Taylor Swift's political statement is a redeeming moment for the star
Music superstar Taylor Swift broke her long-standing rule of not discussing politics by posting on Instagram her endorsement for Democrat Phil Bredesen who's running to replace Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. USA TODAY
She finally did it.
Taylor Swift, the pop star who famously kept her political views private during the 2016 election and beyond, made a rare public statement on Instagram Sunday, supporting two Democratic nominees in her home state of Tennessee and coming out strongly against Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn
Unsurprisingly, people are going nuts. Many Swift fans are celebrating her newly-public progressive leanings, while backlash continues to mount from the right, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) releasing a snarky press release Monday, detailing how “multimillionaire pop star Taylor Swift came down from her ivory tower to tell hardworking Tennesseans to vote for (Democratic Senate candidate) Phil Bredesen.”
For an artist who’s made many career pivots in her decade in music, Swift’s statement is immediately among her most controversial choices yet. And yet, it’s something she needed to do. Whether fans align themselves with her political leanings or not, Swift’s statement helps rectify one of her biggest contradictions as a star – that she’s advocated for feminism, the LGBTQ community and the #MeToo movement, making progressive ideals central to her public persona, while declining to share her party affiliation or endorse specific candidates.
While the NRSC's statement is mostly misguided – particularly its suggestion that Swift isn't a "hardworking Tennessean" – there’s some truth to its “ivory tower” claim. Swift’s low profile during the 2016 election left fans wondering why such a vocally-feminist artist wouldn’t publicly back any candidates, with some interpreting her silence as a tacit endorsement of Donald Trump. Swift has a diverse coalition of fans, and she likely didn’t want to alienate followers on either side of the political spectrum by voicing support for a presidential candidate. Yet, even as Swift made her return to the public eye last year after advocating for sexual assault victims in a court battle that found ex-Denver DJ David Mueller guilty of groping her, some still questioned the integrity of her feminism.
That changed Sunday, with Swift acknowledging in her post that she was once "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." Beyond criticizing Blackburn for her voting record on women’s and LGBTQ issues, Swift also acknowledged that “the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent,” pointed language that seems intended to distance herself from her rumored following among white supremacists.
Per her purposely vague language, we don’t know what specifically compelled Swift to write this note. Fans may claim that she’s more politically motivated after her trial, coupled with the mainstreaming of the #MeToo movement and the upcoming elections in November, while cynics might point to the interesting timing of Swift’s Instagram note, which she posted the day after her U.S. tour ended.
Yet, for an artist who’s been called cynical in the past for allegedly talking a feminist talk without walking the walk, Swift’s letter is a sign of positive growth – that beyond just stumping for women’s issues and LGBTQ rights, she’s now willing to do more to advance these causes by publicly supporting candidates who back these ideas, even if that means potentially upsetting fans with opposing political views.
Whether conservatives will turn their backs on Swift remains to be seen. But, for all the listeners who have supported the star over the past few years while perhaps questioning her silence or wishing she was willing to go farther in her human rights advocacy, this is a good day to be a Taylor Swift fan.