Just let Kanye be Kanye

The mainstream press is reporting that Kanye West has abandoned conservatism and turned on Trump.

Here is one of his tweets:

Some conservatives are chagrined and angry, given that it comes off as a rebuke after an impressive gathering of young black conservative leaders in Washington, and the issue itself revolves around the design of a political slogan, "blexit," and a t-shirt.

Leftists, meanwhile, are mocking and gleeful.  What a wonderful comeuppance for conservatives, to think a black superstar could see anything out there the same way they do.  More proof he's erratic and mentally ill.

Lots of talk about him conning them or them conning him.

None of these arguments is really getting it right.  Kanye hasn't clearly abandoned conservatives and in fact has made it clear he hasn't abandoned his "dragon brother," President Trump in particular.

He's just doesn't want to get into politics.

I could see that right away as well-intentioned political activists tried to pigeonhole him as one of them, pushing him just a little too hard, with t-shirts and baseball hat designs explicitly about leaving one party and joining another.  That's pretty sharp political stuff, and typically, it's the kind of thing done by B-list celebrities who want to get their names in the news, such as Alyssa Milano.  The A-listers, particularly those with large business interests, such as Kanye, don't get that deep into the rah-rah political weedscapes, although some make their political leanings known.  Can you see Robert Redford or Jessica Alba, both of whom probably lean left and, like Kanye, have large commercial empires on the side, doing that?  I can't.

I get the feeling Kanye just didn't want to get sucked in.  It's not that he hates these people, it's just that it's not something he's good at.

He's famous for being independent and eccentric, and his going over to Trump probably did express something he felt politically, as well as an independence of spirit, but it was probably also a personal thing, given that despite Trump's fiery rhetoric, up close, Trump has a reputation for being kind and cordial, and he certainly was to Kanye.

Over at the Stanford Daily, a talented lefty freshman writer, Layo Laniyan, has a reasonably good take on what Kanye is like:

Yet, at the same time, it was quintessentially Kanye. He has persistently strived to be contrarian, rebelling against expectations of him based on his identity.  His individualism has been a hallmark of his career.  It is manifest in his music, from his defiant arrogance on "Can't Tell Me Nothing" to his performative claims to ascendancy on "Power."  He promotes his singularity as part of his brand, but in recent years, this quality has mutated into a misinformed egoism, a stubborn myopia.  His longing to rise above his current station on "I'll Fly Away" became egotism on "Dark Fantasy," which then mutated into a grandiose claim to transcendence on "I Am A God."  The latest chapter in this development is his current "free thinker" phase.  But the truth is that none of this is new.  Rather, this moment – his support of Trump's Make America Great Again platform, his alignment with black conservatives and his off-the-cuff tweets – is the most recent, mutated manifestation of a long-winded discussion in the black community of what it means to be black and "individual."

Meanwhile, instead of laugh at him for being an eccentric celeb, Trump did take him seriously and gave him the time of day.  He also did good things for Kanye, given that he issued a pardon for an unjustly sentenced prisoner who was championed by his wife, Kim Kardashian.  And Kanye forced TMZ to issue a correction on its reporting since it suggested otherwise.  Here's TMZ's "update":

4:15 PM PT -- Kanye contacted us to make it clear he did not mention Donald Trump in his tweets, and he's getting out of politics altogether.

As for being "used" ... he says he was specifically referencing Blexit, and that's it.

Kanye doesn't hate Trump.  He just didn't want to be mixed up with politics.

And why should he be? He's an entertainer.  Is an entertainer supposed to be political?  Do we enjoy every entertainment awards show being made political now?  Do we want every singer to spout politics like the Dixie Chicks or become activists like that Judd woman?  Did Taylor Swift do herself any favors with her idiotic endorsement of a minor Tennessee Democrat who's likely to lose anyway?  We all know how bad it usually looks on B-list actors (and inexperienced A-listers) who do it, and if you can briefly suspend revulsion at it virtually always being left-wing politics, it's also at least partially that way because it's not something they really have a feel for.  We marvel, in fact, at the ignorant and stupid things celebrities say when they go over the political line and express their left-wing political views – not just because they are so left-wing, but because they are so out of touch.  They're out of touch because they live in a celebrity bubble, and being youthful and isolated, they tend not to know much about either human nature or how power works.  They just come off as naïve idiots because they really don't know what they are talking about.

Well, perhaps it's the same for Kanye.  As a celeb, his political sharpness is naturally going to be a little underdeveloped, given that he lives in a celebrity bubble, too.

He's also an artsy guy.  When you are in arts or design, politics looks so, so, so small, and as an artist, you try hard to not let politics en-smallen (yes, I mean diminish) your work.  The lefty artists I work with at times are the only lefties I know who don't flinch when they learn of my political views. It's not an issue when the issue is art. An authentic artist such as Michael Ramirez, the well-known political cartoonist, gets along perfectly well with a left-wing cartoonist like Ted Rall in a professional setting.  Even Gabriel García Márquez, a far-left Castro lover, but nevertheless a literary lion, never let his hideous political views ever contaminate his work – which is why it's art that stays art.  This brings us to Kanye, who has an artsy commercial empire of sorts in addition to his music, premised on the songs he raps and kinds of clothes he likes to design.  That makes him at a minimum a creative type, and his statement that he wants to get away from politics and go back to creating is rather credible.  Eric Hoffer noted that genuinely creative people always shrink from mass movements, while artists whose creativity is either substandard or dried up are perfect recruits for leading mass movements.  Obviously, Kanye remains an artist with more creativity in him, and the black conservative movement in Washington has the characteristics of a mass movement, if in fact a very good one.  But they don't intersect very well.

So there's no reason for conservatives to get angry at Kanye, or to imagine that he's betrayed them, or anything like that.  He hasn't said anything bad about us.  He's even stepped up to warn the left that he wasn't abandoning President Trump.  It's just that the politics thing doesn't feel good on him.

He can be appreciated for his independent thought and in opening the door to other black people to launch their own independent thought outside the narrowly prescribed identity politics of the Democrats.  It's a rotten fence that has long needed kicking over.  But it is also necessary to just let Kanye be Kanye.

Image credit: Sean Howell via DeviantArtCC BY-SA 3.0.

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