The tale of Swift and Kanye

The Record (Troy, NY) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son’s email ad­dress is eu­gen­er­obin­son@wash­post.com.

When the big po­lit­i­cal news of the week in­volves Tay­lor Swift and Kanye West, we’re in se­ri­ous trou­ble. I’m try­ing to “Shake It Off,” but I can’t.

I don’t mean to sound “Heart­less,” but we shouldn’t have to pay the slight­est at­ten­tion to what those pop-mu­sic megas­tars think about the midterm election and Pres­i­dent Trump. We do pay at­ten­tion, though. The cele­bri­fi­ca­tion of our pol­i­tics is com­plete, heaven help us, and we can only hope this doesn’t mark the “End Game” of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

We have cre­ated a “Mon­ster” and it is de­vour­ing us.

Swift, who is reg­is­tered to vote in Ten­nessee, posted a lengthy cap­tion on In­sta­gram late Sun­day in which she ex­co­ri­ated GOP Se­nate can­di­date Mar­sha Black­burn —“her vot­ing record in Congress ap­palls and ter­ri­fies me” — and an­nounced sup­port for Demo­cratic hope­ful Phil Bre­desen.

“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,” Swift 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.”

Swift went on to af­firm her be­lief “in the fight for LGBTQ rights” and to de­clare that “the sys­temic racism we still see in this coun­try to­wards peo­ple of color is ter­ri­fy­ing, sick­en­ing and preva­lent.” She clearly felt she had to “Speak Now” as she urged every­one to “please, please ed­u­cate your­self on the can­di­dates run­ning in your state and vote.”

Who cares? It’s not yet clear. But if any sub­stan­tial frac­tion of Swift’s 112 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers does care — yes, I said 112 mil­lion — and acts on her ad­vice, we could see a real im­pact on Nov. 6. Swift’s au­di­ence is young; I don’t have any data, but I wouldn’t be sur­prised if their av­er­age age were roughly “22.”

Young peo­ple tend to sup­port Democrats but tend not to vote much at all in non-pres­i­den­tial election years. If Swift’s in­ter­ven­tion moves the nee­dle even slightly on young voter par­tic­i­pa­tion, that could make a big dif­fer­ence in tight races.

Many on the right ap­par­ently had be­lieved, based on no ev­i­dence ei­ther way, that Swift was in their corner. Clearly, they were wrong. Her mes­sage to the Repub­li­can Party seems to be that “We Are Never Ever Get­ting Back To­gether.”

Since Trump’s as­cen­sion has made us all cast mem­bers in a tire­some re­al­ity-tele­vi­sion show, it is in­evitable that the yin to Swift’s yang would come from West. The two were for­ever linked in a bizarre un­scripted mo­ment at the 2009 MTV Video Mu­sic Awards. Swift was ac­cept­ing her prize for Best Fe­male Video when West sud­denly bounded on­stage, grabbed the mi­cro­phone and ut­tered the im­mor­tal line: “Yo Tay­lor, I’m re­ally happy for you, I’m a let you fin­ish, but Bey­once had one of the best videos of all time.”

“I’m a let you fin­ish” be­came a meme, then a cliche. Thurs­day, be­fore hav­ing lunch with Trump at the White House, West came up with a new one: “Trump is on his hero’s jour­ney right now.”

West has al­ways had an ex­alted view of his own “Power” to shape the cul­ture, and per­haps he sees in Trump a fel­low ge­nius in the art of self-pro­mo­tion. He shocked fans ear­lier this year by opin­ing that the cen­turies of Amer­i­can slav­ery per­haps should be seen as “a choice” made by the slaves. In terms of pub­lic im­age, it seemed like a “Run­away” disas­ter. But he was just get­ting started.

Since then, he has been in­creas­ingly vo­cal about his ad­mi­ra­tion for Trump. Last month, af­ter ap­pear­ing on” Satur­day Night Live,” West donned a “Make Amer­ica Great Again” hat and re­galed the stu­dio au­di­ence with alt-right non­sense. He said he had been “bul­lied” by the show’s cast and crew for his non­con­formist views — a claim “SNL” adamantly de­nied the fol­low­ing week in a “Week­end Up­date” seg­ment.

In the Oval Of­fice, he once again wore the MAGA hat. He said it made him “feel like Su­per­man.”

Can West’s sup­port make Trump “Stronger” by con­vinc­ing African-Amer­i­cans to vote Repub­li­can, or at least dampen en­thu­si­asm for vot­ing Demo­cratic? I se­ri­ously doubt it. But isn’t it ab­surd that we even have to ask the ques­tion?

In the age of so­cial me­dia and wall-to-wall ca­ble news, fame mat­ters. In 2016, Trump’s fame over­came such tri­fles as his ig­no­rance, lack of ex­pe­ri­ence and glar­ing un­fit­ness for of­fice. We are bet­ter off when celebri­ties model civic en­gage­ment. Weare lost, how­ever, if we take them se­ri­ously.

Eu­gene Robin­son Colum­nist

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