The Rules Change

There's Two Parties, Any You're Not Invited

In 2016 when Kanye West ran for office people didn't really take it seriously at first. Initially it seemed like some sort of branding exercise or yet another attention seeking maneuver. It wasn't long though before he kicked things off with something about the "government not caring about black people" that grabbed his core supporters attention. Every talking head experts assumed he was just not a viable option for winning the presidency and that he would be filtered out in the primaries when the pragmatic party decided that it ultimately wanted to win. What people didn't consciously perceive was the media machine promptly spinning into action with wall to wall coverage of the spectacular show this divisive egotistical spectacle was providing.

He just didn't sound like the other politicians, an untrusted profession that almost everyone was tired of in their own way. For those that were onboard with Kanye's statements they resonated. This was a person who was from their side of the identity politics divide, who might not sound polished, but was saying what mattered to them. For those opposed they could not believe what the country had come to. Couldn't the other people see that this person was awful?

This person who thinks and makes the world revolve around him, with his shallow family of socialites spinning coin off the family's branding empire. When he cleared the primaries and people realised they had to choose between a serious traditional politician and him things got really surreal. From the beginning 1/3 of the country was onboard, 1/3 were bemused and 1/3 were appalled. As usual in a two party state nothing much changed after the campaign got underway. It didn't seem to matter what he said, it was that he said something, dominating the media coverage and conversations around the election with an ego and celebrity that had never been seen before. The whole show was Kanye 2016 and everyone ate it up. Was he for real? Does he know that he's doing? Is he really like this when no-one else is around? Do the people around him ever tell him no?

When caught lying, saying something that made no sense or not acting presidental there was never an apology. Not one step back or admission of fault for his actions in the past or present. Although at the heart of things people knew something wasn't right about the guy it didn't matter because he had stumbled across a niche, the combined power of the people who agreed with his politics and the people who loathed what the political class had done to their country. Time and time again people underestimated the force that the media hype machine had created regardless of if the coverage was positive or negative.

On election night in November the supporters couldn't believe their luck, the opposition couldn't believe their luck. The only good thing positive anyone could say was the country transitioned power without descending into the anarchy of a banana republic. Is this what we had come to? A country ruled by a rich oligarch that was a household name but that didn't riot when something had gone horribly wrong?

At the end of everything traditional politicians and their focus on winning over the country suddenly didn't seem so bad, because the identity politics of the celebrity era didn't really look like an improvement.