Taylor Swift calls 2017 ‘great’. Cue outrage

Steering clear: Despite remaining apolitical, Swift has campaigned for LGBT rights. © Getty

Taylor Swift said she “couldn't have had a better year”. Okay for some! replied angry thousands. In fact the polls suggest the entire USA is deeply conflicted about 1AD (After Donald).

In just one week, Taylor Swift’s new album, Reputation, became comfortably the year’s biggest, selling a million copies in just the first four days. Forbes has reported that she is worth $280 million. At 28-years-old she is the 49th highest paid celebrity in the world.

Last week the delighted pop star said she “couldn’t have asked for a better year”.

Cue outrage on social media. She is “the only person who feels this way”, said one tweeter. “There were white supremacy marches, families are being torn apart, mass shootings, people are losing health care but none of that affects me, so 2017 was great!” parodied another.

Swift has come under sustained criticism for keeping her politics to herself. While hordes of celebrities have rushed to signal their disgust with Donald Trump, Swift never said who she voted for in 2016.

And with her background in country music, which has a disproportionately Republican fanbase, some now suspect that Swift is a closet Trump voter.

A Guardian editorial last month called her “an envoy for Trump’s values”, while Piers Morgan wrote in the Daily Mail that Swift should be “admired” for not delving into politics.

But how well does Swift’s analysis of 2017 match up with how her fellow Americans saw the last 12 months?

Throughout American history, a healthy economy makes for a happy population. This notion is summed up by Bill Clinton’s famous quote: “It’s the economy, stupid!”

In other words, the economy is all voters really care about. Typically, they give credit to the president.

But things have changed slightly. Despite the fact that 2017 has seen rises in both GDP and the number of jobs in the USA, polls show a 58% majority say 2017 was a bad year for the country overall. However, 70% say it has been a good year for them personally.

Majorities also deemed it a bad year for America’s role in the world, race relations, media coverage, the US political system and the president, and 66% believe the country is heading in the “wrong direction”.

Reputation

If a majority of people say they had a good year, then how can it possibly have been a bad year for America as a whole? Wages rose, bringing a comfortable life within reach of millions more people. We had a wonderful supermoon and countless scientific and technological breakthroughs. What are people moaning about?

But the data undoubtedly show Americans sensing that their country is declining. The country has not been this fractured since the civil war, and is fast becoming a joke on the international stage. Add to that a devastating hurricane season, more mass shootings and more drug problems, and it is no wonder many want to see the back of 2017.

You Decide

  1. Was 2017 a good year for America?
  2. Is Taylor Swift right to steer clear of politics? Should other celebrities follow her lead?

Activities

  1. Write down the five words you would most associate with the last 12 months in America.
  2. Research an instance of a celebrity getting involved in politics, and give a presentation about them to your class.

Some People Say...

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues.”

George Orwell

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There is a noticeable disconnect between how Americans view 2017 for themselves, and how they believe it went for the rest of the country. We also know that people’s perceptions of politics depend hugely on whether a person they support is in power. For instance, 60% of Democrats thought the economy was heading in the right direction in November 2016, compared with just 6% now. For Republicans, the figures are reversed: 8% then, and 59% now.
What do we not know?
Almost anything about Taylor Swift’s political views. She tweeted a photo of herself queuing up at a polling station on election day, but she has not spoken a word in public about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Word Watch

49th highest paid celebrity in the world
The top five, in order, are Sean Combs (a.k.a. Puff Daddy), Beyoncé, J.K. Rowling, Drake and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Celebrities
Some of the celebrities who endorsed Hillary Clinton include LeBron James, Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, Robert De Niro, Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Lady Gaga.
Country music
Swift was born in Pennsylvania but moved to Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music. The state of Tennessee voted by 61% to 35% in favour of Trump against Clinton.
“It’s the economy, stupid!”
One of the most famous political quotes was coined by Clinton’s lead strategist James Carville ahead of the Democrats’ 1992 election victory over Republican George H. W. Bush. The phrase was meant for the internal audience of Clinton's campaign workers as one of the three messages to focus on. The others were: “Change vs. more of the same,” and “Don't forget health care.”
Credit to the president
Despite the good economic news, Trump is less popular than any of his three predecessors a year into his presidency, with an approval rating of just 36%.