Celebrity

Wait, Can Kanye West *Actually* Run For President?

Either way, we probably shouldn’t joke about it

Well friends, we’re officially in the bad place. As if the year 2020 could get more bizarre, on July 5 Kanye West announced that he’s running to become president of the United States. “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future,” the rapper tweeted. “I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION.”

This isn’t the first time West has shared his desire to run for the highest office in the United States: The mogul first announced he’d run for the position at the 2015 Video Music Awards, before announcing in 2016 that he’d run in 2024. But with election campaigns ramping up and the IRL November election date rapidly approaching, this latest announcement feels the most purposeful.

But, we have so many questions. For instance: Are you even able to enter the race this late? Who’s endorsing West? And also, can West—a rapper and fashion designer with no political experience—actually run to become president of the U.S.A? It turns out that the answer to the latter is yes, but that doesn’t mean that it’ll actually happen. Here’s why.

First of all, it doesn’t seem like he’s *actually* making a bid

While West may have announced that he’s running for president, unfortunately for him, tweeting your intention to run doesn’t automatically put you on the ballot. Unlike The Wizard of Oz, West can’t just tap his heels three times and become a candidate, it actually takes a lot of hard work—and work that West doesn’t appear to have done, at least yet. “There’s different ways that you can run for president,” says Matthew Lebo, chair of the political science department at Western University in London, Ont. “If you’re not a Democrat or Republican, [a candidate] could try to get the nomination of a small party, but there’s no evidence he’s trying to do that. Or he could try to get on the ballot as an independent candidate—[but] I haven’t seen anything that shows that he’s doing that either.”

In fact, as of publication the tweet is still the *only* thing fans and Americans have to go off of when it comes to the validity of their *potential* future president. West seems to have yet to fill out the serious *mountains* of paperwork it takes to legitimately get your name on a ballot so people can, you know, vote for you (unless you encourage people to write in your name on election day, which Lebo, whose research focuses on U.S. elections and the presidency, says West may very well do, and according to The Outline, is actually pretty easy to do).

West is also missing one of the most telling—and critical signs—of a legit presidential run: a website. “When I Google ‘Kanye West for president,’ I see stories about [his] tweet,” Lebo says. “I don’t see a website; which is usually a good place where presidential candidates start. They have a website where they say: ‘this is what I’m doing’ or they launch a campaign or they give a speech. It’s more than 280 characters.”

And if he decides to, he will face some restrictions

While it seems unlikely from the lack of paperwork and actual work put in thus far that West will legitimately run for office, if he does actually decide to, he’ll have a few administrative barriers to work aroundTo name a few, the rapper will have to a) register with the Federal Election Commission, b) present a campaign platform and c) collect enough signatures to get on the November ballot. Which is no easy feat. If candidates want to run as independents they need to file in individual states to have their names put on that state’s ballot, and West has already missed the deadline to file in six states, including North Carolina, Texas and New York. While Lebo says theoretically it’s still possible for a person to get themselves on the ballot in states that haven’t passed the filing deadline, “it takes more than just asking, ‘hey, can you put my name on the ballot?'” He says, “You need a number of signatures from people who want you on the ballot. Even in states where the [filing] deadlines haven’t passed, some of them are very soon; so he’d have to collect thousands and thousands of signatures in a few days in different states.”

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And serious candidates, like an established governor or senator, would be thinking and planning for a presidential run years before it actually happens. “They’d start seriously laying the groundwork about two years before the election,” Lebo says of the process. This might include putting together an exploratory committee, which according to CNN is “a vehicle by which candidates for federal office can ‘test the waters’ of a bid before officially entering a race,” in order to gauge public interest and support in the potential candidate before making a formal announcement of candidacy. During this time, potential candidates may also build organizations and start raising money. “They may not announce that they’re running for president for awhile, but they are doing it, they’re just sort of doing it unofficially,” Lebo says. “And then the most serious candidates announce in the summer of the year before an election year.” Which means for the 2020 election, Lebo notes, we knew by July of 2019 who exactly was running for president. Almost eighteen months before the actual November 2020 election.

And while it may seem like overkill when it comes to planning, as Lebo points out, there are good reasons these candidates have to start early. When a candidate announces their presidential bid 18 months before the IRL general election, it’s actually only six or seven months away from the New Hampshire primary in February—a historically important election in which registered Democrat and Republican voters cast ballots in order to whittle down the large pool of candidates in their party and choose the candidate for the party’s nomination by voting through secret ballot. While a strong turnout by voters at the primaries doesn’t necessarily dictate whether the respective candidates will go on to represent their parties all the way at the general election, per Newsweek, a strong showing at the primaries can lead to a bump in campaign funds, media attention and momentum for a candidate.

So it’s pretty freakin’ important. “You can’t win the presidency if you’re not running early,” Lebo says, frankly. He points to former New York City Mayor and 2020 Presidential Candidate Mike Bloomberg as an example.  “[He] waited and waited and waited and then jumped in [around] February or March, and that didn’t work. So a guy with $60 billion and name recognition still couldn’t go anywhere entering the race let’s say four months ago. So let’s say Kanye West has less credibility, less money and less time than Michael Bloomberg. I don’t expect anything to come of it.”

But we shouldn’t necessarily joke about his announcement, regardless

Despite the fact that it’s hard to imagine West making an actual bid for the oval office, that doesn’t mean that we should make his announcement into a joke—or not take it somewhat seriously. First of all, because the last time the States had a celebrity run for president, people didn’t take it seriously enough. And said celeb is now the actual president. And we know how that has turned out (terribly, it’s been terrible).

But also, because the upcoming election is an incredibly important one; especially for people who want a change in leadership. Some social media users have questioned whether West’s announcement might in fact be a political tactic, meant to draw younger voters away from Democratic nominee Joe Biden. It’s a theory that Lebo notes as a possibility as well, albeit a cynical one. “Kanye West has gone to the White House and has said that he’s a big fan of Donald Trump and worn his Make America Great Again hat,” he notes. And while Lebo says he doesn’t know whether or not this was coordinated with the Trump campaign, and obviously can’t delve into West’s psychology behind his announcement, “one possibility is that [West] thinks that this might help Donald Trump or Donald Trump thinks that it might help Donald Trump, and that might be where it comes from. The idea that, well, here’s a Black man who says he’s running for president. And so that should get other Black Americans to vote for him. And if that were to happen, maybe that drains some of the votes for Joe Biden.”

Which, if true, is pretty harmful. “Young voters [probably] know Kanye West’s name a lot better than Joe Biden’s. And where American politics has been messed up their entire adult lives, maybe they don’t see the election as serious as it is. [They may think], well, I don’t like either of these two old people, I know who Kanye West is; let’s vote this way as a joke. But if you want to get rid of Donald Trump, Joe Biden needs every vote.”

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And even if West’s announcement isn’t legit, it can still be unintentionally harmful. Let’s be honest, West’s latest announcement is probably a publicity stunt meant to generate buzz around an upcoming project or his recent deal with Gap, but the fact remains that whether or not he officially gets his name on a ballot, people are probably now going to vote for him—or at least write his name in on election day.

“People write in names, that happens in every election,” Lebo says. These names—often written in as a form of protest or wasting a ballot to say the individual doesn’t support any of the choices—could run anywhere from actual presidential hopefuls like Jeb Bush to celebs like Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse. “So if [West] did absolutely nothing to actually run for president, but kept tweeting out to his millions of followers, ‘hey, write my name on the ballot,’ then he might get some people who write his name on the ballot on election day.'” But fear not, as Lebo points out, “a state would have to be awfully, awfully close for the people who write in his name to matter.”

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So, it’s highly unlikely that our neighbours to the south will be inaugurating  President Kanye West come January 2021…. But just in case, to our American friends: When it comes to election day, please leave Kanye on your election pump-up playlist and off your ballot.

FLARE was unable to reach West’s publicist for comment.