Tay­lor Swift caused a stir by back­ing the Democrats

It was the week Tay­lor Swift found her po­lit­i­cal voice, declar­ing her sup­port for the Democrats in the mid-term elec­tions. But how much of it was prompted by her neme­sis Kanye’s pro-Trump pos­tur­ing, asks Phoebe Luck­hurst

Belfast Telegraph - - REVIEW -

On Wed­nes­day evening, Tay­lor Swift added four Amer­i­can Mu­sic Awards (AMAs) — Best Artist, Best Pop/ Rock Fe­male Artist, Best Pop/ Rock Al­bum and Best Tour — to her tally and, in the process, be­came the AMAs’ most-dec­o­rated fe­male artist of all time.

She ar­rived dressed in a sil­ver mir­rored mini-dress and match­ing thigh-high boots; later, sparks flew — lit­er­ally — as she per­formed the revving elec­tro-hit I Did Some­thing Bad, with py­rotech­nics synched to her ev­ery body pop.

But was Pres­i­dent Trump watch­ing on one of his three be­d­room TVs? And was this dis­play enough to get him back on­side?

On Tues­day evening, Trump de­clared that he “likes Tay­lor’s mu­sic about 25% less” — zing! — af­ter the 28-year-old pop star came out in favour of the Democrats.

In an In­sta­gram post, shared vi­rally, world­wide on Sun­day, the singer urged fol­low­ers to reg­is­ter and vote in the up­com­ing midterm elec­tions and stated, un­equiv­o­cally, that she’ll be vot­ing blue in the mid-terms on Novem­ber 6.

“In the past, I’ve been re­luc­tant to pub­licly voice my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions,” Swift wrote. “But due to sev­eral events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very dif­fer­ently now.

“I be­lieve in the fight for LGBTQ rights and 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 colour is ter­ri­fy­ing, sick­en­ing and preva­lent.

“Run­ning for Sen­ate in the state of Ten­nessee is a woman named Mar­sha Black­burn. As much as I have in the past and would like to con­tinue vot­ing for women in of­fice, I can­not sup­port Mar­sha Black­burn. Her vot­ing record in Congress ap­pals and ter­ri­fies me.

“She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the reau­tho­ri­sa­tion of the Vi­o­lence Against Women Act. 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. I will be vot­ing for Phil Bre­desen for Sen­ate and Jim Cooper for House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.”

She ended by di­rect­ing fans to reg­is­ter on Vote.org. The post has been viewed more than two mil­lion times.

The im­age she used was quintessen­tially ‘Brand Tay­lor’: a black-and-white Po­laroid, Swift in a checked shirt, heavy fringe tick­ling her brows. It chimed with those taken to pro­mote her 2014 al­bum, 1989.

But the mes­sage was new; in fact, it was seis­mic. Swift — who has been fa­mous since she was 16, who has 112 mil­lion fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and 84 mil­lion on Twit­ter and who has sold more than 40 mil­lion al­bums to a fan- base largely of girls and women in their teens and 20s — has never pub­licly spo­ken about her pol­i­tics.

No­tably, dur­ing the mer­ci­less Trump-Clin­ton elec­tion cam­paign, she copped out with aplomb, shar­ing a pic­ture of her­self in a queue at a polling sta­tion, with the limp cap­tion: “To­day is the day. Go out and vote”.

For this re­fusal to play par­ti­san, Swift has been ac­cused of cyn­i­cal mar­ke­teer­ing, of hypocrisy and cow­ardice, of hav­ing no prin­ci­ples ex­cept cap­i­tal­ism, of be­ing a sham fem­i­nist and, worst of all, of be­ing Team Trump.

To be fair, this ab­so­lutism glosses over some of Swift’s bi­og­ra­phy. No, she has never nailed her colours — or mir­rored se­quins — to ei­ther Repub­li­can or Demo­crat masts be­fore, although she did take a sex­ual ha­rasser to court — and won — and in the wake of the Park­land school shoot­ing in Flor­ida, in March, she came out in favour of gun con­trol.

In 2008, she im­plied her sup­port for Barack Obama in an in­ter­view with Rolling Stone: “I’ve never seen this coun­try so happy about a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion in my en­tire time of be­ing alive. I’m so glad this was my first elec­tion.”

Swift has never been po­lit­i­cal, but there is ev­i­dence she was politi­cised. Nonethe­less, this is the first time she has weaponised her in­flu­ence un­am­bigu­ously.

The post was a straight­for­ward call to arms, and it does mat­ter — like it or not, there’s an en­tire gen­er­a­tion who’d rather hear it from Tay­lor Swift than any­where, or any­one, else.

While it is strictly im­pos­si­ble to quan­tify what dif­fer­ence her In­sta­gram dec­la­ra­tion has made, in the first 48 hours af­ter she shared the post, Vote.org tal­lied 102,000 new reg­is­tra­tions by peo­ple un­der 30 — which, if it’s a co­in­ci­dence, is a happy one.

Also, the mael­strom around her In­sta­gram post is likely to have added more names to the elec­toral roll in states across the US.

Plus, in the era of pub­lic dis­plays of po­lit­i­cal in­tent, of wear­ing black to awards cer­e­monies, or re­mov­ing your high heels as some of Hol­ly­wood’s bravest women did this week at a gala event to mark a year since #MeToo be­gan, Swift’s act el­e­vates her to the sta­tus of straight-talker with a clear, pal­pa­ble ob­jec­tive.

Vot­ing, af­ter all, changes govern­ments, which in turn shapes the poli­cies that de­ter­mine what women do with their bod­ies, if high-school pupils can take guns to school and whether civil lib­er­ties are pro­tected, or sav­aged.

On the other hand, it’s just an In­sta­gram post. If this is Tay­lor ver­sus Trump — sil­ver se­quins ver­sus the gold-plated sham opu­lence of Mara-Lago — then the US Pres­i­dent is in a strong po­si­tion as the mid-terms roll up.

He’s just got his frat­boy Brett Ka­vanaugh into the Supreme Court; the US econ­omy is (for now) buoy­ant. De­spite prom­ises of a Demo­cratic “blue wave” on polling day, many Repub­li­cans feel as con­fi­dent of a ‘Brett bump’, hop­ing the party’s chance to hold the Sen­ate and the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives will be for­ti­fied by a new co­hort, in­spired by Ka­vanaugh’s over­wrought per­for­mance of misog­yny and priv­i­lege, to reg­is­ter and duly vote Repub­li­can on Novem­ber.

Still, in an era of celebrity pres­i­dents, cam­paigns can start out as In­sta­gram posts — or, as Trump’s leg­end runs, re­venge against Obama’s jokes at the White House Cor­re­spon­dents’ Din­ner — and end up in the Oval Of­fice.

In­evitably, so­cial me­dia has re­sounded with calls of “Swift for Pres­i­dent”; oth­ers ob­served we had wronged her.

As New York Times jour­nal­ist and writer on Pod Save Amer­ica Kashana Cauley quipped: “Some­one should prob­a­bly start a sup­port group for those of us who orig­i­nally picked the wrong side of the Kanye-Tay­lor Swift de­bate.”

The artist for­merly known as Kanye — now Ye — and Swift’s long-time foe, is cur­rently wear­ing a Make Amer­ica Great Again cap in pri­vate jets and lunch­ing in the West Wing with Trump.

In­deed, per­haps that pos­tur­ing by her old en­emy was the fi­nal straw.

Polls apart: Tay­lor Swift, and (in­set) Kanye West and Don­ald Trump

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