Taylor Swift Finally Got Political. Why Now?
The pop megastar’s endorsement of two Democrats running for Congress is shocking—especially for those who’d interpreted her silence as an endorsement of the alt-right.
On Sunday, our nation’s Taylor Swift loving neo-Nazis lost the first and only girlfriend they’ll ever have. That’s because this weekend, a pop star by the name of Taylor Alison Swift shocked the world by having a political opinion. In a lengthy social media post, the singer publicly endorsed two Democrats, Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper. She also articulated some of her core issues, including the struggle for LGBTQ rights and her belief that “any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG.”
“I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent,” she continued, going on to explain why she would not be voting for Republican Marsha Blackburn for Senate: “Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me.” According to Five Thirty Eight, Blackburn’s vote has aligned with Trump’s position 91.7 percent of the time. “She voted against equal pay for women,” Swift wrote. “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,” she concluded.
For any other pop star, finding someone to draft a cogent Instagram caption about systemic racism and the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm elections would be an average Sunday night. But as Swift herself admitted in the post, she’s been “reluctant” to share her political opinions in the past—a bit of an understatement. The country crossover phenomenon has spent her extremely successful career trying to figure how a star in the social media age can stand for absolutely nothing. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. A-listers have been dragged for their inability to hashtag Black Lives Matter and for their MAGA hats. On the other end of the spectrum, stars are often celebrated for throwing fundraising concerts for progressive candidates or teaming up with Bernie Sanders on Twitter. Meanwhile, Swift has made a name for herself as the feminist who struggled with the word “feminist” and the alt right-adored pop star reticent to alienate the most deplorable fringes of her fanbase.
In 2016, when hordes of celebrities pulled out all of the stops for Hillary Clinton (Katy Perry in a turban! Beyoncé!!), Swift stayed home, stroking her cats and counting her bipartisan cash. When the pop star did post a plea on her social media, it was for the concept of democracy—in keeping with Swift’s history of promoting vague, inoffensive concepts like patriotism, boyfriends, baked goods, and Tom Hiddleston. She posted a photo of herself in line to vote, but failed to endorse a specific candidate. “‘Who is Taylor Swift voting for?’ has been the top celebrity-related election search query this campaign season,” the Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon wrote at the time. “Taylor Swift is literally the only person in the entertainment industry for whom that answer is a mystery. And you know what? That’s bullshit.
He continued, “If I have to sit through three dozen photos of Swift and her leggy friends posing with American flags in a Rhode Island living room every Fourth of July, I should damn well at least know what kind of ‘patriotism’ and values they are trading in for Instagram likes with stars and stripes draped over their bony shoulders.”
As Fallon pointed out, Swift has a talent for depoliticizing. She convets potentially charged and polarizing situations into bland Instagram posts that can be double-tapped across the aisle. In her capable hands, even the Women’s March, an inherently political gathering—you know, a protest—became an opportunity to espouse the toothless, girl-power sentiments that are the pop star’s pseudo-feminist bread and butter. “So much love, pride, and respect for those who marched,” she tweeted, as women gathered across the country to mourn the inevitable loss of hard-earned rights, and the ascendance of an accused rapist and proven racist to the office of the president. “I’m proud to be a woman today, and every day.” In the wise words of a million Instagram trolls, “snake emoji, snake emoji, snake emoji.”
So Taylor Swift is a calculating celebrity who doesn’t want to piss anyone off. As a pretty blond white girl, she knows a percentage of her fan base probably wants to make America great again, and she hasn’t felt the need to disrupt her bottom line just so she can tweet #ImWithHer. Sure. But what sets Swift apart, and makes her years of apoliticism and newfound backbone so remarkable, isn’t her shrewd silence. It’s the fact that, on certain corners of the Internet, Swift has long been heralded as an Aryan princess and alt-right queen. As The Daily Beast previously reported, “Taylor Swift has long taken on a starring role in some pretty sick Nazi fan fiction.”
“In an in-depth 2016 Broadly article, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer explained Swift’s fashy appeal: ‘Firstly, Taylor Swift is a pure Aryan goddess, like something out of classical Greek poetry. Athena reborn. That’s the most important thing,’ Anglin insisted. ‘It is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world. Probably, she will be betrothed to Trump’s son, and they will be crowned American royalty.’”
Swift won’t even publicly defend herself from sick accusations of being attracted to Donald Trump Jr. And while these actual Nazis are clearly an extreme sect of Swifties, all sorts of Trump supporters have been able to interpret the pop star’s silence as a tacit endorsement of the president. Her 2017 single “Look What You Made Me Do” was quickly embraced by the right. “When the song dropped on Friday, Breitbart spent the day tweeting out lyrics from the single.” Complex reported. On Reddit, one user “broke down the lyrics from Tay Tay’s latest, saying that lines like ‘of the fool, no, I don’t like you’ translate to ‘Democrats call us deplorables and mock our intelligence. We took it on the chin but now it’s getting personal.’”
Subliminal messages aside, Vulture writer Mark Harris crowned Swift’s single, a thinly-veiled jab at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, as “the first pure piece of Trump-era pop art.” He explained, “I’ve heard enough of her songs over the years so that of course I know what her politics are: I win, but for the record I’m the victim of haters and losers. As we’ve learned, you can go a long way with that, and she has… It’s perfect for a world in which our chief executive’s chief subject of fascination is his own size, his reach, and the way in which he is received. If he ever puts out a record, it will surely be called, like hers, ‘Reputation.’”
At this point, this most recent leg of the Kanye-Taylor feud bears recapping. Kanye released a song in which he said some unflattering things about Swift, Swift used the track as an opportunity to play the victim, and Kim Kardashian confronted her over it with some solid receipts. Naturally, Swift doubled down with Reputation, a celebration of the insanely wealthy and successful pop star’s ability to triumph over the mean bullies who dared confront her with footage of things she actually said.
Following this narrative to its natural conclusion, the Reddit-crowned Aryan princess who played up her victimization by a black man would start stumping for Donald Trump in 2018. But in reality, or whatever this hell dimension that’s purporting to be our reality actually is, Swift is standing up for the marginalized and Kanye West is MAGA-ranting on SNL. What the hell?
While there’s no way to know for sure why Swift is finally using her platform to do something other than shade Katy Perry and talk about her cats, it can’t be a coincidence that Brett Kavanaugh was just confirmed to the Supreme Court. In 2017, Swift took the stand to detail how Denver radio host David Mueller groped her during a 2013 meet and greet. “I felt him grab onto my ass cheek underneath my skirt,” she told the courtroom. “The first couple of milliseconds I thought it must be a mistake, so I moved to the side very quickly so that his side would be removed from my ass cheek, but it didn’t let go.” She won the case, and was subsequently celebrated as a “Silence Breaker” in Time’s Person of the Year issue. In the introduction to her exclusive interview, Swift’s testimony was described as “one of several major milestones in the conversation around sexual harassment this year.”
“I would tell people who find themselves in this situation that there is a great deal of blame placed on the victims in cases of sexual harassment and assault,” she told Time. “You could be blamed for the fact that it happened, for reporting it and blamed for how you reacted. You might be made to feel like you’re overreacting, because society has made this stuff seem so casual…You should not be blamed for waiting 15 minutes or 15 days or 15 years to report sexual assault or harassment.” Given Swift’s remarks, it’s hard to imagine that she hasn’t been following the Kavanaugh hearings closely, and hasn’t felt Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony deeply.
Back in December, given everything that the pop star purposefully left unsaid, it seemed ridiculous to hail her as a Silence Breaker. Now, Swift is finally earning that title.