In the beginning, it was safe to ignore Kanye West and his growing bromance with President Trump. After all, West is a performer, which makes it easy to discount his political talk, and he is married to a Kardashian, which, well, enough said.
But recent events demand attention. First came West’s Sept. 29 appearance on “Saturday Night Live,” where he rapped in his red Make America Great Again hat and praised Trump in a speech, most of which NBC cut from its telecast.
Then there was Thursday’s spectacle in the Oval Office. Once again, his stream-of-consciousness commentary veered from nonsense to common sense and included references to the 13th Amendment, which forbids slavery, and his feeling of being “programmed” as a black man to support only liberal politicians.
There was no denying those events were intriguing and entertaining, but I still didn’t regard any of it as politically significant — until the left-wing media went absolutely bonkers on him.
Their extraordinarily venomous and personal attacks on West reminded me of the left’s unhinged smears of Brett Kavanaugh and Trump.
Some sank to citing West’s documented mental health issues and many invoked his race in pejorative terms, making them especially outrageous.
A black anchor on CNN accused West of putting on a “minstrel show,” a black pundit on the same panel called him an “attention whore” and “the token Negro of the Trump administration.”
Another chipped in with, “Kanye West is what happens when Negroes don’t read.”
A black New York Times columnist said the White House scene was “white supremacy by ventriloquism” and a white MSNBC anchor called it “an assault on our White House.”
Whoa, Nellie. What nerve did he touch?
The first thing to notice are the double standards. If conservatives criticized a black liberal in those words, the liberal media would let loose a chorus of “racism” and demand that every Republican denounce the commentators.
But this time, it was the liberal media itself making the offensive comments, so Democratic politicians were not required to take a stand. Naturally, none did.
The willingness of individual voters to buck historic group trends is a hopeful sign. Fundamentally, America is a nation of free individuals, not of tribes or groups.
Yet it was the sheer volume of the hatred, and the uniformity of it, that really got my attention. What’s this really about?
My conclusion is that the outpouring of wrath suggests the answer. To wit, if Kanye West is important enough to be targeted by so many in the media for character assassination, he must also be dangerous.
And if he’s dangerous, it’s in the same way that conservative speakers are dangerous to college snowflakes. Any dissent from the ruling coercive liberalism might be contagious, and therefore must be silenced. Diversity of thought cannot be permitted.
So we can assume the left fears West could be a leading indicator that Trump’s appeal to the working and middle classes is cutting across racial barriers.
And precisely because Democrats are making a fetish of race, gender and identity politics, a prominent racial and cultural force like Kanye West leaving the fold could be the start of a movement toward conservative values. Which is why he must be silenced by any means necessary.
It may be too late, for there are clear reasons why he and others would dissent from the coercive orthodoxy. Consider that black unemployment has reached historic lows because of the Trump economic boom, and one report says about 800,000 more African-Americans have jobs now than had them at the end of Barack Obama’s presidency.
These changes are giving rise to new, confident voices such as Candace Owens, a black commentator and activist, who supported West and blasted his critics.
“The paradigm has shifted,” Owens said on Fox News. “Black conservatives will no longer be fearful. Black conservatives are willing to speak out. We are excited. It finally feels like it’s our time.”
It’s also possible, of course, that West is a one-off, a disrupter of no real political consequence. That would not be surprising given the hard facts of racial politics for the last 40 years.
Democrats, regardless of their race, generally count on getting upwards of 90 percent of the black vote. And the election of Obama seemed to seal party allegiance for years to come.
Black antipathy toward Trump was especially strong, stemming from his “birther” campaign against Obama. Many viewed the attempt to delegitimize the first black president as inherently racist, a view Obama did not discourage as he campaigned for Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s feuds with black athletes, especially LeBron James, also feed the negative narrative.
Not surprisingly, exit polls from the 2016 presidential contest showed Clinton getting about 89 percent of the black vote and Trump just 8 percent.
That dramatic tilt confirmed that black voters remain the most reliable group in the Dems’ coalition, outpacing Latinos and Jews, with those groups generally giving the party about 75 percent of their votes.
Still, recent polls show Trump gaining support among black voters, with his approval rating as high as 36 percent in an August Rasmussen survey. Others, including Gallup, show he has gained, but have him topping out in the low to mid-teens.
We will know more after the midterms, but I generally believe the willingness of individual voters to buck historic group trends is a hopeful sign. Fundamentally, America is a nation of free individuals, not of tribes or groups, and our republic is healthier when both parties are forced to compete for every vote.
Any vote taken for granted is a vote not earned and leaves politicians free to break their promises without suffering any consequences. Surely we’ve all had enough of that.
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