Kanye West could be a presidential candidate in 2020 for the same reason Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Bernie Sanders are either leading in the polls or gaining momentum now: America is expressing both disdain for establishment candidates and a perverse desire to be entertained by the political process.
For the first time in recent modern politics, America is awake. Before, establishment candidates could get away with rehearsed talking points, white lies and lack of authenticity. But we now exist in the days of the 24-hour news cycle and citizen journalists' rapid-fire Twitter reporting.
Voters are rejecting bland career politicians as the issues that face our nation loom larger than before. In part, that's because each one has a hashtag on social media that amplifies the conversation. Meanwhile money pours into the political process in larger increments, hijacking our nation's agenda, thanks to the lack of campaign-finance reform. Perhaps in reaction, Americans are seeking leadership that can cut through the traditional murky landscape. Polls are showing that Americans want candidates who are raw and uncensored. Kanye certainly fits that bill.
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The 38-year old said in his recent acceptance speech for a lifetime-achievement award at the MTV Video Music Awards, "I just wanted people to like me more. But …the art ain't always gonna be polite."
"We the millenials, bro, this is a new mentality."
Sound familiar? Trump has been anything but polite. He has called Mexican immigrants rapists, said Sen. John McCain is not a war hero because he was captured, and wants to eliminate "anchor babies" by changing the Constitution. And he still is in the lead.
Kanye can be just as outrageous. He stated that "George Bush doesn't care about black people," after Hurricane Katrina and bum-rushed award winner Taylor Swift at MTV's Video Music Awards a few years back, among other stunts. But he's still engaging his fans and selling albums.
Still, for all his bluster, like Trump, Kanye has some understanding of the nation's ills. he tweeted some of his ideas in 2012 in the run-up to his clothing-line launch: "Schools should be designed to prep human beings for real life… there are so many broken systems from the economy to school systems, jail systems…we need experts for this… to directly affect governments."
And during his acceptance speech at the VMAs, where he announced his 2020 candidacy, he said: "We, the millenials, bro, this is a new mentality. We are not going to control our kids with brands. We are not going to teach low self-esteem and hate to our kids," adding "… it ain't about me, it's about new ideas, bro."
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But it IS about him. Certainly, one must have a strong ego to become a successful artist. And, when running for an elected office, one must have an equally healthy ego to think that they have what it takes to, say, "Make America great again."
This is why Kanye cannot be dismissed when he says he'll run for president.
He is bold, unafraid to be vulnerable and judged; a straight shooter. Even if he knows you don't agree with what he has to say, his positions, he knows you will tune in. In this, he is no different from Trump.
And this is what worries me most: when you can't discern if a presidential candidates' ideals are their true beliefs or the need to feed their egos with a reaction from the public. In music production, you can create studio magic for an artist to sound in perfect pitch. For reality television, you can script your reality. But with America, you don't have these options. You can't fire ISIS, just as you can't fix the economy with a drumbeat.
So, establishment candidates, it's not too late for you to make a comeback. Many Americans are afraid of a Trump presidency. I'm sure they'd be just as afraid of a Kanye presidency. We need you to disregard your talking points, lose a few of your handlers, be comfortable at making mistakes, and show us your ego! You are campaigning as if it's all about politics. Didn't you get the memo that this cycle is about entertainment? Thank Mr. Trump for that.
Commentary by Mike Muse, co-founder of Muse Recordings. Muse has served on President Barack Obama's National Finance Committee as well as finance committees of Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio. He is currently serving on the Democratic National Finance Committee and Hillary Clinton's Finance Committee. He was recently appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve on the Board of Advisors for the Mayors Fund to Advance New York City. Follow him on Twitter @IamMikeMuse.