Kanye West’s Campaign Ad is Confusing

Kanye West’s presidential campaign has been treated like a comical afterthought since he announced. Now, he’s got the campaign ad to match.

West’s campaign released the video Monday, his first official ad of the 2020 election cycle. It’s as unpredictable as the artist himself, cutting between an animated black-and-white American flag, wholesome family b-roll, and West talking into the distance. It takes less than ten seconds for the ad to descend into generic farce. “What is America’s destiny?” West asks. “What is best for our nation? Our people? … We have to think about all these things.” There’s something oddly dystopian about it, almost as if West envisioned a generic campaign ad you might see in a movie and made it come to life.

The ad isn’t quite the perfect metaphor for West’s campaign, which has been cast as a celebrity vanity play, a product of the star’s mental illness, a conspiracy spoiler inspired by Donald Trump, or some confluence of the three. Still, the video does somewhat capture the general half-assedness of Kanye’s presidential run. His campaign has repeatedly missed deadlines or fallen short of the requirements necessary to get on state ballots. Beyond possibly illegally coordinating with Trump advisor Jared Kushner, West has (rightfully) received almost no exposure. His ad yesterday reads like a desperate attempt to get a shot up before the clock expires, even if it wantonly clangs off the backboard and hits a cheerleader in the face.

West’s messaging is vague and unclear, almost as if he’s trying to be directly subliminal. The first image that isn’t him(or the aforementioned flag is some mysterious footage of two hands reaching out for one another underwater. By the time West veers to discussing faith—the only discernible tenet in the entire ad—you’re already wondering what the hell you’ve been watching for the past 90 seconds. Restoring American faith through prayer and building strong families are both nice-sounding political platitudes, but they’re not exactly novel ideas. Despite his celebrity and pop culture legend status, West sounds like any replacement-level Republican running for a state senate seat.

Media organizations have largely ignored West’s campaign for good reason. As unserious as Trump’s campaign seemed way back in 2015, he at least started on time and ran on messages real Republican voters gobbled up like free candy. West started late and offers nothing more than a jokerfied alternative for dissociated voters who can’t stomach voting Trump or Biden. His campaign ad won’t do anything to change that, besides providing QAnon believers something new to parse and deranged libs fresh fodder for Trump conspiracies. So really, he fits perfectly into American presidential politics.