On Sunday, Kanye West held a presidential campaign rally at the Exquis Event Center in North Charleston, South Carolina. The event was as hastily thrown together and indecipherable as the news cycle leading up to it, which was defined by days of will-he-won't-he speculation on the rapper's political ambitions.
The rally, which lasted for an hour and was captured on video by The Sun, did not leave us with any more concrete ideas about West's theoretical White House run. It appears to be on shaky ground in a practical sense: his attempt to round up enough signatures to get on the South Carolina ballot was a failure. Just last week, a get-out-the-vote specialist hired by West named Steve Kramer said the rapper was dropping out of the race, but West's campaign was revived days later when he submitted a Statement of Candidacy to the FEC.
Ideologically, West's political persona does not fair much better. His Forbes interview gave us some insight: anti-vaccines, anti-abortion, and pro-running the White House like the Black Panther kingdom of Wakanda. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these positions did not result in a groundswell of support: a poll suggested that West would only gather 2% of the vote.
It is tempting to ignore West's presidential run. It may be a promotional tool for his upcoming album DONDA (which he teased on Sunday with a since-deleted tweet), but after viewing this rally, I don't believe that's the full story. Similarly, armchair psychiatry is poisonous and provides no insight. Kanye West is attempting to do something around the 2020 presidential election, and our politically engaged, thoughtful readers deserve as much information and context around it as possible. Even if West's positions change tomorrow — and they likely will — their discussions at a political rally and the key points are worthy of a spotlight. For that, read on:
He cast himself as a prophet
West acknowledged that his speech could have a negative effect on his business ventures, but claimed: "When God calls Moses, he has to leave his comfy job... to free the people."
He expressed support for undocumented workers
"There's no such thing as an illegal immigrant... People that have been working here and supporting the world, then they need the opportunity for their freedom... for the country that they've worked for," he said.
He reiterated his opposition to abortion using his own wife's experience, broke down crying, then said everyone who had a baby would get $1 million
West kicked off a portion of the speech about Planned Parenthood (which he previously accused of genocide) with a joke about Kim Kardashian calling him crying and praying he didn't give her AIDS. It didn't get better from there. I won't repeat what West said about Kardashian in this context, because she likely did not consent to him revealing such a deeply personal story. West at one point acknowledges the possibility of Kardashian divorcing him because of the speech.
Kanye West crying on stage at his campaign event in South Carolina pic.twitter.com/GsHAnZQG1c— STRAPPED | Hip-Hop/Rap Updates (@STRAPPEDUS) July 19, 2020
West then revisited his mother's decision not to have an abortion. "My mom saved my life," he said of Dr. Donda West. "My dad wanted to abort me... there would have been no Kanye West, because my dad was too busy." West begins to weep and wail "I almost killed my daughter," referring to North West.
These anecdotes led West to his point: he wants pay everyone $1 million per child. "My stance is not to make abortion illegal at all. it should always be legal... but there should always be an option of ‘maximum increase’ should be available. ‘Maximum increase’ would be everybody who haves a baby gets a million dollars."
He downplayed Harriet Tubman's contribution to abolition
In one of his more toxic statements of the evening, West insisted that Tubman's liberation of slaves was insufficient because they didn't become business owners. “Harriet Tubman never actually freed the slaves. She just had the slaves go work for other white people.” The remark prompted outrage from the audience, with one member remarking "Come on, Kanye."
Kanye West: “Harriet Tubman actually never freed the slaves. She just took them to work for other white people.” pic.twitter.com/rFB5X0bTC6— Alex Salvi (@alexsalvinews) July 19, 2020
He swore a lot
Around the release of his gospel album Jesus Is King, West promised that he was done with swearing both in his music and his personal life. It's safe to say from the rally that this conviction has lapsed.
He acknowledged global white supremacy
"We understand that we live in a white supremacist world, and until that is equalized," he said, "people stand on rights that make them more equal."
He promised to release those incarcerated on weed charges
"Everyone in jail for marijuana will be free," he claimed.
He accused an audience member of being a TMZ operative
The end of the rally devolved into an unintelligible mess of competing voices. At one point, West took it out on one person in particular: "You are a Black person sent by TMZ to fuck my rally up." The person's face covering, likely a precaution against the coronavirus, was used against them as well by West. "You're covering your face up so we don't even know who you are." Another heckler in the back of the audience was escorted out by security.
He claimed he wouldn't use his faith to oppress anyone
“I am not going to pacify you with things that I don’t believe in, but I will not put laws on things that you do believe in... I am not that kind of Christian," West insisted. "Jesus loves everybody."