Let’s assume Kanye West is a Republican operative running for president as an independent candidate. His mission is to siphon votes away from Joe Biden. What’s in it for Kanye? Attention, recognition, money. What’s in it for the Republicans? Another four years of executive power.
If Kanye continues to follow through with only a little bit of effort — he’s already taken steps over the coming weeks to get himself on the ballot as an independent or write-in candidate in various states — Democrats need to wake up and realize they’re in trouble. That they’ve been outflanked. And unless they’ve planned for this very specific contingency, I guarantee that they — the smart ones, anyway, the ones who know how the game is played — are running around with their hair on fire just as surely as if they’d been hit by a stray firework on the 4th of July, the day Kanye tweeted out his presidential bid.
Why is Kanye West so dangerous to the Democrats?
- He’s Black.
- He’s critical of the Democrats.
- He’s a mega-millionaire with massive name recognition and a tremendous fan base.
- He can get media attention just for being himself.
Given these and other factors, Kanye threatens to upset the 2020 election thanks to the “spoiler effect,” an electoral quirk in which a candidate who can’t possibly win ends up splitting the vote and affecting the outcome of a race between other more realistic contenders.
Assuming that Kanye is serious, what the Democrats will need to do next is potentially very hard: they will need to fight a rear-guard action to convince millions of left-leaning and independent voters that Kanye West is a fake candidate, and that a vote for Kanye is a vote for Trump not just because it’s a wasted vote but because West is actually part of the Trump campaign.
Can I prove this? No.
Can the Democrats? Probably not.
The reason why it’s so hard to prove a conspiracy theory is because the evidence you require is virtually unobtainable.
Yes, there are photos of West wearing a MAGA hat. Yes, West appears to be a friend of Trump and has met with Trump very visibly on several occasions, including at Trump Tower in the weeks after Trump won the 2016 election.
But this relationship, while it should be enough to set off alarm bells, does not constitute evidence, exactly. For the general public, the photos and the meetings can be explained away — the process has already begun, in fact, with Kanye West recently “disavowing” Trump during an exclusive meet-the-candidate interview with Forbes.
What the American public needs in order to resist the allure of Kanye West, what the public currently lacks, is a master narrative, a frame to understand what’s happening. And what’s happening is the same thing that happens each and every election cycle, which is that a “spoiler” candidate is being secretly supported, financially and logistically, by one of the two major political parties in order to divide the opposition’s vote.
“Huh?” you might say. “That’s a rather stunning accusation, where’s your evidence?”
There isn’t much evidence, I admit.
But the literary arts, which often portrays the truth wrapped in creative invention, is as good a place to start as any…
How Spoiler Candidates Work
In the opening chapters of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel All the King’s Men, written by American author Robert Penn Warren, the narrator, a reporter named Jack Burden, finds himself covering a southern governor’s race in which the upcoming vote is pretty evenly divided between city-dwellers, who support a candidate named Harrison, and country folk, who support a candidate named MacMurfee.
The novel’s narrator learns that a third candidate, Willie Stark, was secretly convinced to run as an independent candidate by Harrison’s men, who pumped him up by telling him he was “God’s candidate” with the intention that he would split the country vote and catapult Harrison to the governor’s mansion.
When Stark finally learns that he’s been manipulated by one of the two major candidates and that he was never intended to win the election, he laments his blind naïveté, goes on a drinking binge, and drops out of the race — only to end up stumping for Harrison, splitting the country vote, and helping him get elected anyway.
All the King’s Men was published in 1946, and the opening scenes with Stark on the election trail are set in 1922.
So this concept of pumping up a third-party “spoiler” candidate to split the opposition’s vote is clearly an old, old game.
The only reason it’s not part and parcel of today’s story is that nobody can really prove it.
Today, the parties use layers of “political consultants” to distance themselves from the wedge strategies they execute, creating plausible deniability and making it hard to trace the roots of an individual donor or organization back to the opposition party.
Some people will know what I’m talking about because they know this really happens; others will be skeptical because they’ve never thought about it before.
But I need to tell you this is probably how Democrats kept their Senate seat in Missouri in 2012 — the unpopular incumbent Democrat, Claire McCaskill, was in trouble until the Democrats noticed a little-known Republican contender at the lunatic fringe named Todd Akin early in the Republican primaries. The Democrats proceeded to throw actual resources into supporting Akin against his primary contenders, and the Dems were rewarded when batshit-crazy Akin became the Republican nominee in the race and coined the phrase “legitimate rape,” leading some right-leaning voters to condemn Akin and hand a firm majority to McCaskill during the general election.
This is also probably how the Democrats beat the Republicans in the 2017 special election for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions in Alabama—I’d bet my keyboard that the Democrats secretly threw resources into boosting far-right gun-toting judge Roy Moore, helping to propel him past the Republican party’s favored choice Luther Strange during the Republican primary, all with the intent that he would face, and lose to, Democrat Doug Jones in the general election. And that’s exactly what happened.
This is probably how the Republicans used Ralph Nader to split the Democrat vote in 2000 and hand the presidency to George W. Bush, Jr.
And this is definitely why Democrats thought they could take the same approach to win the presidency in 2016 by boosting outrageous conservative candidates including Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson to make Hillary Clinton seem more palatable to independent and middle-of-the-road voters.
Yes indeed, this is the ugly truth most Democrats don’t want to hear or acknowledge — that the Trump presidency is partially a creation of Hillary Clinton and the Democrats because of their long-standing strategy of boosting extreme right-wing candidates during the primary phase of the election cycle.
And this is something for which actual evidence does, in fact, exist.
As revealed by Wikileaks, in an April 2015 email to the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Clinton campaign identified Donald Trump as a “Pied Piper” candidate who could move the Republican field “further to the right” and stated, incredibly: “We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.”
Did you get that?
The Clinton campaign told the DNC to actually start pumping Donald Trump in April 2015 — before he had even announced his candidacy. Not only did the Clinton campaign know that Donald Trump was running for president, they were already planning to foist him on the media as a serious candidate.
By moving the Republican candidate field further to the right in 2016, the Democrats hoped to capture the center. This turned out to be a terrible miscalculation and misreading of the American electorate. A bunch of other things went wrong, too, including the Russian attack on our country — one prong of which disclosed the email I cited above — and the last-minute leak of an FBI memo to Congress saying that the Clinton email investigation had been reopened.
Republicans Are Using a Spoiler in 2020
Kayne West is the “Pied Piper” candidate being pushed forward by the Republicans in the hope that it will divide the Democrats and inspire independent voters who are sick of having to choose between the two parties.
And the Democrats are going to get ambushed unless they hit back fast and hard, sinking Kanye before the end of the summer so that when people go to the voting booth in the fall — if they’re able to go at all — Kanye’s presidential bid will seem like nothing more than a coronavirus-induced fever dream.
Unfortunately this will be very difficult to do.
The Democrats will have to take Kanye seriously. That’s the first problem. The second problem is that the elites in the media will have to resist the same impulse that drove Trump’s campaign forward in 2015 and 2016, the flash of celebrity, of gossip, of outrageousness — the ratings. Both Trump and Kayne know this.
What the electorate needs to understand, and hopefully what the media can communicate, is the deep sense that this is not an organic presidential run. Kanye is not authentic. Kanye has no platform. Kanye does not need a campaign staff to run for president as long as he’s getting advice and support from Trump and the Republicans. The story should not be about Kayne running for president and all the outrageous things he’s going to say and do, but about the clear and obvious conspiracy to split the Democratic vote and steal the independent vote in a way that favors Trump.
With Kanye West throwing his MAGA hat into the ring for 2020 — again, I’m assuming this is a Republican political operation and that Kanye is not going away — it should be clear to everyone that the myopic Democrats continue to misunderstand the American electorate and the media generally, and they’ve left themselves wide open to being outmaneuvered yet again.
Biden is the Democrat’s safe choice, but he’s also unquestionably, undoubtably, deeply, a member of the Democratic party.
And as I argued here, over one third of Americans—although they will admit to being left- or right-leaning — refuse to identify themselves with a political party. Why? Because they don’t like political parties.
Millions of Americans are screaming for a chance to vote for someone who’s not a party member, someone who stands up and says, like Donald Trump, that they’ve made their own way… that some people might say they’re crazy but at least they’re an independent thinker who hasn’t been brainwashed by the elite… and for a college dropout like Kanye West who has never voted in his life and who believes that chemicals in our toothpaste “affect our ability to be of service to God” this is 100 percent true; it is 100 percent dangerous to the Democratic party generally and candidate Biden in particular; and Trump, the Republicans, and Kanye all know it.
What the Republicans are trying to do is plain to see for anyone who’s paying attention.
Whether the Democrats can look up from their perpetual self-righteous gloating and react in time is another story entirely.