If you’ve already early voted, you may have noticed rapper Kanye West’s name on your ballot. Tennessee is one of 12 states where West actually made it onto the ballot as a presidential candidate. Michelle Tidball, a biblical life coach, is running alongside West as his vice presidential candidate.
West touted the possibility of a 2020 campaign in 2016 but was late to the game in announcing his official run this year, and he missed the deadline to qualify in most states.
I’M OFFICIALLY A WRITE-IN CANDIDATE IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND. VOTE KANYE. https://t.co/VVESmi75wN
— ye (@kanyewest) October 16, 2020
Even though West has legitimized his run with his appearance on official presidential ballots, it is unclear if voters view his campaign as a serious endeavor.
“I listen to all of his music. I’m a huge Kanye fan, but as a Kanye fan, you kind of have to take a lot of the things he says with a grain of salt,” said Zachary Childs, a junior marketing major at UT. “I’ve always separated his personal actions and feelings apart from his music because it’s like an actor in a movie. You can really enjoy a movie without liking every single author in said movie.”
However, the American public has shown before that it has no shame in voting for, or at least promoting, a nontraditional candidate; in 2016, American voters on Twitter stated that thousands of people were voting for or had voted for Harambe, a gorilla who was killed in the Cincinnati Zoo after attacking a child. Although the exact number of voters who wrote in Harambe’s name is unknown, it is unlikely that it is as high as Twitter claimed — around 11,000 votes.
And of course, voters have often given their votes to celebrities when the climate is right, such as in the cases of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump and Tennessee’s own former wrestler Glenn Jacobs.
As a religious person, West may appeal to southern voters in the Bible Belt. Additionally, he made his mark on East Tennessee by holding two Sunday Service concerts in Pigeon Forge earlier this year.
So, does Kanye have a chance at winning over his fans’ votes?
In an Instagram survey with 118 college-aged respondents, the majority of whom are from Tennessee, only two said they would consider voting for West for president — a mere 1.7%.
Despite Childs’ love for West’s artistry, he himself has no plans to vote for West for president. Childs explained that in his opinion, not only is West under qualified, but his political views also do not align with Childs’.
“I don’t want to waste my vote in such a pivotal election for sure, because this election is so important, and he’s just not qualified,” Childs said.
If West’s campaign is not taken seriously by even his fans, it’s hard to imagine that he will come anywhere close to securing the presidency. As such, West’s reasons for running a campaign that is futile are unclear.
Childs has heard rumors that West’s campaign is backed by other wealthy politicians in an attempt to divert African American votes away from Joe Biden.
“I don’t necessarily buy into that, but if it came out that that was the plan, and he was being backed by certain very wealthy Republicans, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Childs said.
Childs added that West is likely campaigning in an effort to remain relevant to pop culture.
“I would say he just wants to stay in the limelight. He hasn’t released a major production in a while. He is Kanye West. He’s always doing something to try to piss people off, make sure everyone’s talking about him, and it’s working,” Childs said. “He’s an absolutely household name. Sometimes I wish he would let the music speak for itself, but he’s obsessed with himself. He’s like the most obsessed with yourself you could be.”