The National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly seized on those remarks, seeing an opportunity to align Swift’s preferred candidate, former governor Phil Bredesen, with an elitist megastar. On Monday, it released a statement saying “multimillionaire pop star Taylor Swift came down from her ivory tower to tell hardworking Tennesseans to vote for Phil Bredesen.”
A day later, the White House announced that Kanye West, the hip-hop artist and vocal Trump supporter, would meet with President Trump and his son-in-law/senior adviser Jared Kushner there on Thursday. The two will reportedly discuss manufacturing jobs, criminal justice reform and violence in West’s native Chicago.
West primarily lives in Southern California with his wife, reality television star Kim Kardashian West, but was born and spent his formative years in Chicago. And he recently told a group of students that he is moving his family and his businesses back to the Windy City.
West has long been vocal about politics, notably making headlines for being so disappointed with President George W. Bush’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath that he said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a live fundraising concert. While he was criticized by the right following those statements, he has garnered praise from some conservatives for his unapologetic support for Trumpism.
Given Trump’s attraction to celebrities and their platform, it is believable that West could have some impact on the administration. Celebrities like Kardashian and Sylvester Stallone seem to have been effective in helping move Trump to making decisions. Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Johnson, a woman serving a life term for nonviolent offenses, after meeting with Kardashian. And Trump pardoned Jack Johnson, who was convicted of violating a Jim Crow-era law that made it illegal to transport a white woman across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose,” not long after Stallone called the president to discuss the late boxer’s life.
While one certainly doesn’t have to be an expert to be an advocate, it is not yet clear what West believes Trump should do to decrease gun violence in Chicago, a city that to many has become the face of urban gun violence. On Monday, Trump suggested Chicago implement “stop-and-frisk,” a controversial tactic allowing police officers to stop, question and frisk people they suspect may have committed a crime.
West has been vocal in his disappointment with President Barack Obama’s inability to significantly decrease violence in his adopted hometown. He once tweeted in April 2018 (before eventually deleting the tweet):
“Obama was in office for eight years and nothing in Chicago changed.”
West has gone into the fashion business in recent years, producing a well-received clothing line and popular athletic shoe called Yeezy. He, like Trump, does not appear to have clearly communicated a plan to manufacture more of his products in the United States. The Mirror reported last year that West’s shoes are made in China by employees working long hours, six days a week, for little pay.
Following Swift sharing that she found Blackburn’s record problematic, Trump told reporters that the artist “does not know anything about her.”
He added, “Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25 percent less now, okay?”
After West, who has criticized black voters for supporting Democrats, reminded “Saturday Night Live” viewers last month of his support for Trump, the president went on Twitter to ask again why more black voters don’t support him.
So if African-American unemployment is now at the lowest number in history, median income the highest, and you then add all of the other things I have done, how do Democrats, who have done NOTHING for African-Americans but TALK, win the Black Vote? And it will only get better!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2018
Regardless of the meeting’s outcome, it is clear that the relationship between West and the president that first became public when the artist met with Trump shortly after the 2016 presidential election at Trump Tower is continuing despite the criticism West has attracted.
It will be worth noting how the president and the party that regularly attacks celebrities as being out-of-touch Hollywood elites responds to entertainers as we get closer to the midterms and the presidential election that follows.