When the White House mentioned that hip-hop artist Kanye West would be meeting with President Trump on Thursday, it was presented as a plan to discuss issues that are of great significance to many voters — jobs, prison reform and gun violence in Chicago, the hometown of the multi-platinum artist.
But in trying to draw attention to these issues, West, using profanity while discussing a broad range of subjects with little clarity, appeared to mainly draw attention to himself — and perhaps, specifically, how ill-equipped he is to discuss the issues he longed to address most.
CNN host S.E. Cupp appeared to allude to this when she said:
“I thought that was really sad. You had there a man who’s clearly not okay and a president willing to exploit that. And worse, really willing to exploit that under the auspices of race relations and black communities, joblessness, mental health — all the things that ended up in this bucket of issues that were sort of addressed in this free for all. I don’t know that any of them were very well served by this circus.”
Multiple people asked questions about West’s mental health and overall well-being, not primarily because of his politics as some conservatives have suggested, but because of his erratic stream of thought and his previously discussed bipolar diagnosis and opioid addiction. But a consistent question following the televised Oval Office meeting between the two reality-television stars was: Why did this happen?!
Well, Trump has given us a window into his embrace of the artist who has bragged about being a college dropout. Prior to Thursday’s meeting, Trump appeared on “Fox & Friends” and discussed what he perceived to be the impact of his relationship with West on black voters. He said:
“When Kanye came out very strongly a couple months ago, something happened — my polls went up 25 percent. Nobody’s ever seen it. He has a big following in the African American community. A big, big following.”
Trump’s approval rating with black voters has never been as high as 25 percent much less gone up 25 percentage points. And if there’s a hip-hop artist who has the power to move the black vote significantly, odds are it isn’t West, who speaks frequently about the negative pushback he has received from friends and family for embracing Trumpism. But Trump either does not understand this or does not care. Because he has shown an affinity to lending his ear to celebrities — even when trying to shape policies that help American citizens.
Perhaps radio host Charlemagne the God, who has interviewed West multiple times, has provided perhaps the most insightful look into who the rapper represents politically.
“Black people are not a monolith and Kanye West does not represent all black people," he said on MSNBC. ”I think that they’re both using each other in a way. I think he’s being misused just a little bit."
“Kanye West represents Kanye West; he doesn’t represent the whole African American community,” Charlemagne added.
Perhaps a private discussion between the two men led to more plans about ways Trump could improve the lives of black Americans, something most black voters do not believe the president has prioritized. But if anything specific came out of this lunch, it is not yet clear and at best, leaves black voters wondering whether West and Trump are more concerned with photo opportunities than genuinely making America great for all people.