Swift Move? Taylor Swift Gets Political
But will the pop star use her gifting to unite or to divide?
I begin with a confession. I’m not the world’s biggest Taylor Swift fan at the moment. Saturday, after a long day doing demo in our bathroom, my wife and I were starving. We were craving a favorite restaurant, Babe’s Chicken House. The Arlington Babe’s is only 9 miles away. We could get there in 13 minutes. Well … unless the route takes you past AT&T Stadium when tens of thousands of fans and cars are arriving for Taylor Swift’s concert.
By the time we fought through all the traffic and teen girls, I hadn’t disliked a musical artist this much since Vanilla Ice. Sure, I’ll get over it once all the Babe’s left-overs are done. But she’s not helping matters by what she did Sunday night.
Taylor Breaks With Her Past
On Sunday, as is now being blasted on headlines across the land, Taylor Swift broke with past practice and got political. For several years now, Swift has resisted jumping into the political fray, figuring why alienate half of America, including the country world that originally made her famous?
But Sunday night — not surprisingly a night after leaving Dallas — Swift let rip. She released an Instagram statement blasting conservative Tennessee Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and running down a list of liberal talking points.
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I’m writing this post about the upcoming midterm elections on November 6th, in which I’ll be voting in the state of Tennessee. 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. 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. 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 color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent. I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love. 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 appalls and terrifies me. She voted against equal pay for women. She voted against the Reauthorization 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. These are not MY Tennessee values. I will be voting for Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for House of Representatives. Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values. For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100% on every issue, but we have to vote anyway. So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do. October 9th is the LAST DAY to register to vote in the state of TN. Go to vote.org and you can find all the info. Happy Voting! 🗳😃🌈
It’s Hardly Surprising
I’ve seen Swift’s decision to jump in the fray described as “bold.”Are her views sincere? No reason to doubt otherwise. But bold? Hardly. Taylor Swift doesn’t do bold. She’s always been as calculating as a NASA engineer.
Swift is far from the country girl with the long curls and simple dresses. She’s now a slick cosmopolitan who is BFFs with radically left entertainers like Lena Dunham. How much pressure do you think she’s been under from her entertainment pals to jump off the fence?
She’s long dabbled in acting. How far will she advance in Hollywood if she doesn’t present her progressive bonafides? These days the progressive card is more crucial than a SAG-AFTRA union card.
But Taylor Swift is more than a performer. She is a brand. A corporate titan. And in this environment, a corporation that doesn’t bow at the altar of progressive ideology becomes a target. No question about it. If Swift didn’t raise the rainbow flag above her stage, the same progressive mob that bashes and scratches at Senate doors would be screeching and protesting outside her concerts. Her assorted perfumes and other enterprises would be boycotted. What was done to Susan Collins last week would be done to her.
Will her political stance cause her problems with her fan base at this point? Likely not. Her fan base is huge and devoted and young. They’ll only get turned off if she starts singing about politics instead of past romances. Targeting politicians in her songs like she does her ex-boyfriends.
So Taylor’s calculation is rather simple: At this point in 2018, where staying above politics is darn near impossible, positioning herself as another liberal entertainer is better for her brand, her bottom line and her social life.
The Big Question
The question Taylor Swift faces, as do all artists, is simple: Will you use your gifts to divide or will you use your gifts to heal? When you have the power and talent of a Taylor Swift, you can build bridges, or as in the case of Madonna, threaten to blow up the White Houses. (It would be good for Taylor to note Madonna hasn’t done anything interesting or successful musically since George W. Bush’s first term.)
Taylor Swift is a lyrical and musical hook machine. She comes up with catchy hooks better than anyone not named Smokey Robinson. I bring up Smokey because we finally did get to Babe’s. Halfway through the meal the sweet sound of Smokey’s “My Girl” filled the restaurant. We started swaying. Then singing along. We started doing moves in our chair worthy of the Temptations.
While swinging side to side I noticed a large African-American party was doing the same thing. We spotted each other, laughed and joined in together. Many of those not stuffing their faces were singing as well … while a few younger people of various races looking at us like we were nuts.
I do not know their politics. But I do know in that restaurant the body politic was united in singing Smokey’s song.
My fervent prayer is Taylor Swift will follow Smokey’s lead and write songs we can all sing together. Affirmative songs. Hopeful songs. Because the world already has enough “Trouble … Trouble … Trouble.”