What should we think about rappers Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Kanye West and Ice Cube entering into the fray of 2020 presidential election politics?
They have all done so for varying reasons: 50 Cent’s defense for endorsing President Donald Trump was purely self-serving. And he fully embraced his selfishness. Like many rich people, 50 Cent doesn’t want to pay Uncle Sam any more than he has to. And he thinks that will happen with Joe Biden’s tax plan. He could care less if the president doesn’t like Black people, writing on Instagram “62% are you out of ya [expletive] mind.” As one can imagine, he was slayed on social media for his unwoke views. His standing among America’s rich and elite clearly outweighs his Blackness. He’s a one-issue voter and could care less about anything else it seems.
Ice Cube has more noble reasons for entering the presidential debate. He wants to promote a Black agenda that will help African Americans gain a better economic footing. He created a “Contract with Black America” he wants implemented and said he would be willing to work with the Trump administration to do it. Mr. Trump has already adopted some of the plan within his own agenda, though not acted on it, Ice Cube has said.
Good for the rapper-turned-movie-star for wanting more for African Americans. I’m down for the ideas of homeownership, criminal justice reform and wealth creation that he is pushing. The problem is Mr. Trump is known to embrace ideas for the photo opportunity and not follow through. What exactly has he done for the Black community that makes Ice Cube think he might fare better? I am quite skeptical.
Then there’s Kanye West, who is running as a third-party candidate under the Birthday Party. While his name is not on the ballot in Maryland, if people write him in, the votes will be counted. He told The New York Times in September that he wanted to “bring back prayer in schools” and “give more government support to religious groups.” But some Democrats see his candidacy as a ploy to take some of the Black vote and help out Mr. Trump. Kanye says that’s not true, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. He could very well win some votes off of celebrity.
Which leads to the question: How much influence do famous people have on swaying elections? The statistical data on this issue is not the greatest. What we do know is that celebrities certainly have won office themselves, including former actor and President Ronald Reagan and former actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as California’s governor. Former professional basketball player Bill Bradleyrepresented New Jersey in the Senate.
And a slew of endorsements by Hollywood stars and professional athletes are rolled out every election season by campaigns. This year’s Democratic National Convention was hosted by some well-known names including actresses Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington. A study by the University of Maryland found that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary “had statistically and politically significant effects on Obama’s political outcomes.”
Another thing we know is that it doesn’t take that many votes to make the difference between a winner and loser in some races. In some local races it could be a couple of dozen votes. Mr. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton were separated by around 23,000 votes in Wisconsin in 2016, according to The New York Times. Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, probably had something to do with that considering he won close to 107,000 votes.
So when it comes down to it, every vote matters. And any vote a celebrity might take away can make a difference in the overall scheme.
That doesn’t mean celebrities shouldn’t get involved in politics. They have every right to speak out on issues that are important to them. They should just remember they have a bigger platform than the rest of us and what they say matters.
But more importantly, voters should remember that famous people have as much of an agenda and personal stake in politics as anyone else. 50 Cent does not have the best interest of the average Amy in mind and I certainly wouldn’t follow his lead on making a political choice. Then again, I am not looking to any entertainer to sway my election choices. I look to them for entertainment. And this election season, some of their political views are providing me that entertainment.
Andrea K. McDaniels is The Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Please send her ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.