Can Tay­lor Swift save the Democrats?

The su­per­star singer is head­ing to Perth, but she is still mak­ing waves in the US

The West Australian - - AGENDA -

Hours af­ter she walked off­stage in Texas last week­end, Tay­lor Swift posted on In­sta­gram an im­age of her joy­ously danc­ing on­stage in a sparkly rain­bow dress. “We had an in­de­scrib­ably in­cred­i­ble time with you Dal­las,” she wrote to her 112 mil­lion fol­low­ers, one mil­lion of whom “liked” the photo.

Less than 24 hours later, Swift posted again on In­sta­gram. And this one caused an In­ter­net melt­down.

Swift, the pop megas­tar who launched her ca­reer in Nashville, Ten­nessee, had re­mained con­spic­u­ously silent about her po­lit­i­cal views. That was un­til Sun­day night, when she pub­lished a 400-word mes­sage in which she en­dorsed Ten­nessee Democrats Phil Bre­desen and Jim Cooper. She also slammed Repub­li­can Mar­sha Black­burn, writ­ing, “Her vot­ing record in Congress ap­pals and ter­ri­fies me.”

It was a shock­ing shift for a star who has re­fused to share her opin­ion on any­thing po­lit­i­cal, even dur­ing the di­vi­sive­ness of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. She has even been crit­i­cised for gloss­ing over cur­rent events — last Jan­uary, her tweet dur­ing the Women’s March (“So much love, pride and re­spect for those who marched. I’m proud to be a woman to­day, and ev­ery day”) re­sulted in a back­lash from those who won­dered why a star who made fem­i­nism a sig­nif­i­cant part of her brand didn’t join fel­low celebri­ties at the march, or elab­o­rate fur­ther.

So what led to this abrupt turn­around? The com­mon think­ing is that Swift stayed silent for so long be­cause she didn’t want to alien­ate any­one, par­tic­u­larly her coun­try fan base, which prob­a­bly leans con­ser­va­tive.

How­ever, now that Swift is of­fi­cially in the pop world and sell­ing out sta­di­ums, many feel a po­lit­i­cal stance is un­likely to spark a hugely neg­a­tive re­ac­tion.

Those who fol­low Swift know that she’s long sup­ported var­i­ous causes. She helped pop star Ke­sha pay her le­gal bills in her sex­ual as­sault law­suit. She do­nated money to the stu­dent-led March for Our Lives rally to stop mass shoot­ings. At her con­cert in Chicago in June, she gave a speech about LGBTQ rights for Pride Month.

But this time, Swift tied it all to­gether in a force­ful state­ment. “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,” she wrote. “I al­ways have and al­ways will cast my vote based on which can­di­date will pro­tect and fight for the hu­man rights I be­lieve we all de­serve in this coun­try.”

Two years ago, Democrats turned mil­lion-dol­lar per­for­mances by pop icons such as Bey­once, Jay-Z, Phar­rell, Jen­nifer Lopez, Bruce Spring­steen, Lady Gaga, Bon Jovi and Katy Perry into zero votes. It is pos­si­ble Swift might be dif­fer­ent, and here’s why.

For al­most a gen­er­a­tion, mil­len­ni­als have shown that while they may not have enough trust or faith in in­sti­tu­tions and politi­cians to vote in the same pro­por­tions as older gen­er­a­tions, they are not ap­a­thetic. Mil­len­ni­als and the older mem­bers of Gen­er­a­tion Z have turned to com­mu­nity ser­vice and vol­un­teer work to solve the na­tion’s prob­lems.

Swift, who is 28, has shrewdly cre­ated a bridge to vot­ing from that es­tab­lished com­mit­ment to vol­un­teer. Her In­sta­gram post sin­gled out spe­cific is­sues that mil­len­ni­als like her care about and con­nected them to

Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­dates in her home State of Ten­nessee, and cited a voter reg­is­tra­tion web­site.

Vote.org, the web­site she linked to, re­ported nearly as many new Ten­nessee reg­is­trants in the 36 hours af­ter the singer’s post as in the en­tire month of Septem­ber, and more than dou­ble the num­ber from Au­gust.

A causal link has not been es­tab­lished, but there’s a pretty good chance that at least some of that spike is at­trib­ut­able to Swift. She has built a re­la­tion­ship of ad­mi­ra­tion and mu­tual re­spect with a so­cial me­dia fol­low­ing that is three times the size of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s.

If Step 1 was get­ting her fans to reg­is­ter, Step 2 is en­cour­ag­ing them to vote.

In her post, Swift out­lined the is­sues that drew her into the po­lit­i­cal arena af­ter a life­time spent de­ter­minedly out­side it.

She also con­nected her “Ten­nessee val­ues” to crit­i­cal votes that a mem­ber of Congress takes, chip­ping away at one of the most sig­nif­i­cant bar­ri­ers to vot­ing, which is see­ing the tan­gi­ble im­pact that par­tic­i­pa­tion can make.

Young vot­ers in Ten­nessee can stand with Swift, for ex­am­ple, when she sup­ports can­di­dates who will fight for “ALL Amer­i­cans, no mat­ter their skin colour, gen­der or who they love”, as she wrote in her post. Swift said that Repub­li­can can­di­date Black­burn “voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reau­tho­ri­sa­tion 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”.

There­fore, Swift wrote, she would be vot­ing for for­mer Ten­nessee gover­nor Phil Bre­desen for Sen­ate and Jim Cooper for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

The make-up of the House and Sen­ate this year and the White House in 2020 very much lies in the hands of mil­len­ni­als.

Six of the top 20 mil­len­nial mar­kets are in the toss-up states of Texas and Flor­ida. North Dakota, also in play, has the high­est in­crease in mil­len­nial pop­u­la­tion per capita of any state since 2010.

Swift al­ready stands out from her peers as hav­ing the most po­lit­i­cally di­verse fan base among young Amer­i­cans.

You would not bet against her help­ing reg­is­ter, em­power and ac­ti­vate just enough of them to make a dif­fer­ence in the Novem­ber midterm elec­tions, both for them and for the coun­try.

Pic­ture: Film Magic

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