The 2020 American Presidential Election just got even wackier with news that Kanye West has thrown his hat into the ring. West has no realistic chance of winning the American Presidency, but if he runs as an independent he could still impact the outcome. This article explains how.
In the 1992 American Presidential Election, third party candidate Ross Perot, running as an independent, won almost 19% of the popular vote. Although he didn’t win any Electoral College seats, he won over half as many votes as Republican candidate George W Bush, who lost to Democratic candidate Bill Clinton.
In retrospect, it seems that Clinton’s win was a total fluke, because the right-wing parties won about 59 million votes to his 45 million. Clinton only won thanks to Perot’s run, which split the right-wing vote, as many natural Bush supporters voted for Perot. Their mutually assured destruction saw Clinton coast home.
The same thing happened in the 2000 election, only for the other side. Al Gore won about half a million more popular votes than George W Bush, but Dubya won the election by five Electoral College votes. Gore probably would have won had it not been for Ralph Nader, who won almost three million votes for himself on a Green Party ticket. The vast majority of these votes would have gone to Gore had Nader not contested.
The Nader influence was felt most acutely in Florida. George W Bush won Florida, and its 25 Electoral College votes, after an infamous recount process that dragged on for weeks. In the final tally, Bush carried the state by 537 votes, but Nader won 97,488 votes there. Had Nader not stood in Florida, it’s all but certain that Gore would have carried the state – and with it America.
It can be seen from these examples that arguably the single most important factor for success in an American presidential election is not having a third party candidate running on the same half of the electoral spectrum to you. Because each state in the Electoral College is won on a winner-takes-all and first past the post basis, third party runs do little but split the vote.
So back to Kanye West.
One of the biggest obstacles to Trump’s re-election bid is his low support among blacks. Blacks have always been disinclined to vote Republican, on account of the Republican Party’s support for the War on Drugs and their opposition to welfare. 89% of them voted for Hillary Clinton against Trump, and an even higher percentage supported Barack Obama against his opponents.
Polls suggest that blacks intend to vote heavily for Joe Biden this year. This is for two reasons. The first is that Biden is a Democrat. The second is that blacks remember how Biden was a dutiful and competent Vice President to Obama for eight years. Biden never went against his man or undermined him, and this is remembered by those who were Obama’s strongest supporters.
Kanye West appears to intend to run as an independent. He is 43 years old, black, and works in a creative role. His biggest supporters are from similar demographics. Being one of the world’s most popular musicians, West’s name recognition among Millennial and Zoomer voters is immense. A great number of them will vote for him on this basis alone.
In appealing to these demographics, a West run will split the left-wing vote. The young, the black, the creative voters who will support West are all groups that would have otherwise supported Joe Biden. In other words, a West presidential bid would cost Biden a lot more potential votes than it would cost Donald Trump.
Biden is well ahead of Trump in the polls right now, but the reality is that an incumbent American president hasn’t lost a presidential election since Clinton beat Bush in 1992. Trump was rubbished by the mainstream media leading up to the 2016 election and still won. At worst for Trump, 2020 might be a close loss.
All this means that a Kanye West presidential bid has a very real chance of tipping the balance of this November’s election from a Joe Biden win to a Donald Trump win. West would only need a small percentage of blacks to support him for Biden to risk losing some states – and after Biden’s “if you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black” gaffe, such an outcome is fully plausible.
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