They go trudging into Trump Tower, hit the elevator button, then pop out of the gold-plated doors – there to meet the Sun God, or at least the Suntan God. Our innards took enough of a lurch seeing Nigel Farage and Aaron Banks smear themselves across the marble floors, barely hours after his victory.

But this week, the world’s most dangerous reality TV show – centred around Trump’s big corporate table on the 22nd floor, with chosen family members as a creepy consiglieri – had some notable new contestants.

The frozen masks of the tech elite that assembled on Wednesday were excruciating enough. Having to listen to fulsome praise from a man who won a mandate promising to bust some of them for anti-trust, or to alienate and cut off their global talent supply, or to repatriate their far-flung manufactories, or to further subvert their reputations for info-privacy… Let’s see whether this most liberal of elites demonstrates any kind of backbone, when the commands of the Trump-state conflict with their responsibilities to protect their users as citizens, not just customers.

But it was the previous day’s encounter that pushed the needles on the WTF-machine beyond the red zone. To describe bringing in the rapper and musician Kanye West for a brief chat and a photo-opp as a “diversionary media tactic” seems barely adequate, as a critique.

Like the ex-theatremakers and avant-guardists who direct Putin’s strategy of distorting reality, the Trump people intuitively understand how images and video go straight to the collective imagination. This is a result for them.

But for Kanye West? Something feels unseemly here. Just released from a care facility after suffering a psychotic episode, you wonder whether the musician is in full command of his faculties.

However, just like Trump, West is always happy to pour out his inconsistent, sometimes incoherent streams of consciousness in public – for Trump it’s via rallies, for West it’s stadium gigs. They both know that a click-hungry digital media will always respond, and further supercharge their brand-names.

So a meeting of narcissistic, media-savvy minds is possibly no surprise. Yet the pictures of Trump and West side-by-side in the marbled lobby have also reminded me of how badly the relations between the popular arts and official politics can go – and usually to the detriment of the artist.

Two images flash up straightaway: Elvis Presley standing with Richard Nixon in December, 1970, and Bono standing in the Oval Office with George W Bush in October, 2005.

Elvis had a scatterbrained, delusional notion that he could become a drug enforcement officer, and find ways to talk to the “hippies and Communists” to turn them from their evil ways. Nixon realised this was a photo-opp, and arranged it on the same day Elvis hand-delivered his letter to the White House.

The Nixon-Elvis picture is the most requested item from the US National Archives – more than the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. No wonder: America never more at its extremes of weirdness… perhaps until now.

Elvis didn’t get his enforcer’s badge – but you wonder what requests have been made of Mr West. One that seems obvious is: will you play at my inaugural celebration in January? The American celebritariat, who massively supported Clinton (or opposed Trump) in the November election, seem to be giving him a collective rubber ear.

Various talent bookers have been gossiping about their artists being offered unprecedented fees, and their agents ambassadorial posts, if they agree to appear at Trump’s event. Elton John was trumpeted as having signed up – then his office issued a robust denial.

Trump’s misogyny and intolerance has mobilised American luvvies (although there is a case to be made that their glittering endorsement of Hilary worked to sharpen Trump voters’ sense of her entitlement and elitism). But again, like the techies, let’s see how much their principles hold firm.

Bono’s picture with George W Bush – where the singer, in full mullet and pink wraparound shades, treads the presidential crest on a carpet in the Oval Office – indicates a much more complex relationship between megastar and mega-politician.

I’ve always had a grudging respect for the way that Bono threw his mighty reserves of reputational capital at the feet of Bush. In 2005, he was a derided, beset and loathed president. His military, rather than criminal-justice, response to the atrocity of 9/11 is largely responsible for the shattered geopolitics of our current moment.

Yet Bono used his charm and wattage to lever a commitment to eradicating AIDS in Africa from both the Bush and the Obama administrations, which has been extremely successful. The UN have just issued a report showing that new HIV infections have fallen by 35 per cent, AIDS-related deaths by 41 per cent, and that we are globally on track to eliminate the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

Has Bono’s willingness to use his celeb power to throw himself into the heart of elites in Davos, Wall Street, the White House, or Downing Street crumpled his rock-star credibility? Well, is the Pope a Marxist?

Bono is more likely to get good reviews for being a “model CEO”, as he did in Fortune magazine earlier this year, than from the average rock critic. But I find his axioms admirable. “Actions, actions, actions”, he says in the Fortune interview. “It’s about being useful, and that’s what I want to be.” Is Kanye West aiming to make the same gift of his credibility, in order to blunt the edge of another toxic American administration?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty weary of massive egos clashing in the public sphere. We need a reset on arts and politics. The phrase often used about the relationship of journalists to politicians is that of a dog to a lamppost.

But the proper relationship of artists to politicians should be that of a cat to a homestead. Meaning they should be unpredictable and wilful, coming and going as they please – and deciding exactly when and how to distribute favours and approval.

My own wee experiences of putting my pop performances at the service of politicians has been generally gruesome. The more powerful the politician, the more you realise that they’re the ones who are the real masters (or mistresses) at personality management.

When it comes to generating a “reality-distortion field”, as they used to say of Steve Jobs, the leading politician makes most artists – flaky, over-sensitive types that we are – seem like rank amateurs.

I think there’s a better role for “artists and creatives”, as National Collective called them in the run-up to the last Scottish indyref, than simply to bring their wattage to politicians – whether to glorify them or shame them.

We are in an era where malignant forces think they have the confidence (and tools) to tweak and pull at our primal emotions. In response, artists and creatives should roll up their sleeves.

They should use their symbolic and empathetic powers to make art, and shape experiences, that moves and inspires communities; that keeps minds, futures and borders open; that builds enjoyable social spaces where people can richly encounter each other.

There’s no denying Kanye West’s ambition, and massive talent, as a musician and artist. But the marbled walk, and elevator swoosh, to the Trump suite is pointing his imagination in the wrong direction.

Artists move us – that’s their job. But in these queasy, head-busting times, artists may need much more of a relationship to movements themselves. And not just as glittery teddybears tied to the front of the campaign bus. But as storytellers, imagineers, experts of the soul.