On Oct. 9, Taylor Swift opened the American Music Awards with a fiery performance of “I Did Something Bad,” including a lyric that was censored on national television. Swift received four awards, including Artist of the Year, making her the most awarded female artist in the history of the AMAs.
In her acceptance speech, Swift pointed out that the awards are voted on by the people, drawing a connection to the midterm elections on Nov. 6. Swift ended her speech with a call to vote, reminiscent of a headline-making Instagram post she made on Oct. 7.
These events seem to contribute to one narrative: Swift is a powerful figure and her streak of political silence is over.
Swifts’s Instagram post made on Oct. 7 slams Marsha Blackburn, a Senate candidate in Swift’s home state of Tennessee. Swift details Blackburn’s voting records on certain issues related to women and minorities. She then endorses Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for U.S. House of Representatives.
Perhaps more important than Swift’s statements about the candidates is her call to action. More specifically, her call to register to vote on Vote.org.
“Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values,” Swift said in her post. “For a lot of us, we may never find a candidate or party with whom we agree 100 percent on every issue, but we have to vote anyway.”
After Swift’s post, more than 166,000 Americans registered to vote on Vote.org, the specific website Swift linked to in her post.
Officials from Vote.org report that about 42 percent were between 18 and 24 years old, a demographic Swift specifically targets in her post.
“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,” Swift wrote.
To put this figure in perspective, in October of 2016, only about 22 percent of registrants were between 18 and 24 years old.
This kind of political endorsement is not unusual among pop culture stars, but it is unusual for Swift. Swift, now 28, has successfully shied away from politics since she released her first album at 16.
In fact, Swift’s silence has created controversy in the past. A New York Daily News headline from 2017 read: “Taylor Swift’s silence on politics generates speculation that she secretly voted for Trump.” Swift has also long been a talking point in the discussion of celebrity feminism.
“The singer has a documented habit of using the word [feminism] and the ideology to build up her brand and sell concert tickets without putting in the political work,” Bustle editor Kadeen Griffiths wrote in 2017.
So, why is Swift breaking her political silence now?
It’s important to note the timing of Swift’s post, made the day after Brett Kavanaugh was sworn onto the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s confirmation came after a Senate hearing where Christine Blasey Ford testified about her accusation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her.
In 2013, Swift accused a DJ of sexual assault. He was investigated and fired, and later sued her for defamation. Swift counter-sued the DJ for one dollar and won. Throughout the process, Swift, like Ford, was guilted and accused of lying. Perhaps the Kavanaugh hearing influenced Swift’s decision to share her views.
Despite her candidate endorsements, Swift’s primary goal with both her post and her comment at the AMAs was to encourage Americans, especially her younger fans, to use their right to vote.
Many are quick to discount the true influence of a pop star, but Swift’s step into the political world suggests otherwise. Yes, Swift’s Instagram is full of selfies and celebrity friends, but it just as easily can become a place for her to affect the actions of millions. Politics do not exist within a vacuum, and neither does Taylor Swift’s musical and cultural influence.
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