Kanye’s unholy alliance with Donald Trump and right-wing pundits was cemented yesterday after he called Trump “his brother” and posted a picture of himself wearing one of the infamous Make America Great Again hats, which is as demonstrative as rocking Kanye’s $500 Yeezys when it comes to pledging allegiance to an idol. Some may have held out hope that Kanye was “trolling” or merely fishing for publicity for his upcoming music when he co-signed conservative commentator Candace Owens last weekend, but his infantile conflation of “free thought” with restrictive Republican pathology seems dead serious.
Even if Kanye tries to double back and proclaim this week’s tweetstorm a practical joke or performance art, it will be hard to shake rid of the right wingers he’s made bedfellows with such as Owens, Alex Jones, and Trump himself. The President tweeted Kanye twice today — surely enjoying the chance to shift attention from his ongoing FBI investigation.
If the alliance between the Knowles-Carter clan and the Obamas was about a coalescence of grace and cool, West and Trump’s union is about unflinching narcissism and the startling efficacy of exploiting your cult of celebrity for personal gain. Both Trump and Kanye’s peace of mind thrives on their self-absorption, and their supporters have unwittingly fed their egos while buying into their personas.
Kanye went from an in-house producer who no one believed could rap into one of the beloved artists of all time, releasing music steeped in the influence of Black music — while idolizing European culture every step of the way. Trump transitioned from a New York yuppie turned reality star into the so-called “leader of the free world” who manipulated a base of rural, Middle American voters into believing he would carry out their best interests.
Trump is now doing the same thing to Kanye. The normally verbose President’s curt “Thank you Kanye, very cool!” and “MAGA!” tweets in response to Kanye’s commendations might as well have been accompanied by a video of him making a pat-on-the-head motion. The patronizing tweets were as cringeworthy as photos of Kanye with Ralph Lauren or holding fashion designer Peter Dundas‘ plate while he ate off of it.
Trump knows that having a Black entertainer like Kanye in his corner is an easy way for him to continue to normalize his way of thinking — and give his supporters a simplistic talking point to refute the very real notion that Trump’s policies are corrosive to Black America. But it’s not just about “the Blacks,” as Trump deemed Black Americans. Kanye has a fanbase of Mexicans, Muslims, trans and undocumented people who have been in Trump’s sights with fascist policies. Kanye basically spat in all of their faces when he donned a MAGA hat — but he’s too oblivious to care. Siding with Trump is merely an opportunity to court attention and persuade his remaining fans into believing his push for “independent thought” is another stroke of genius, similar to wearing the Confederate Flag because “any energy is good energy.”
Watching Kanye’s former fans despondently tweet that they had to figuratively wipe their hands of him reminded me of Trump supporter’s first realizations that the person they voted into office had the likelihood of hurting them with his retrograde healthcare policies. Both poor Trump supporters and ardent Kanye fans might be asking themselves: What were we thinking?