Change is in the air, as American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has finally come clean and broken her longstanding silence over U.S. political issues in anticipation of the November 6 midterm elections, in which all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 out of the 100 seats in U.S. Senate, and 39 state and territory governor seats will all be contested. In an Instagram post on October 7, Swift urged her 112 million Instagram followers to “educate yourselves on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values.”
This action represents a massive departure from Swift’s traditional silence on all matters even vaguely political in nature. In 2008, at the age of 18, Swift told Rolling Stone magazine in an interview that “I just try and stick to my specialty and my specialty is music, and writing songs…I don’t think it's my job to try and influence people which way they should vote, because it's a very personal thing.” She similarly told Time Magazine in 2012 that “I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.”
Despite this broad stance of political silence, Swift has not completely shied away from making her positions on certain issues known in both her lyrics and her direct statements. Her 2014 song “Welcome to New York” from the album 1989 contains the lines “And you can want you want who you want / Boys and boys and girls and girls,” in what has been interpreted as a statement of support for LGBTQIA+ equality. Even more so, during the tour for her latest album, “reputation,” Swift’s Chicago concert on June 2 saw her celebrating the ongoing Pride Month by donning a rainbow dress and giving a speech in which she told her fans that “this month and every month I want to send my love and respect to everybody who has been brave enough to be honest about how they feel, to live their lives as they are, as they feel they should be, as they identify.”
Swift’s call to political action specifically addresses her change in being vocal about her beliefs. “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.” Swift goes on to list out her support for “LGBTQ[IA+] 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.”
This Instagram post sees Swift go on to even directly state her support for Tennessee (her home state) Democratic candidates Phil Bredesen for U.S. Senate and Jim Cooper for the House of Representatives. She goes on to scrutinize the voting record of Republican senate candidate Marsha Blackburn as one that “appalls and terrifies me,” citing her voting against equal pay, against the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, belief that businesses can refuse service to homosexual couples, and belief that homosexual couples should not have the right to marry.
Nonprofit group Vote.org reports that in the 24 hours after Swift’s social media rallying post, nearly 65,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have registered to vote. Within the week afterwards, that number has surpassed 100,000, with over 70% being below the age of 25.
Call it what you want, but the celebrity figures we may idealize and blindly following in our daily lives are just like us: trying to find a place in this world. They are people, too, and people (and their political stances) change on a very regular basis. Swift’s primary message that she chose to speak now is one of keeping your eyes open and making your own informed decisions. Simply adapting your political views to match your favorite singer is a treacherous path.
While she aired her own political views in the same post, she left her followers with the simple message that they should register, research, and vote for whatever beliefs they may hold, without telling them what those views should be.
When asked about his reactions on the matter, U.S. President Donald Trump simply responded that he “like[s] Taylor’s music about 25% less now.”
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