If Kanye Somehow Stays in the Presidential Race, It'll Hurt Trump, Not Biden

Illustration for article titled If Kanye Somehow Stays in the Presidential Race, It'll Hurt Trump, Not Biden
Photo: SEBASTIAN SMITH (Getty Images)

“No, I don’t have any bottled water” was my reply, 12 years ago, when two women—one of whom I was dating; the other was her friend—visited my apartment for the first time.


I’d just offered the friend some Kool-Aid, and she looked at me like I’d just offered her a glass of elephant backwash, and said: “Nigga, you still drinking Kool-Aid?” The woman I was dating, sensing the white-hot judgment from her girl for dating a still-drinking-Kool-Aid-ass-nigga, tried to pivot and asked if I had any bottled water. But what she didn’t realize is that there’s literally zero overlap between the “making a batch of Kool-Aid every day and offering it to guests” population and the “Aquafina-having” population. So the friend stayed thirsty, but I was so thoroughly Kool-Aid shamed that I haven’t bought any since.

Anyway, I was thinking about that this morning when thinking about Kanye West. I’ve been intentional with not writing things about his erratic behavior this summer, because I just don’t have the breadth of knowledge about bipolar disorder to do it in a way I believe it needs to be done. So I nod to people like Bassey Ikpi, who does. And she has also expressed, repeatedly, that people like her—who deal with bipolar disorder—are reading and watching the discourse about Kanye with a close and fearful curiosity; worried that we’d be as dismissive with their struggles as some of us are with his.

So this, today, isn’t about what’s happening in Kanye’s head. Instead, it’s about the bad and dumb belief that him running for president hurts Joe Biden and helps President Trump. Which is based on the assumption that Kanye would take some Black votes from Biden, and is also (more) proof that not enough people in politics and mainstream American media actually know Black Americans. Not know of. But know.

Now, I won’t claim to know every Black person. Between friends and family and acquaintances, I probably personally know like 1,200. There are way more Black people I don’t know than Black people I do! Like a million in Detroit alone! I went to Essence Fest in 2018, and there were a million people there, but I only personally knew like 70! But I don’t need to personally know every Black person to know Black people. To know us. And if you know us, you’d also know that any Black person who’d decide, in the most important election of our lifetimes—an election that’ll happen during a motherfucking global pandemic—to don a mask, stand in line, sign their name, get to the booth, and cast a vote for Kanye Omari West, belongs to one of two categories:

1. People who have literally never voted before, but will now because Kanye’s on the ballot. For them, the choice isn’t vote for Kanye or Biden. It’s vote for Kanye or stay home and watch a House Hunters marathon. These people don’t matter.


2. Idiot contrarian niggas who are obsessed with not being “sheep” and “playing chess, not checkers.” They’re the people who say things like “the Democratic plantation” and “I’d rather get a text from Jay-Z than $500,000, cause I’ll flip that text into millions.” If you know us, you know them, and hopefully, you abhor them as much as I do.

Trump’s Black “base” is mostly Black men, and this category of potential Kanye voters is part of it. These people are never voting for Biden, and a Kanye ticket siphons these votes from Trump.


We know that the majority of people who plan to vote for Joe Biden in November aren’t voting for Biden but to get Trump the fuck out. No one—not even Joe Biden himself—is excited about a Biden presidency, and Black people planning to support him are doing so because of the gravity of the situation. A vote for someone who has no chance of winning, which Kanye West doesn’t, is a throwaway vote. And a Black person concerned enough about the dire as fuck stakes to consider Biden isn’t going to vote Kanye instead. Of course, there might be some outliers, but there’s no significant overlap between Black people who plan to vote for Biden and Black people who’d vote for Kanye.


But please don’t share any of this with the Republicans trying to get him on ballots. If fact, pretend you didn’t read this! Actually, “this” doesn’t even exist! Would you like some Kool-Aid?

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



Thank you!

Also please explain the cognitive dissonance between the election pedestal Black women have been put on for our almost preternatural ability to drive turnout, with the hyperventilating over this sad sick man being used by the republicans.

I’ll have some red kool-aid.