vote for Kanye, too. Like it or not, dataheads aren’t the leaders anyone is seeking right now. May we never forget the lessons we learned with Trump, especially that of the indelible power of the cult of personality—it transcends even the party line-turned-chasm. After all, America is a sucker for a character, and it makes sense that we would be. Once an ambitious startup, our country still rewards gumption, celebrity, and aesthetic. The presidents we remember and fashion our national lore around, for better or worse, prove that to be true. Think Teddy Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton. We said yes to Obama for his suavity, charisma, and well-spoken ease. And it was Trump’s brash accessibility and New Yorker aphorisms that got him, a millionaire, a seat at the middle-class Flyover Table. For his part, Biden was such a stuttering blank slate that it almost cost him the election.

When it comes to personality, Kanye takes the cake. That’s not his weakness; it’s his strength. Granted, that personality used to be more of an obnoxious, prideful riddle. Back in the day, he had a nasty habit of calling himself “a god” and being matter-of-fact about his status as the greatest artist alive. (Though, that makes tautological sense—if anyone is the greatest artist alive, statistics show it’d be a god.) This went on for many years while we watched him shock the media with genre-bending album after album, take a voluptuous reality star wife, build a bizarre-yet-lucrative clothing brand, and rake in mega-loads of cash. And then, after all that, we saw him morph into the lucid traditionalist Christian we needed.

Make no mistake, Kanye shocks the media even more now. But here’s the thing: who cares? Time and time again, most of the mainstream media has proven both its inability to understand the people it’s supposed to serve and its allegiance to the left. These days, most moral media shocks are probably just signs that something is going right.

Sure, Trump did the same thing, but we who shrugged at the Orange Man’s inevitable ascent also numbly accepted his use of shock, Christendom, and shocking Christendom as political tools. The same can’t be said for Kanye. To the distaste of nearly everyone in his circles, his family, and his fanbase, the man has still allowed himself to be humbled to his bones by his new beliefs. Watch him weep on stage at the mere thought of abortion’s staggering body count. Watch him whisk his children out of the vile clutches of Hollywood and into the quiet country of Wyoming. He scorns his past debauchery as a sex-mad lyricist, and is crystalline in his yearning for a revitalization in the heart and soul of the country. Indeed, in the face of his caps-locked social media rants and fixation on Michael Jackson’s marred legacy, we have an artist with his heart on his sleeve.

What a welcome, welcome change Ye would be to our politics. It’s obvious that we’ve reached an American era that’s increasingly done with the chi-chi pandering and paper smiles of morally bankrupt politicians. In Kanye, we finally have a non-politician. It’s that very descriptor that the MAGA crowd used to explain their devotion to Trump. For Kanye, it actually sticks.

Call me an optimist, but I believe that artistic rectitude will speak to more than just the conservatives who read this magazine. Kanye’s following as an artist is broad. In spite of his antics, he’s earned the respect of millions of liberal Millennials, even if just as a creator and thinker. And for those whose political infrastructure extends beyond leftist, semantically overloaded platitudes, that respect hasn’t died merely because he’s changed his mind about some things. Yeezy has the capacity to give pause to folks with reactionary distaste for a populist like Donald. He can help them to consider, for even a moment, the idea that he might be right.

We know he is. Of course, the left will say his faith is a joke. As long as he keeps on saying true things, they’ll keep on trying to paint him as a bipolar kook who needs his meds. They painted Trump as something very similar and he still prevailed in 2016. He may yet prevail in 2020. Even so, too many voters vacillated on throwing their chips in for a man with questionable character, but Kanye has character in spades. Where Trump is weak, Kanye is strong. And that’s because, like America herself, Kanye has been brought to his knees. As Saint Augustine wrote, “It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” We’ve been electing devils for far too long. All this bar-spitting angel really needs is the strength of a coalition. I say we give him one.

Emma Ayers is a roving writer on culture and religion.