Growing up, I distinctly recall being told there were two political parties and two choices for president. When I was nine, it was either Ronald Reagan or Walter Mondale. At 13, it was either George H.W. Bush or Michael Dukakis.
As I grew older and began taking my Catholic faith more seriously, I became extremely annoyed that both parties had horrific policies. I couldn’t vote for Democrats because of their indefatigable support for a so-called right to abortion. Although I ended up voting for George W. Bush in 2000 entirely out of concern for prenatal justice, I hated his party’s position on the death penalty, health care, and immigration.
Today I look back at that vote with embarrassment. His first term launched the United States into two unwinnable wars, which brought more mass killing. Then this summer, I watched as the person he nominated for Supreme Court chief justice voted against even the thinnest and most reasonable of abortion restrictions: holding those facilities to the same regulatory standards as similar outpatient surgical clinics.
What Choice Do We Have in 2020?
Now in 2020, we are about to embark on the home stretch of a presidential election cycle in which the candidates from the two major parties are borderline incompetent. Neither President Donald Trump nor former Vice President Joe Biden has the tools at this stage to run an Arby’s, much less the executive branch of the U.S. government. More importantly, neither are shining examples of character and morality, with Trump’s salacious past and Biden’s policy platform directly contradicting core tenets of the faith.
Does 2020 offer an opportunity for faithful and orthodox Christians to break out of the duopoly? The answer to this question is significantly more complex than one might think. One reason, as astonishing as it might seem, is Kanye West.
Already on the ballot in several key states, including Ohio and Colorado, and likely to appear on several more, including swing states like Wisconsin, West appears to be a spoiler candidate who can shine a white-hot spotlight on how both major parties refuse to respond to the actual views of African Americans.
Kanye West Cares About the Things That Matter
One of those views is a deep, abiding, and at times awe-inspiring faith in Jesus Christ, which has been at the center of West’s campaign from the beginning. Choosing a Christian preacher from Wyoming as his running mate, West leads his campaign message on his website with “Creating a Culture of Life.”
His first campaign principle reads, “Restore faith and revive our Constitutional commitment to freedom of religion and the free exercise of one’s faith, demonstrated by restoring prayer in the classroom including spiritual foundations.” A Psalm 78 quote follows: “We will not hide the truth from our children, but will declare to the next generation His praises and wonder.”
Other campaign goals involve reducing household and student debt, restructuring education with the most vulnerable in mind, avoiding foreign wars and quagmires, reforming policing to treat all races the same, changing sentencing guidelines, taking care of the environment and prioritizing renewable energy, supporting faith-based groups in providing local services, and strengthening creativity and the arts. West grounds each goal in a quote from Scripture.
When his “Jesus is King” album came out — which debuted at No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard 200, with all 11 tracks charting in the top 100 — I wrote that few understood better than West how deeply the broader culture feels about the issues of abortion and pornography, and that the “freedom” offered by American-style consumerism often produces slavery instead.
While West doesn’t boast any serious presidential qualifications, he is one of the few people willing to tell the truth about abortion, rightly describing Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities as mechanisms of violent white supremacy. In a July campaign event in South Carolina, West movingly spoke of himself as an abortion survivor. His father wanted to kill him via abortion, and only a strong mother was able to save his life. This situation repeated itself again when West thought about abortion for his own daughter, with his wife being the one to save his daughter’s life.
“I almost killed my daughter,” West screamed to the crowd, tears streaming down his face.
It might be that West is one of many millions of people in the United States who have mental illness, but the truth of this pain cannot be reduced to that. It is a profound pain, disproportionately felt in vulnerable communities — in the Bronx, where I work, nearly half of all pregnancies end in abortion — to which West is finally giving voice in our culture.
Play the Long Game at the Ballot Box
Skeptics, especially those focused on how power works in the District of Columbia, will no doubt say that voting for West constitutes fanciful thinking that cannot actually affect the real world. In this current moment of cultural and political realignment, however, some conservatives are asking serious questions about whether it is time to burn down the Republican Party. On the other side, a woke, extremist fringe is holding the Democratic Party completely hostage.
These two parties cannot survive long, at least in their current form, and should not command the support of anyone — to say nothing of the support of traditional Christians.
The rejoinder to this is that most people aren’t voting for particular parties or candidates anyway. They are voting against parties they perceive to be the greater evil. Aside from wrecking our souls, this tendency to define ourselves by opposition to others is destructive of our politics as well. Rather than allowing ourselves to be trapped in cycle-to-cycle political thinking, now is the time for voters, especially traditional Christians, to take a medium-term approach to their votes for president this November.
Kanye West won’t get enough votes to be president, but he might get enough votes to create the conditions whereby Christians can be heard in a meaningful way in national politics. Falling prey to the oldthink of legacy parties does nothing but aid their attempts to run out the clock on this realignment.
It’s time to free ourselves from the vicious political cycle created by a cynical duopoly, a duopoly that cares nothing for the least among us who bear the face of Christ, but only about preserving itself. As Christ himself reminds us in Matthew 25, it is the protection and support of the least among us which reveals our own salvation. It is time to act authentically and without half-measures on their behalf — even if that means waiting more than a few months to see the results of our actions.