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Your definitive guide to Cardi B’s political awakening

She made waves on Wednesday with a video calling for an end to the government shutdown. It’s only the latest statement from an artist who’s been politically active for years.

Your definitive guide to Cardi B’s political awakening
[Photos: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia; Samuel Branch/Unsplash]

One could be forgiven for dismissing Cardi B’s call to arms over the government shutdown as opportunism. But only if one knew next to nothing about Cardi B.

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Wednesday’s Instagram video, in which the artist likens 2019 America to a hellhole, did indeed coincide with the release date for Cardi’s latest music video. However, I would refer anyone who doubts her sincerity in decrying the prolonged and pointless government shutdown to the many other political statements the Bronx-born performer has made over the years. Rest assured, they are all pieces of an intact ideology.

Even before she made a goofy video for VH1’s Love and Hip-Hop pledging to run for president in 2016, Cardi B had a powerful message for her fans. During that year’s primary elections, in the face of suffocating Trump chatter, she urged her fans to keep their eyes on the prize and “vote for Daddy Bernie, bitch.”

While she offered no solutions for the Black Lives Matter movement beyond prayer, a short video she posted on Instagram in summer 2016 drew attention to the fact that neither peaceful protest nor violence seemed to be cutting through the noise. It’s an honest expression of despair that precedes some of the more thoughtful, righteous fury to come in later videos.

By 2017, Cardi B had graduated from her roots as a stripper, Instagram star, and Love and Hip Hop cast member to bona fide phenomenon. As her profile rose, so did her political unrest and her megaphone from which to vent it. Here she is speaking with Billboard about the president’s war against football players who merely want to draw attention to police violence against black people–and the team owners who apparently side with him.

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It’s probably because her income from her breakout year was so robust that Cardi B became outraged by the tax code in 2018. Last spring, she made a widely circulated Instagram video asking perfectly reasonable questions about the process, chief among them: “Where is my tax money going?”

Shortly after making the above video, Cardi must have found out how much of our tax money goes toward social security (as of 2017, 24% of it), because in a GQ interview around the same time, the artist praised Franklin D. Roosevelt as “the real ‘Make America Great President'” for introducing social security, a vital public fund. Her statement caught the attention of Bernie Sanders, who then declared “Cardi B is right,” bringing her primary support for him full circle.

Finally, perhaps signaling what the future holds, Cardi appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in October 2018 and discussed what she’d do if elected mayor of New York. Sure, her response boils down to getting rid of “rats and raccoons,” but given her sharp political instincts over the years, one senses that “fixing the subways” and “economic reform” would not be too far down on the docket as well.

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