Kanye West’s recent statements make him appear like a permanent resident of the Sunken Place. The hip-hop giant recently got back on Trump’s favorite social media outlet to send out a series of missives that have baffled his fanbase, most notably his praise for Candace Owens, an conservative, African-American woman who recently accused Black Lives Matter activists of being “victims” and “overly privileged”:
I love the way Candace Owens thinks
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) April 21, 2018
Then, on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning, a radio show hosted by Ebro Darden, he told the host, “I love Donald Trump.” West had visited Trump at Trump Tower when he was president-elect and around that same time, told concertgoers that he would have voted for him.
West has been lionized for these remarks by the same conservative media who demonized him for his condemnation of George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Back in 2005, Bill O’Reilly called these remarks “simply nutty,” now he’s defending West from the “American Stalinists” who are attacking him. Ivanka Trump follows West on Twitter now, Dilbert creator and Trump supporter Scott Adams has made a video praising him for “ripping a hole in reality,” and Owens herself has said that the backlash to their thoughts is akin to a modern-day slavery telling people what to think – a truly horrifying phrase given the prevalence of actual slavery in the modern world.
West has always been a provocateur, but whereas he used to provoke those in power, now he’s placating them. His words, and the kudos he has received from those in agreement with them display the hollowness of the modern Republican Party. Conservative politicians from the 19th century to the 1950s had an ideology to back up their ideas, so no matter how much we might disagree with them, we can at least say that their beliefs had some kind of philosophical foundation. Today, they have no ideology other than denying objective facts, cutting taxes for billionaires, persecuting minorities. This is how a person like Donald Trump could become President – not because he broke free of his “mental prison” (to quote Scott Adams) but because he said the things they felt liberals prevented them from saying.
In this respect, Trump and West are perfect symbols for today’s Republican Party. Neither of them possesses a coherent ideology – Trump had switched parties for years before his run and West didn’t even vote in 2016 – but why would that matter to a party bankrupt of any beliefs? West’s asset to conservatism is the same as Trump’s – a penchant for garnering publicity, no matter what he does. In that sense alone, the two are perfectly matched for one another.
This union does not do any favors for the party as a whole, however. Years of the Fox News propaganda machine have taught legions of them that the only important thing is to piss off liberals. While they have succeeded in doing that numerous times, they have run the risk of becoming a regional party as changing demographics threaten their standing in the years to come. If Trump and West are the best symbols that they can come up with, then they deserve to go down with the ship this November.
Jeremy Fassler is a writer and journalist living in Brooklyn, New York.