Why We Shouldn’t Blindly Lash Out At Folks That Invoke Trump
Scapegoating Kanye West doesn’t help
“I would have voted for Trump” is the new shot heard round the world. It’s too bad a sound bite like that is bound to be irrelevant in 24 hours. You’d think we’d have learned our lesson: that you always have to look at the broader context. The big picture.
If you paid attention to Kanye’s Sacramento rant, you’d see that yes, Ye beefed with Hillary Clinton, but he beefed with basically every single famous person he could think of, from his big brother Jay Z to Mark Zuckerberg.
He also dealt with serious emotional burdens this past November. After all, November 10 marked the ninth anniversary of the passing of his mother, Donda West, and November 20 marked the same anniversary of her burial in Oklahoma City.
On top of these painful memories, the superstar has been dealing with a multitude of other sources of stress. For instance, West has been so physically exhausted due to endless touring that he had to cancel his show on November 3. Furthermore, the guy continues to deal with the emotional aftermath of his wife’s gunpoint robbery.
By the night of the San Jose concert, the name “Trump” had already become a trigger with 15 months’ worth of anger, fear, and strife backing it up. Now, in the midst of our collective post-traumatic stress disorder, one of our cultural icons seems to have given up on us. It’s hard to imagine that even Kanye was eager to normalize Trump.
Trump Led Hysteria
And, if you’ve been paying attention to any post-election coverage, anger has been fired in every direction. It’s been fired at people who’ve had nothing to do with Trump’s victory. It’s been fired between groups that are supposed to be allies.
Mark Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, blames Trump’s victory on identity liberalism. Millennials get angry at Lilla for being an insensitive “Whitesplainer.” One camp of the media denounces the rest of the media for normalizing Trump. Other publications butt into the conversation, saying that this fear of normalization is just making things worse. The liberal media seems to have immobilized itself in a continual fit of finger-pointing hysteria.
When one watches this misdirected anger, Trump’s victory becomes easily comprehensible. For the past 15 months, Trump has relentlessly plowed forward, riled up as many undecided voters as possible, and has not worried at all about contradictions. After all, none of his voters cared about his actual platforms. A huge swath of Americans just had a good feeling about Trump—that he would “shake things up.”
On the other hand, internal factions of liberal America can’t agree on the most basic items on their agenda. Judging from Clinton’s mountainous lead in the popular vote, there is enough anti-Trump sentiment in America to generate an unstoppable force if these liberal camps could organize themselves into a unified, focused movement. It just hasn’t happened.
So, as someone who’s paid attention to Kanye’s past twelve years of social activism, I can’t help but feel that the rapper has been caught in this crossfire of misdirected anger. At least, to my knowledge, Kanye has done nothing at all to fuel a Trump victory. In fact, he is yet another liberal ally who has been needlessly aggressed.
Liberals Are Panicking
It feels as if we’re viewing these issues of free speech and free expression through a fun house mirror. The left has typically been the champion of the free movement of ideas. We are not the censors. We are not the book burners. We’re the ones who wish to normalize all behavior down to some standard set of emoji-like lockstep. But the right portends that’s what we’ve become. We rail against hate speech, thereby devaluing all speech, they claim. We urge multiculturalism, thus undermining those who believe it is the immigrant other who must be placed in the melting pot, not the neatly tucked Anglo-Saxon who has made America what it is.
Warped through this prism of the winners (so far), we are all straining to clarify our positions with defanged ones. We argue, what if a Democrat just did what Trump did? Do we honestly expect those who believe we live in a politically correct, multicultural wasteland of liberal elites, who couldn’t care less about the working man in America, to care about a perceived lack of etiquette? We argue, Trump is using his position as POTUS to cash in. We really believe those who believe their way of life has been stolen by liberal elites will see this and take a moral high ground that is bureaucratic at its worst.
Scapegoating Doesn’t Help Anyone
It’s hard to imagine the millennial generation’s current fervor for identity politics without the seismic impact of Kanye West. This is a rap star who hasn’t stopped talking about his blackness for 12 years, and who has even joked on Saturday Night Live, “Give a short black man a chance!”
In fact, Kanye donated over $2,000 to the Clinton campaign in 2015. Rewind another year, and you’ll find an even heftier donation of $15,000, given to the Democratic National Committee.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Journalists and fans are not reversing the process of ‘Trump normalization’ by lashing out at Ye.[/quote]
Meanwhile, protected by celebrity politics and the internal strife of his opponents, Trump continues to plow forward and turn his presidency from Twitter rants to IRL governance. He appoints cabinet members, settles his lawsuits, and meets with heads of state from around the world. While liberals bicker with each other all day about their abstract idea of normalization, Trump normalizes his sovereignty with tangible, action-based progress.
Eventually, the common American will have to focus on the tangible efforts we can take to work with those on the other side of the aisle. It will take four years of sustained, direct action to stem some of the fascist segments of the Trump constituency. Putting that energy into a celebrity like Kanye West, then, just misses the point.