Kanye picks a side as he stays in the po­lit­i­cal fray

Artists’ views shift to un­ex­pected sides of po­lit­i­cal world

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Maeve McDer­mott

He and Tay­lor Swift have long been on op­po­site sides, but the Trump era has crys­tal­lized their views.

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 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 lib­eral-lean­ing 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. 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 con­demn­ing racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Like so many other as­pects of 2018, how fans feel about Kanye vs. Tay­lor likely comes down to how they feel about Trump. 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.

SETH WENIG/AP

GETTY IM­AGES

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

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