This year has offered up twist after twist. Last night on Instagram, Taylor Swift endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee, Phil Bredesen for the Senate and Jim Cooper for the House of Representatives.
For a lot of other celebrities, endorsing a candidate wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Taylor Swift is different. Swift has been notoriously apolitical in public. The most political thing she’s done up until this point is identify as a feminist, which nowadays, doesn’t tell us a whole lot about your actual political views.
In the post, Swift starts off by acknowledging that she’s been intentionally apolitical in the past, but “due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.”
In addition to the endorsements, Swift talked a lot about her broader political views, bringing up LGBTQ rights, systemic racism, gender discrimination and other topics discussed on the Left. “I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love,” Swift wrote.
Many have speculated that Swift’s political silence has been intentional in order to not rock the boat with her fans. Besides the coalition of gay men that love her, many Swift fans are white women — who regard the singer as a role model. Between that fan base and her attempts to play the white woman victim card, Taylor was not well-liked among folks on the Left. So how does that change now — is Taylor Swift uncanceled?
Some folks are acting as if she is simply being opportunist for becoming a Democrat. Being progressive is “cool” so that’s why she’s joining. This logic doesn’t really track, though, considering that Swift wouldn’t have much to lose by remaining silent. She’s been criticized for it since around 2013 and both of her albums since then have still sold millions. 1989 was her highest selling album to date at 10 million, and her most recent album, the less successful Reputation, still sold 4.5 million. She doesn’t really need the money.
Other people, perhaps justifiably, are criticizing Swift for waiting so long to speak out. Overall, I think it’s fair to be frustrated that such a prominent pop star is being idolized by Trump supporters and has done nothing to dissuade them from their idolatry. This is an understandable reaction and I don’t blame anyone who feels this way.
However, the last couple of years have really changed young people’s perspective on this country, and I think it is important to be sympathetic to that. An advantage that comes with being marginalized is that we’re forced to see political structures for what they are — mostly because they’re used against us. As a young queer person, you are basically bombarded with images of heterosexuality and cisgendered people everywhere you go. If you’re not experiencing it yourself, it might take longer to understand what’s really going on. The 2016 election was a catalyst for a lot of folks who finally understand what activists have been saying for decades: that this country has deep foundational issues in regards to how it treats anyone who isn’t a cisgender straight white man.
Taylor Swift cares more about black people than Kanye West and now I need to lay down because I got a headache just from tweeting that.
— Ragnarok Lobster (@eclecticbrotha) October 8, 2018
Even if you don’t personally like Taylor Swift, hopefully you can sympathize with her importance as a one-woman platform. There are plenty of people on the Left who I disagree with, but I understand their place in politics. There are cultural figures who promote leftist politics to all sorts of people who aren’t me — like straight men and white people — and there’s room for everyone.
In addition to the fact that the Right lost an important cultural figure to claim (however dubiously) for their side, Taylor Swift’s most popular demographic is young white women who are college students or recent graduates. 53% of white women, as Twitter won’t let us forget, voted for Trump. Depending on what Swift does now, if she plays a concert for one of the candidates or appears in an ad, she could have a significant impact on the election in Tennessee. In fact, for some of Swift’s fans, this will be the first election they’re eligible to vote in.
With the way that politics have gone since Trump was elected, from the Muslim ban to the Kavanaugh confirmation, we don’t have much time to criticize people for when they decide to get politically active. Depending on what she does now, Taylor Swift could play an integral role not only in Tennessee’s election, but perhaps the midterms more broadly. She could be the push that some young voters needed to go the polls. For that reason: Taylor Swift, welcome to the resistance. The more the merrier.