Of Course Conservatives Want Taylor Swift to “Stay Away From Politics,” They’re Terrified
Following Taylor Swift’s lengthy Instagram post yesterday, in which she made a rare, if not unprecedented (for her), foray into politics, a number of conservative politicians and pundits made a point to let her know what a big mistake they think she’s making.
Fox News brought on Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, to both condemn Swift’s message and to insult her intelligence. “It’s rather evident and clear–I don’t want to accuse her of this,” he says before lobbing insulting accusations, “but I don’t think she was the only one to write that post on Instagram.” He goes on to speculate that Swift was given “bad information,” rather than accepting that she may have actually have worked to educate herself on the candidates and issues–which is, by the way, all she was suggesting her followers do.
In her post, Swift said she was voting for Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen, and she spoke about what “terrifies” her about Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn, but the only actual endorsement she made was for the act of educating one’s self and voting. “Please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values,” she wrote. “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.”
Still, Kirk took pains to point out the problems Swift should ostensibly have with Bredesen–that he supported Kavanaugh and the prevalence of sexual harassment cover-ups in his administration while he was Governor. In doing so, Kirk not only presents those issues disingenuously (Bredesen did support Kavanaugh but the sexual harassment issue was far more complicated than he presented it to be), but he’s ignoring Swift’s message that while you might not find your dream candidate, that doesn’t negate the importance of voting.
Even worse, Kirk assumes that Swift hasn’t thought any of this through, and says she is not “able to draw that distinction” between stating the liberal ideal of, you know, not discriminating against people, and voting for a man who doesn’t embody every possible progressive value.
Kirk says that the “proper” thing to do would have been to have some “neutrality” in her post, and simply encourage people to register to vote. (He also said that Swift’s claims that Blackburn is anti-woman and anti-LGBTQ are “ridiculous,” which, on his part, is wrong and super wrong, respectively.)
But Taylor Swift does not have an obligation to anyone to stay neutral. Celebrities are people with opinions, like everyone else. Swift has been criticized by many for staying silent on politics for so long, because the truth is, she does have a giant platform and a huge amount of influence. So many of us wished she would use that platform earlier to encourage her (again, mostly female) fanbase to educate themselves on political issues earlier, and many now are wishing she had never done so. Everyone has an opinion, but it is and always has been up to her to decide what she does.
Still, it’s no wonder conservatives wish she had stayed neutral. After her post went up, encouraging fans to go to vote.org, the site saw more than 155,000 unique visitors in a 24-hour period. (In a typical day the site sees 14,000 visitors.) Of those that visited yesterday, 65,000 registered to vote. That’s more people that registered in one day than in the entire month of August.
Like it or not, celebrities have influence. I know plenty of people think that it’s ridiculous that 65,000 people needed Taylor Swift to tell them to vote before they did so. But if we look at how many people, especially young people, are feeling invigorated by progressive candidates in this election in a way they never have before, it shines a light on how left out they’ve felt from the voting process until now. No matter how many NYT and Washington Post thinkpieces are written about the matter, it’s not just the white working class that feels neglected politically. If it took a pop star to make young people feel like their voice and their vote matter, and that educating themselves on issues and candidates is worthwhile, maybe it’s the mainstream political system, and not dispirited potential voters that deserve the bulk of that derision.
(image: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
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