Kanye West broke the Internet this week after he came out of the political closet in support of President Trump.
It all began on Saturday when he praised black conservative Candace Owens by tweeting he “loved” the way she thinks. Of course, that sparked outrage among the Left. The Washington Post called Kanye an “alt-right darling” and critics questioned his mental health, while Owens was smeared for challenging conventional thought among liberals.
Amid the controversy, Kanye didn’t back down. In fact, he doubled down by going after the “thought police” and acknowledging how some people “don’t respect people for being themselves.” Then Kanye took it up a notch on Wednesday by expressing “love” for Trump and calling him his “brother.”
“Free thinkers don’t fear retaliation for your thoughts. The traditional thinkers are only using thoughts and words but they are in a mental prison. You are free. You’ve already won. Feel energized. Move in love not fear. Be afraid of nothing. You don’t have to agree with Trump but the mob can’t make me not love him. We are both dragon energy. He is my brother. I love everyone. I don’t agree with everything anyone does. That’s what makes us individuals. And we have the right to independent thought.,” Kanye tweeted. “And also I’m all the way out the sunken place. And I’m not scared anymore. I’m not scared of the media. I’m not scared of the past and I’m optimistic about the future. This tweet is in love not fear.”
His wife, Kim Kardashian, attempted damage control by forcing him to clarify that he doesn’t agree “100%” with the president. But not long after, Kanye tweeted a picture of himself wearing the Make America Great Again hat, which set Twitter on fire. He further shocked conservatives and liberals alike by slamming President Obama for inaction on the ongoing violence in Chicago during his eight years in office.
Obviously, the Right celebrated these tweets. Even President Trump called Kanye’s tweets “very cool” and his children Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump all cheered on from the sidelines. Despite her hesitation, Kardashian defended her husband as a “free thinker.”
West wasn’t the only public figure who faced the social media backlash this week. Canadian-born country superstar Shania Twain said during an interview that had she voted in the 2016 election she would have supported Donald Trump because despite being “offensive,” he “seemed honest.” And CBS Sports announcer and former NFL kicker Jay Feely shared a comedic photo of himself standing between his daughter and her prom date while holding a gun.
Both caved under pressure and apologized, while Kanye gave the mob the middle finger.
What’s amazing is that not only did Owens inspire West, West also inspired Chance the Rapper, who declared on Twitter that “black people don’t have to be Democrats.” It was a ripple effect.
Some have theorized that all of this was a giant publicity stunt ahead of West’s album release in June, but while conservatives embraced his pro-Trump tweets, many liberals in his existing fan base are rejecting him. He reportedly lost 9 million of his Twitter followers.
For years, West has said and done provocative things, from accusing former President George W. Bush of not caring about black people after Hurricane Katrina to interrupting Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. But in this political climate where civil discourse has been poisoned by tribalism, blind partisanship, and identity politics, he may shatter such polarization.
Two worlds are colliding. Kanye is an A-list celebrity in the liberal Hollywood bubble, and his tweets attempted to reach out to the Trump supporter bubble. In the process, he’s defending the freedom of thought and perhaps enlightening his fans by telling them they don’t have to hate President Trump like much of Hollywood does and that they could think for themselves.
The problem many people have on both sides of the aisle, and in this case the 9 million people who stopped following Kanye, is that they cannot handle those whose political beliefs differ from their own. Their closed-mindedness is its own form of bigotry, something often accused of Trump supporters.
In reality, no one should be shamed for how he views the president or who she voted for. If you voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, or even Jill Stein, that is perfectly okay. You shouldn’t be demonized for the way you voted.
He may not have asked for it, but West may be our last chance to rescue civil discourse in this country. Freedom of expression is becoming endangered on college campuses, in Hollywood, in the media, and online. Kanye could very well be the warrior for free thought that we desperately need. Let’s hope this marks the beginning of the restoration of decency and respect for one another and not the some false hope amid their decay.