After years of silence on political issues, Taylor Swift has had enough. Surprising everyone with a measured, thoughtful and carefully worded post on Instagram, the 28-year-old pop star has endorsed not one, but two Democrat candidates for the upcoming mid-term elections – to the horror of Republicans everywhere.
Country artists, even ones who are global pop stars, aren’t supposed to be progressive (as the Dixie Chicks found in 2003 when they opposed the Iraq War). So much so that when Swift refused to endorse a presidential candidate during the 2016 election, everyone assumed she’d voted for Donald Trump. Critics used “evidence” like her blonde hair to align her with the far right, while one publication went so far to run an editorial accusing her of being “an envoy for Trump’s values”, because her songs apparently echoed Trump’s obsession with “petty score-settling” – forgetting it’s a bit different when said score-settler is running the most powerful nation on earth. Anyway, Swift is clearly fed up of everyone’s rubbish guesswork.
Events in the past two years have changed her view on voicing political opinions, Swift explained. She didn’t specify, but you can fairly assume those events include winning a sexual assault case against a radio DJ accused of groping her; being caught up in a feud with Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian; and having to watch a misogynist, neo-Nazi apologist become president of the United States.
Swift has previously been criticised for her apparent lack of self-awareness over the privileges she enjoys as a wealthy, young white woman – one of the most notable being when she responded to Nicki Minaj’s frustration at not being nominated for video of the year at the VMAs in 2015. Another was when she was accused of playing the victim after being name-dropped in West’s track “Famous”, where he called her a “bitch” and claimed credit for her fame. Kim Kardashian branded Swift a “snake”, and Swift was besieged by an army of West and Kardashian fans posting snake emojis on her Instagram.
But over the last two years, Swift appears to have gone to enormous lengths to educate herself about representation and inclusivity. Her Reputation world tour stars a wealth of dancers and backing musicians from a range of ethnicities, backgrounds and body types, and she used her massive platform to speak clearly and passionately about LGBTQ+ rights. Her friend, the singer, producer, actor and dancer Todrick Hall, praised her for taking the time to “actively listen to me, her queer friend who also happens to be a person of colour”. Meanwhile, Kanye is parading around in a MAGA hat and endorsing Trump in off-script speeches on Saturday Night Live.
While it’s still not clear how much of an impact Swift will have on the Tennessee mid-term results, Swift has made it clear she will never be pressured into doing or saying something that others want her to. This statement was on her own terms, from her own platform, made when she was ready. And that, in itself, is an inherently political act: Swift grew up amid the rise of a social media age where your past views often come back to haunt you – where an old tweet can get you fired, or a misjudged remark from a decade before can still ignite a baying mob. It’s no surprise that she was previously reluctant to say anything.
But by referencing how her views have changed, and also acknowledging how she may not agree with everything her chosen candidates do, she allows room for nuance. Which, in this day and age, is too often absent from political discourse.
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