Tay­lor vs. Kanye crashes into the po­lit­i­cal arena

Swift and West have be­come rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Amer­ica’s di­vide in the Don­ald Trump era.

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Maeve McDer­mott

It’s the celebrity feud that will not die. Ex­cept this time, in­stead of Kanye West and Tay­lor Swift call­ing out each other in lyrics or tak­ing shots in in­ter­views, they’ve pulled op­pos­ing po­lit­i­cal 180s, seem­ingly swap­ping fac­tions of their fan bases in the process.

Call it an un­fore­seen ef­fect of the Don­ald Trump era that Swift and West have be­come rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal di­vide – in a way that no­body could have pre­dicted nearly a decade ago, when the two stars’ fates col­lided on­stage at the 2009 MTV Video Mu­sic Awards.

It was at the VMAs, of course, that West fa­mously crashed Swift’s speech, spark­ing a feud that reignited in 2016 over West’s song “Fa­mous.” And while both artists were never the most po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated of their peers at that point, they both had fairly dis­tinct and op­pos­ing rep­u­ta­tions – West as a lib­er­al­lean­ing fire­brand, declar­ing that “Ge­orge Bush doesn’t care about black peo­ple” on live TV in 2005, do­nat­ing money to Demo­cratic can­di­dates and oc­ca­sion­ally rap­ping about racism and so­cial jus­tice, and Swift as Mid­dle Amer­ica’s sweet­heart who pur­pose­fully stayed away from pol­i­tics in her in­ter­views.

How dif­fer­ent things are now. In the years since West de­clared he was run­ning for pres­i­dent at the 2015 VMAs, he has latched on to an ag­i­ta­tor he sees as a kin­dred spirit: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Af­ter step­ping away from pub­lic ap­pear­ances shortly af­ter his sum­mit with the pres­i­dent-elect at Trump Tower in 2016, West re­turned with a vengeance this year, bring­ing his Make Amer­ica Great Again hat with him. He praised Trump on Twit­ter and, most re­cently, in a mono­logue on “Satur­day Night Live” – again delet­ing his so­cial me­dia ac­counts af­ter em­bark­ing on sev­eral po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated rants.

From as­so­ci­at­ing with alt-right fig­ures to shar­ing his ques­tion­able takes on slav­ery, West’s po­lit­i­cal turn­around has thrilled con­ser­va­tives – he has a White House visit with Trump and Jared Kush­ner re­port­edly lined up for Thurs­day – while ren­der­ing him un­rec­og­niz­able to fans that con­nected with his raps from a decade ago.

As for Swift, she caught heat for de­clin­ing to en­dorse a can­di­date dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion, which many in­ter­preted as her silent ap­proval of Trump. Yet af­ter re­turn­ing from her own hia­tus af­ter squab­bling with West ear­lier that year, Swift in­creas­ingly shared her sup­port for pro­gres­sive-lean­ing causes and do­nat­ing to char­i­ties sup­port­ing sex­ual as­sault vic­tims af­ter her 2017 grop­ing trial and pub­licly back­ing the March for our Lives cam­paign, which seeks to end gun vi­o­lence and pro­motes gun con­trol.

But it wasn’t un­til Sun­day that Swift made the leap to­ward en­dors­ing can­di­dates. She posted a let­ter on In­sta­gram sup­port­ing Ten­nessee’s Demo­cratic con­gres­sional can­di­dates while con- demn­ing racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The con­trast wasn’t lost on fans be­tween the com­ments West made on “SNL,” in which he claimed that “if I was con­cerned about racism, I would’ve moved out of Amer­ica a long time ago,” and the lan­guage in Swift’s In­sta­gram post, in which she wrote, “I be­lieve that the sys­temic racism we still see in this coun­try to­wards peo­ple of color is ter­ri­fy­ing, sick­en­ing and preva­lent.” In­cred­u­lous West fans voiced their sur­prise on so­cial me­dia that Swift, once seen as a nox­ious fig­ure who played the vic­tim to be­smirch West’s name, has emerged as the su­pe­rior ally.

Like so many other as­pects of 2018, how fans feel about Kanye vs. Tay­lor likely comes down to how they feel about Trump, with the pres­i­dent rou­tinely prais­ing West on Twit­ter while an­nounc­ing Mon­day that he “likes Tay­lor’s mu­sic about 25% less” af­ter her Demo­cratic en­dorse­ments.

And as the same voices on the right that praise West be­gin to voice their new­found aver­sions to Swift, with other com­menters claim­ing that Swift ac­tu­ally “cares more about black peo­ple” than West, the two artists are once again di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed, in a more bizarre way than fans ever could’ve ex­pected.

TAY­LOR SWIFT BY JOR­DAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP; KANYE WEST BY EVAN AGOSTINI/AP; GETTY IM­AGES

SETH WENIG/AP

Kanye West who met Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump at Trump Tower in 2016 re­cently praised Trump in a mono­logue on “Satur­day Night Live.”

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