Taylor Swift breaks her political silence, and America erupts

Her support of Democratic candidates has the alt-right furious.

  • Taylor Swift breaks her political silence by endorsing Tennessee Democratic candidates.
  • Mistakenly believing her to be one of theirs up until now, the alt-right is furious.
  • New voter registrations have spiked since her announcement.

In their heyday, The Beatles never told anyone how to vote, fearful as they were of their own power over their fan base. As one of their promoters put it, "Only Hitler ever duplicated their power over crowds." Such were the times that they felt safe keeping their views mostly to themselves, only occasionally implying them in song lyrics.

These are not those times, though, and The Beatles of today, Taylor Swift, this week stepped into the political fray by endorsing Democratic candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives candidates in her home state of Tennessee. She also strongly criticized the voting record of Republican Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn.

That Swift has spoken up in these troubled times confirms her image as an "All-American girl." The tweet in which she made her endorsement speaks eloquently in support of traditional American ideals.

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! — Taylor Swift

Photo that accompanied Swift's tweet.

True to the times in which we live, the faction so out-of-step with traditional American ideals, the alt-right, exploded in rage. On the other hand, according to vote.org, new voter registrations since Swift's tweet have also exploded, with 65,000+ signups in just the first 24 hours after her tweet, demonstrating the powerful and emotional bond Swift maintains with her audience.

The fallout is a stunning collision of the power of hate and celebrity that so characterize today's U.S.A.

Nobody's Aryan princess

Image: Wikimedia Commons

The alt-right movement has for several years believed the blonde, blue-eyed, Southern Swift to be their "Aryan princess." In the absence of a full-throated rejection from the pop star, their faith in Swift's presumed agreement with their radical views has become more and more entrenched over time.

Never mind that it began as a joke when a November 2011 4chan kitten-naming contest decided on a name Swift herself had chosen for her own feline. Additional "clues" supporting Swift's alleged alt-right leanings appeared over time, culminating in a neo-Nazi's article reposting a mashup of Hitler quotes over an image of Swift. His post was titled, "Aryan Goddess Taylor Swift: Nazi Avatar of the White European People."

One tweet describes Swift's recent endorsement as a "betrayal beyond words". On Reddit, things grew even darker, with one poster claiming, "Nobody pisses off 4chan. She will regret this move for that reason alone." Another informs her, "you just lost over half of your fanbase, including me." One alt-right commenter with a user name containing "taytay4ever" wondered, "Son of a bitch...how do I change usernames???"

Donald Trump defended Blackburn as a "tremendous woman," and shared his unique conception of math by telling supporters, "Let's say that I like Taylor's music about 25% less now."

There are performers and then there’s Taylor

Image: Flickr

Taylor Swift has a powerful and emotionally resonant relationship with her fans. Many, though by no means all, of her adorers are teenage girls who look to Swift for guidance in matters big and small during this charged time of life. From song lyrics to one-on-one fan surprises, Swift clearly works hard and reciprocates the adulation she receives. As she noted in her tweet, a sizable portion of her base has just come of voting age, and she clearly wanted to use her influence with them for positive change. That her reasons involved standing up for human rights and making clear that this includes various groups whose rights are in question these days fits in perfectly with her long-time message to fans. As Mary Mancini of vote.org tells Buzzfeed, "Having her come out and say this so publicly will make people sit up and say, ya know what, I'm not alone here."

According to Mancini, of the 5,183 new registrations in Tennessee so far this month, 2,144 were from the period following Swift's tweet. vote.org itself saw 155,940 unique visitors in the first post-tweet day, the largest group of visitors since National Voter Registration Day in September.

A gamble worth taking

Swift has really stepped up as a young American here, taking a real risk with her career and her personal safety to simply help her generation do what she feels is obviously right. That thousands are willingly following her guidance at the same time as others are demonizing her fits this American moment, sadly. To provide some light in this wilderness is why she spoke up.

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