Bad blood: Storm over Swift’s political post

Shake it off: Swift decided to speak out “due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years”.

Should Taylor Swift stay out of politics? The singer’s decision to publicly endorse two Democrats in the US midterm elections triggered an outpouring of both praise and scorn.

“I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin colour, gender or who they love.”

With an Instagram post, Taylor Swift’s years of stubbornly refusing to talk politics ended.

Last week, the 28-year-old singer publicly endorsed two Democratic candidates in Tennessee, her adopted state, for the US midterm elections and passionately attacked Republican Marsha Blackburn.

“Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrified me,” Swift wrote, accusing Blackburn of opposing women’s and LGBT rights.

Immediately, all corners of the internet erupted.

While she was widely praised in liberal circles, Republicans were critical and dismissive. US President Donald Trump said he liked her music “about 25% less” after her intervention.

“It won’t impact the election unless we allow 13-year-old girls to vote,” tweeted former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

Perhaps he should not be so sure.

Swift has 112 million Instagram followers and the post received more than two million likes. But more importantly, in the 48 hours after she posted the message, more than 166,000 people across the US registered to vote.

While it is impossible to say how much Swift contributed to the surge, roughly 42% of new registrations were aged between 18 and 24.

This age group includes many Swift fans and could play a key role in the election results if mobilised. In the past four midterms, only 20% of 18 to 24-year-olds voted.

It has been a sudden change of direction for the famously neutral singer, who began her career as a teenage country music star — a genre with a strong conservative tradition.

During the 2016 election, her silence about Trump drew criticism as other stars like Katy Perry vocally campaigned for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Swift is not the only celebrity whose political views are sparking controversy. Last week, her nemesis, Kanye West, paid a visit to his “brother” Donald Trump in the Oval Office wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap.

Should Taylor Swift stay out of politics?

Look what you made me do

Of course not, say some. Celebrities have as much right to express their views as anyone else. But more than that, because of their huge influence, they have a duty to speak out when they believe the rights of others are being endangered. Taylor took her time, but her post could do a lot of good.

Don’t be ridiculous, respond others. Musicians like Swift have zero expertise in politics and should stick to what they know. In fact, it could be very dangerous if an ill-informed or bigoted celebrity used their platform to influence public opinion. Besides, art shouldn’t always have to be political.

You Decide

  1. Should celebrities intervene in politics?
  2. Will Taylor Swift’s post change the way anyone votes?

Activities

  1. Make a list of the three celebrities you admire the most. Do you value their political opinions? Could they influence your own thinking? Discuss as a group and then write a paragraph explaining your answer.
  2. Think about a political event that has made you angry or upset in recent years. Write the lyrics to your own protest song about it. Try and come up with a powerful chorus that could be repeated.

Some People Say...

“I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of colour is terrifying.”

Taylor Swift

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On October 7, Taylor Swift used an Instagram post to announce she would be voting for two Democrats in the Tennessee midterm election, and criticised Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn for her right-wing voting record. Until then, Swift had refused to discuss her political views — a stance that drew criticism during Trump’s election and the #MeToo campaign.
What do we not know?
Whether her intervention will have any impact on the way people vote in the midterm elections. While Swift has a huge following as one of the world’s most popular pop stars, it is almost impossible to measure exactly how many people she has inspired to vote, or swayed away from voting for Republicans. We also do not yet know what the outcome of the midterm elections will be.

Word Watch

US midterm elections
Held every four years, and around half-way through the sitting president’s term, to elect members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate. Americans will vote on November 6. Voter turnout is generally lower than for presidential elections, which will next happen in 2020.
Marsha Blackburn
The Republican running against Democrat Phil Bredesen to be senator of Tennessee. She is on the right of her party, describing herself as “politically incorrect and proud of it”.
Surge
Swift sent her post two days before voter registration closed in Tennessee so the spike may have happened anyway, although commentators say the figure was still unusually high.
Nemesis
Their feud began in 2009, when West stole the microphone from Swift as she collected an award at the MTV Video Music Awards, saying Beyoncé should have won instead. The row has erupted periodically ever since, and now they are on opposite political sides too.
Oval Office
The main office of the US president, located in the White House.

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