Why Taylor Swift coming out as a Democrat matters more than you think

BY Finn McRedmond   /  8 October 2018

Taylor Swift, country star turned pop icon, international superstar and former unwilling poster child of the alt-right came out in support of the Democrats via Instagram last night.‎

“I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now.”

“Running for Senate in the state of Tennessee is a woman named Marsha Blackburn. As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn. Her voting record in Congress appals and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which attempts to protect women from domestic violence, stalking and date rape. She believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.”

Why should you care? You’d be forgiven for thinking the social media musings of a pop star who writes mostly about torturous breakups and pick up trucks shouldn’t really be the object of anyone’s interest, but Taylor Swift is a bit different. With 112 million Instagram followers and 83.5 million Twitter followers, a record-breaking world stadium tour, two Album of the Year Grammy awards and multiple hit songs, we shouldn’t cast this off as insignificant.

Compared with Trump’s 10 million Instagram followers and 55 million Twitter followers his influence feels paltry. It isn’t, of course. But Swift has a grip on a certain part of America inaccessible to many: young women who grew up listening to her music and have probably all just reached or recently reached voting age. Not only that, but a Taylor Swift fan is one who grew up online, and reveres her every word. The hyper-fans Swift boasts have taken her message on board, and have already begun to flood social media with impassioned calls to political arms, all in the name of a Pennsylvania born pop star whose best friend is Ed Sheeran.

And, it’s significant that this is the first instance of Swift airing her political views publicly. Her career began in the country music scene, and her first four albums oversaw her transition from country to pop music, while retaining that initial follower base of Nashville and southern-Republican-voting country fans. She managed that masterfully, but coming out in support of the Democrats means Swift risks alienating some of this base. This begs the question: Does she simply not care about them anymore? Or does she think her influence is so significant that she can persuade them to think again?

If the latter is true this stunt may have a real tangible impact. It might not see Tennessee turn blue, it could mean a not-insignificant number of (primarily) young Republican women possibly changing their minds. Such is the power of a celebrity endorsement when you’re as much of a mega-star as Swift.

Her latest album titled reputation involved a complete personality revolution for the pop star. She abandoned her mission of curating and maintaining a perfect public persona – America’s sweetheart – to adopt the utterly blasé “I’m Taylor Swift so I can do and say what I want” mentality. This is common throughout the album, but mostly so in her jarringly electronic and obstinate track “I Did Something Bad” in which she sings “If a man talks s*** then I owe him nothing, I don’t regret it one bit, ‘cause he had it coming.”

The timing of her coming out as a Democrat is notable, considering she’s set to perform this exact song at the American Music Awards tomorrow night. On popular sites and social media read by tens of millions there will be debate, leading to mainstream media think piece upon think piece, spreading the message further than even her massive reach.

Questions over the value and necessity of the role of showbiz in politics are legitimate. But when it comes to Trump the goal posts have moved. If people think a celebrity like Taylor Swift shouldn’t voice her politics and stick to the pop music, then maybe they shouldn’t have put a celebrity in the White House in the first place.