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“This Hat, It Gives Me Power”: How Kanye West’s Breakdown Revealed MAGA’s Id

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By Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

For the dozens of political journalists clustered inside and outside the White House on Thursday, watching Kanye West pontificate in front of Donald Trump was like watching the Resolute Desk get desecrated in real time. “Kanye just said ‘motherf***er’ in the Oval Office,” an appalled Jim Acosta tweeted, only one of the jaw-dropping remarks the legendary rapper proffered that afternoon during a lengthy, disjointed, ramble: his red MAGA hat made him feel like he was wearing a “Superman cape”; he was going to convince Apple to “work on” a hydrogen-powered plane; and he was going to show the world that the “eternal return” was Trump‘s “hero’s journey,” because “time is a myth.” (Trump, himself a prolific rambler, was shocked into silence for most of it.) Occasionally, he would bring up the reason he was in the White House to begin with—to have a frank discussion with Trump about prison reform—but he would end up going back on tangents about Trumpism and whatever else came to mind at the moment. “You’re tasting a fine wine. It has multiple notes to it,” he explained. “You better play 4-D chess with me like it’s Minority Report . . . It ain’t that simple. It’s complex.”

It was the latest in West’s erratic, whiplash-inducing Valkyrie ride through pop culture in the year 2018, one that’s forced most of his fans to re-evaluate his legacy. Complicating matters is the question of West’s mental health, which he once attributed to bipolar disorder, but told Trump was actually a case of sleep deprivation. (“All jokes aside, I thought that was really sad,” CNN’s S.E. Cupp said afterward. “I think you had there a man who’s clearly not O.K., and a president who’s willing to exploit that.”) But in spite of that overhanging question—or perhaps even because Trump’s critics felt moved to ask it—Kanye’s communion with Trump was a coup: an intellectual homecoming of epic, unprecedented proportions for the fans of the Trump administration and the foes of liberalism. Within minutes of West leaving the White House, PragerU, the slick, right-wing, how-to site, tweeted a video saying it was “rarely wise” to doubt the rap legend. “His tweets exposed more people to eye-opening realities ignored by the mainstream media,” they wrote, pointing to his attacks on Barack Obama (a longtime Yeezy critic) for doing nothing to reduce crime in Chicago. “The Left has taught black Americans to be victims rather than to be self-reliant, but Kanye West is awakening black Americans to the broken promises of the progressive Left.”

Whereas the rest of the pearl-clutching media saw a once-respected rap artist having a meltdown in the Oval Office, the world of MAGA and its attendant subcultures—the Intellectual Dark Web, the Breitbart/Fox crowd, the millennial trolls of Turning Point USA—saw something else: a black man, a true cultural icon, a rapper once hailed by liberals for attacking George W. Bush, saying the things they said and believing the things they believed, never mind exactly how he came to his conclusions. West’s sermon was a distillation of that message, in a form that he acknowledged was “from the soul.”

Of course, what gave the Trump fan base the biggest high was not what West said, but how the “opposition party” reacted. There was the predictable glee in seeing the self-serious media lose their minds over watching a deranged celebrity in the White House (one who was not Trump, for once), mostly expressed in the form of endless memes. Several conservative luminaries and their allies bashed the media for speculating about West’s mental state, while others criticized commentary that at times verged on cruelty. “Why the f did [she do that], other than to embarrass Kanye?” asked Fox News reporter Brian Flood, after CNN’s April Ryan reached out to Ray J—the man who starred in Kim Kardashian West’s famous amateur porn tape—to weigh in.

The content of Kanye’s message, itself, made the emotional response on the right even more telling. During his various rants, West hewed closely to their favored arguments, attacking the Democratic Party for their grip on the black vote (“A liberal would try to control a black person through the concept of racism”), the virtues of nationalism (“[America] has to be the freshest, the flyest, the flyest planes, the best factories”), and the closing of the liberal mind (“You think racism can control me?”). But he also spoke unusually candidly about the psychology that drew him to Trump, whom he praised for reversing the supposed feminization of the culture:

This hat, it gives me power, in a way. My dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And, also, I’m married to a family that, you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It’s beautiful, though! . . . I love Hillary [Clinton]. I love everyone, right? But the campaign “I’m with Her” just didn’t make me feel—as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time—like a guy that could play catch with his son. It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman.

The honesty of that sentiment was, in a way, a redeeming moment in an otherwise unsettling media spectacle. While other far-right elements intellectualize or excuse Trump’s authoritarianism, Kanye provided a concise explanation for the president’s appeal. In a world lacking order, Kanye seemed to say, Trump is daddy.

West’s new thought allies largely glossed over the red-pill undercurrent of his attraction to Trump. His incoherent grasp of traditional conservative principles would be ignored entirely. But in a movement that now defines itself primarily by its culture war with liberal ideas and institutions, West—no matter how erratic he might be or tenuous his grasp of ideology—is a high-profile ally and, more important, a potent lib-owning asset. Candace Owens, the controversial communications director for Turning Point, said as much after West exited the White House, tweeting a photo with her “friend and fellow warrior,” adding, “today was a glorious day for freedom.”

Full ScreenPhotos: Are Donald and Ivanka Trump Actually Twins? Let’s Find Out
They say “ooooooooooooo” together!

They say “ooooooooooooo” together!

Showing their true colors at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

Photo: By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

They match!

They match!

Here are the twins are in 2012, opening a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, matching in clothes and power stance.

Photo: By Emrah Gurel/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They watch the U.S. Open together!

They watch the U.S. Open together!

Overseeing the U.S. Open in New York in 1997.

Photo: By Ron Frehm/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They clap on beat!

They clap on beat!

Talking child-care policy in Pennsylvania as a presidential nominee and presidential adviser/kid nominee in 2016.

Photo: By Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They clap, clap, *what’s that now?* together!

They clap, clap, what’s that now? together!

The two are in step while watching the Military Appreciation Ceremony prior to the start of the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in Doral, Florida, in 2015.

Photo: By Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images.

They do manual labor together!

They do manual labor together!

The 2014 groundbreaking ceremony at Trump Hotel D.C.

Photo: By Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They anoint cement together!

They anoint cement together!

In 2008, the father and daughter coordinated their cement dance at at the opening of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago.

Photo: By Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They say “ooooooooooooo” together!

They say “ooooooooooooo” together!

Showing their true colors at the Republican National Convention in 2016.

By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

They match!

They match!

Here are the twins are in 2012, opening a hotel in Istanbul, Turkey, matching in clothes and power stance.

By Emrah Gurel/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They watch the U.S. Open together!

They watch the U.S. Open together!

Overseeing the U.S. Open in New York in 1997.

By Ron Frehm/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They clap on beat!

They clap on beat!

Talking child-care policy in Pennsylvania as a presidential nominee and presidential adviser/kid nominee in 2016.

By Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They walk left, right, left together!

They walk left, right, left together!

The pair fall in step while walking to the Marine One helicopter base in 2017.

From AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They clap, clap, <em>what’s that now?</em> together!

They clap, clap, what’s that now? together!

The two are in step while watching the Military Appreciation Ceremony prior to the start of the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in Doral, Florida, in 2015.

By Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/Getty Images.

They do manual labor together!

They do manual labor together!

The 2014 groundbreaking ceremony at Trump Hotel D.C.

By Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

They anoint cement together!

They anoint cement together!

In 2008, the father and daughter coordinated their cement dance at at the opening of Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago.

By Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/REX/Shutterstock.

Credit:Vanity Fair

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